In the summer of 1972, when I was 14, I was put on a Greyhound bus and traveled from Chicago to San Francisco for my brother K's wedding, as the family representative. My mother said it was to make up for my missing my eighth grade graduation and class trip because of moving (AGAIN!), my dad said something along the lines of I might like it there so much I'd decide to stay. What ever the reason was, I was beyond excited.
K and his wife, Violet, lived in the Haight-Ashbury area, kitty-cornered from a large park. I arrived the day before their wedding, a small civil affair, as they'd been living together for quite some time. They both seemed over the moon to have me there and excitedly told me all the 'touristy' things they planned to do, having me as an excuse. Violet even wondered aloud if a week would be long enough and teased they might keep me longer.
What K did not tell me, or anyone else apparently, was Violet was schizophrenic and off her meds about 3 days after I got there. I remember that afternoon quite well, K had gone somewhere leaving me with her. Things seemed fine, as we were chopping up some vegetables. Quite suddenly she turned towards me and said, "I know you're sleeping with my husband." Huh!?! Almost before I could register this really gross remark (I mean seriously - my BROTHER and me? Ewwww.) she swiped at me with the knife she was using. I won't go into details about what followed, just let it suffice that I ran, fell, stumbled out of the apartment and into the street. From there I ran haphazardly into the park. Which is where my story actually takes place.
After I was fairly sure she had not given pursuit, I found a bench and sat down on it. I was trying hard to ignore the cries of 'Tour-eest! Hey Tour-eest," from various panhandlers, trying not to cry from sheer fear, and figure out what the heck I was going to do. Sure as heck I was NOT going back there, not until I was sure my brother was home at least.
So, there I sat, feeling utterly alone and dejected, now and then I'd wander back up to the entrance of the park and look over at my brother's apartment house. Was he home yet? I was fairly certain he wasn't. I knew when he found I wasn't there he'd come looking for me. I just had to stay put until he found me, and back to the bench I would go.
Late afternoon, I was surprised to see this beautiful husky come padding up to me. He sat down at my feet, placing one paw in my lap and looked up at me. I stared at him a moment and began to stroke his head. I believe animals to be wonderfully empathic creatures, and I think he sensed my hurt and bewilderment at my predicament, and offered furry comfort. After a few moments he left and I was alone again.
Time passed, more trips to the entrance, and back to the bench. My stomach gurgled its emptiness. I spotted a hotdog vendor and bought a couple of dogs and a small drink. Back to the bench. I'd barely taken a bite when up comes my furry friend with his twin. They both sit at my feet and stare up at me. "Hungry?" I split the other dog in half giving it to them. The treat gulped down they padded off. Sheeshe, in this place everybody, and I guess even the dogs, will mooch off you.
No one tells you that as the sun sets and the fog starts rolling in, San Francisco gets cold. It was just beginning to cool, when some guy saunters up to the bench and sitting down, begins to try and talk to me. Something about him was off, way off. Maybe it was his opening line of "Hey, pretty girl, you alone?" Maybe it was the way he was looking at me - a lot like the dogs had eyed my food moments before, but I knew I didn't want anything to do with him. I glanced around for a group or someone I could fake knowing, just to make a get away. To my dismay, the park dotted with folks only moments ago seemed empty, except for me and Mr. Creepy.
Suddenly, there was twin barks and the furballs were back, this time jumping up on the bench between us. Mr. Creepy asked if they were mine and if they bite. This time I broke my silence, "Only if I tell them to." As suddenly as the dogs had appeared, he thought of a better place to go, can't say I was sorry to see his retreating back.
I leaned over patting both dogs, thanking them, getting my tear stained face licked clean. "Still don't know what I should do," I whispered to them. One crawled over me, so that I was flanked, it was as if they were saying, "It's going to be OK. We'll keep you safe."
A short while later, my brother strolled into view. I stood calling out his name, and running to him. I looked back but the furballs were gone.
K then told me something that made me wonder if the dogs weren't really guardians. He told me that I'd been 'lucky' because the rape and mugging rate of that park was very high.
The next morning, I was on a Greyhound bus.