He seldom speaks. He speaks sometimes -- to a colleague, perhaps, implacable and tall, behind sunglasses, within overcoat, balding. His dog makes me sad sometimes, furtively eyeing the other passengers. I imagine the weight of the injunction that the sighted not attend to companion dogs to be heavy, social animal bracketed and cosseted and denied the congress I imagine he desires. I consider: are there little insurrections? Wouldn't there be?
One night a few weeks ago, leaving the building and heading toward the garage where I lock up my bike, I found myself standing beside this man and his dog at a gridlocked intersection. We had the green, but the cars were interlocked densely through the intersection, and the dog, responding, as I'm sure his training dictates, to the cars over the light, remained sitting in the cold gloaming, even as pedestrians divided and flowed around the two, finding passage in the narrow openings between bumpers, between headlights and tail lights.
As soon as I had crossed I regretted not having assisted the man and his dog. The gridlock was likely not to abate in any sort of way the dog would recognize as permitting passage, and they might be there awhile. A few steps past the opposite curb, I stopped and turned. There they remained, the man and the dog, precisely where I'd left them. Their light was still green. Again, though, my fear of decalibrating the dog or insulting his master gave me pause.
I turned and walked a few more steps and turned back. This time, the light red, the man and his dog were not where I'd left them, nor anywhere on the trajectory I might have expected them to follow. Instead, I belatedly realized, they were angling, man clearly reluctant and in the tow of his dog, through the heart of the clogged intersection, at first at a 45-degree angle, and then increasingly straightening out to head wrong-way down a one-way road, into the teeth of a line of stopped cars. As I watched, horrified, or rather mortified for the man as the still cars presented no immediate danger, the two of them negotiated their error to find their way to a curb-side location catercorner from where they'd originally been aimed.
Having seen, in the literal sense, them to safety, I returned to my path to bike and home, thoughts thickened with the imagination of what it might be like, to be sightless, dependent on a well-trained but ultimately rather stupid animal to guide one through the infinite perils most of us manage without much conscious thought, how gloaming with all its perils is infinitely preferable to perpetual darkness and the quiet challenges and ewmbarrassments it brings. And I imagined how nice it would be, after years of seeing him around, to reach down, just once, and offer the dog my hand.