Caring for my neighbor’s dog while she is traveling has revealed to me an unknown subculture.
Many times I have walked these streets feeling either invisible, or hyper-visible to the creepy male beings. Now women and children materialize seemingly from brick walls, surrounding me with a different gaze.
Little girls with thick black hair like horses’ manes whisper, “ichi ichi.” A woman in a faded housedress tells me in a thick German accent that she likes dogs, but people these days—she shakes her head—people these days don’t care for dogs. We nod in unison. When the dog peers into the door of a retirement home, a largish woman in scrubs iterates, “Tell ‘er she’s not old enough!,” and breaks into guffaws.
I notice women walking their dogs now—white puffy ones, sleek brown ones—and they look me up and down, from the tip of my head to the chiwawa’s nose.
Walking back from the M train this afternoon a man sneers and says, “Hello, princess.” And I wish I had a dog, any dog, to pretend he isn’t talking to me.