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: : : A man : : : A dog : : : And What These Taught Me Of My World

When we brought Dorian home for the first night, I had trouble deciphering who was more frightened in our group, him or Maura or me. Motherhood is not something to take lightly, and responsibility hung thick in the apartment, having now been prepped and readied for our new Dachshund puppy. And there was no way of predicting that this little lopsided walking dog log would be such a catalyst for the monumental change coming, and the inevitable damage that followed.

After peeing everywhere but his designated training pad, Dorian slept smoothly the first night through, nestled softly between Maura’s inner thighs, bleating. I think Maura cried a little too.

For the next two weeks, Dorian was a phantom in the house. I would search under tables and chairs and couch cushions with little success. And when he was finally found, like a bird from an open cage, he would bolt away into the bedroom closet, hopping up one shelving tier, laying shaking, scared, and immobile atop Maura’s sweater pile. “What a pathetic mess.” I would stand there, hands to hips, watching this tiny Dachshund make a god damned fool of himself, probably as well, pissing on my favorite hoodie.

Eventually, we became buddies. I would steal his pink rubber toy, vaguely moist with odorless saliva, and we’d chase each other about the house. Dropping to the floor I could hide my head in my knees and he would bury the sharp edge of his nose into the flank my thigh, searching for a face to commence licking, like he would some instinctual badger meant to be snoop out of some hole. I loved him. His little body, his little quirks. In the morning he could be found at my feet on the shower floor, soaking wet and shaking, but just wanting to be near me. ”It’s alright buddy,” I would tell him, and I would mean it completely. I have, in my life, been on the shower floor in such a way over people too.

Maura never took my last name after the marriage. I still do not know why. Like little foreboding clues of our future I guess, fate is a juggernaut when it runs, and in marriage it is always running towards you, instead of away. When we fought, she took to slinging her wedding ring at me from across the hardwood room, screaming. I once had wine thrown in my face. Frightening fights from frightening people, that is, the type of people we became around one another. She would drink to yell at me; I would drink to not listen. The juggernaut grew near. Sometimes she would say, “When I leave you, I’m taking the dog, just so you’re not surprised when I do. He’s mine, ya know.” The words would roll from her mouth so casually, as if, packed up in moving boxes within herself, there she already lay, along side her heart and her possessions, so far away from my needs.

I do not have a child, but there in Dorian I started to understand the love of small things that are able to love you back. Dorian was strong, and independent, never requiring the leash. But in him there was tenderness too, a codependency I recognized within myself. A need of touch, of love’s daily bread- the promise of I Do, without the anxiety of it. And as Maura and I drifted, we both saught solice in this little Dachshund, who’s simplicity and child like love could never imagine dividing himself in half over us, as Maura and I ourselves did. 

I miss Dorian. I miss having a dog. Simply that. I miss having that routine example of what love might be like without fear, without greed, without even a scrap of remorse. A love willing to go dripping wet and sopping into whatever world as long as it keeps them near. 

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A Stranger's Life

            I’d done a lot of traveling in my life, but I’d never liked traveling by air. Airports made me nervous. I’d been born and raised out west, my closest neighbors half a mile down the road and a mountain as my backyard. Everyone seemed to press in on me as I sat at the terminal, hours until my flight left. It didn’t help that I had my little girl with me. She was four months old, and her mother had left us.

She wanted to give her up for adoption. I said no. She signed rights over to me and I hadn’t seen or heard from her since. A middle-age woman across the aisle looked at me like I was diseased, not-so-discreetly pointing at me to her fat, austere husband, muttering something that looked like “no wedding ring.” She wasn’t the only one. I tried not to care, hugged my daughter closer and kissed the top of her head.

 

            “Grandma and grandpa will be happy to see you again,” I said to her, bouncing her a little. Tears threatened as reality came rushing back to me. My mother was the reason for us going home. They said she had months still, that she was fighting off the cancer. They were wrong. It happened fast. “Grandpa anyway,” I said, taking a deep breath that shook in my chest. That was a lie. She grinned, reaching up to grab my chin. “We’re gonna’ be okay, sweetheart. We’re gonna’ be fine.”

 

            Hours later, when the sun had finally come up and the airport was busy, I had exhausted myself of feelings. I looked around us, trying to decide who was going where and what for. The businessmen were easy to spot, always in black suits or khaki pants and collared shirts, cell phones glued to their ears if they didn’t have a Bluetooth. One of them sat where the judging couple had earlier and he looked as exhausted and beaten down as I felt, sagging as he sat in the chair, briefcase all but forgotten on the ground.

He looked mid-sixties, should be retired already, like he should be home with his family, if he had one. I couldn’t see his ring finger, not that that meant anything, I reminded myself. I hoped whatever he was going through would be over soon. I hoped his business trip was over and he was going home.

           

            Then there were the college-age kids. The girls always put on extra makeup and dressed a little sexier, on their way to meet boyfriends if they weren’t already with them. I caught an interested look now and then which quickly disappeared when they spotted my little girl. I thought back to college, to those short years chasing sex and a degree and myself. They say it’s the time to find yourself. I guess I went to the wrong school or took the wrong classes. Still, I’d had fun. I couldn’t say I’d been happy though. I wondered if those girls were, if the guys with them treated them right. Probably not, I thought. Don’t be that way, don’t judge. You don’t know. Still, it was true.

 

            The hardest to look at for me were the families. The mothers and fathers with their children always looked haggard and annoyed and impatient. I wanted to walk up to them and take them by the shoulders. I wanted to shake them and tell the father to stop checking his email and the mother to stop talking to her friend, to pay attention to their children. I wanted to tell the children to listen to their parents, to be good to them.

One family had three little girls, triplets but not identical, I couldn’t think of the word. Paternal? Fraternal? It didn’t matter. All three wore a different pink dress and the father was chasing them around a bench, laughing.

The girls squealed and giggled and shouted and some people shot them dirty looks for being loud. The dad paid no attention and the mother watched from a distance, smiling like the sun was shining just for her. God, I wanted to hug them and ask them both how in the hell to do all this. I wanted to know how you made a family work. I wanted to ask them what their lives were like and where they were going and how the hell to be happy. Looking around at all these people, I wanted to live anyone’s life but mine just then. I didn’t want to hate my daughter’s mother for leaving. I didn’t want to be going to bury my own. I didn’t want to have to face my father, who fought with me, told me I should give my daughter up, that I was a fool. I wanted to be anyone but me and I closed my eyes hard, kissing her head again.   

           

            “We’ll be fine, sweetheart. I promise. I’ll take care of us. I promise.”