DAVID IS DRUNK AGAIN

DAVID IS DRUNK AGAIN.

I know it because of the way his eyes have already turned into shards of glass and are looking straight through me to the wall on the other side or at whoever is standing behind me, as if I’m invisible. Maybe I am. He is looking at me but can’t see me. It wasn’t even midnight yet when he started rambling about how nothing really matters and I caught him looking at crystal clear photos of his hottest ex on Facebook shortly thereafter. He claimed they were blurry. He isn’t an angry drunk. He is madly in love with me when he’s hammered. He tells me he thinks I’m pretty and sometimes puts his arm around me in public. That’s another tell-tale sign. He graciously thanked me for cooking him dinner this evening. I made lasagna. It really didn’t turn out well, but he liked it. Good thing he ate something or else he’d be yakking in the sink by now, I thought. “You’re drunk.” I said. “I’ll show you drunk”, he threatened. But I wasn’t scared. That’s the problem. I was bored. Ah, here we go. His speech is beginning to slur now, but not in the the cute-blonde-twenty-two-year-old-affluent-white-girl-with-doey-eyes way. More in the depressing-forty-five-year-old-man-who-still-has-roommates-and-loathes-himself way. If his license weren’t already suspended from his two previous DUIs, he might try to drive tonight. At least I don’t have to worry about that. Back at his place, the fridge is stocked with IPAs and there are at least two not-so-empty bottles of Johnnie Walker Black under the bed. But he doesn’t know I know about those. Mostly, I can tell he’s drunk again because he forgot why he was so mad at me. I’ll still stay the night with him though. He’ll remember in the morning.

THE COYOTE OF ECHO PARK

coyote

 

 

          The first time he found me walking quickly up a driveway to a swanky condo I simply had no business entering. He was a scrawny little fucker with oversized ears pointed straight up to the smoggy sky, on constant alert. His fur was wiry and coarse, the same color the water in the sink is when I wash my hands after a late night oil painting session. It was 2:00 AM. Maybe even later. My phone had died on the way over so I wasn’t quite sure. I had a habit then of not keeping my phone charged. I’ve gotten better about it since, if only because I like to know what time it is.

          That coyote was smaller than my dog, but I have no doubt that he would win if a fight between the two of them were ever to ensue. He had seen some shit. I could just tell. I guess it could have been a female – I didn’t ask – but I’m going to call him a ‘he’ for the purpose of this story. I’ve always had an affinity for male creatures anyway.

          So, there I was, walking up that earthquake-cracked and oil-stained driveway sometime around 2:00 AM on a Wednesday to have sex with a complete stranger, and for some reason this little coyote decided to follow me. He was walking beside me for awhile, brushing up against my leg. For the first ten minutes of our relationship I thought he was a stray dog.

           “Hey buddy”, I kept saying. “Go home buddy. Where do you live?”

          Only once I got into the dim yellow light of the driveway, I realized my new friend was certainly no stray dog. The tall and sandy-haired stranger was standing in his foyer as I walked up his steep drive. He must been doing quite well for himself. In my experience, only rich people had driveways that steep. Mine was perfectly level. The moment the motion-sensored light came on, the stranger shouted down to me. It was as if I were his minion, or a mere one time visitor to his castle. I had come from a far away land. Perhaps he would advise me how best to cross the moat.

          “There’s a coyote next to you!”

          He pronounced coyote the obnoxious way, with ‘oat’ as the second syllable. The way I would expect someone from Texas or Missouri to say it. He wasn’t from either of those places. He was from New Jersey just like all of the worst things are. Every man I’d ever slept with from New Jersey had fucked me. No pun intended.

           I should have stayed with that scrawny coyote even at the risk of rabies. Rabies might’ve killed me quicker and more painlessly than that handsome stranger and those of his kind eventually would.

           Once inside, my suspicions were confirmed. There was a god damned chandelier. A garganchuan, crystal-encrusted chandelier hanging in a presumably single man’s entry way. Ladies, if you walk into a bachelor pad and the first thing you see is a chandelier worth more than your car, run in the other direction even if there are coyotes. This chandelier was the type which serves no purpose at all other than to notify visitors of one’s wealth. I had seen a lot of chandeliers of that sort since moving to Los Angeles, but none quite as extravagant and sparkly as his. Big chandeliers like that are never indicators of the beautiful love story or even the great sex to follow. And yes, of course, the sex was great.

           For the record, I was not always this way. I was not always willing to drive all the way from West Hollywood to Echo Park after a few too many Coors Lights to have unprotected sex with someone who flattered me juuuust enough in a twelve minute conversation on Tinder. I was in love once. From the outside looking in it was probably disgusting. Sure, it may be hard to picture now. But it’s true. I slept with the same man every single night. I let him see me without makeup. We laughed and we played. I called him ‘honey bear’ and he called me ‘cookie’, never once with a trace of shame on my part or his. We wrestled and had pillow fights and gave each other deep tissue massages for fuck’s sake. I used his toothbrush once when I forgot mine at home (sorry, Jerry Seinfeld). I thoroughly enjoyed waking up quietly and cooking him breakfast so that the smell of extra crispy bacon would slowly stir him awake. We took long showers together in which we would always argue about the water temperature and we scrubbed each others backs on a nightly basis. He popped my zits. I ironed his shirts. I was one hundred percent myself around him and that notion both completely terrified and absolutely delighted me all at once. I was done. I never saw another man when I was with him. They did not exist. There was a time not long ago when I could not imagine what being attracted to another might even feel like, let alone having multiple orgasms from one.

          So before you are so quick to judge, this lifestyle was not my first choice. I would genuinlely always choose the back scrubs and pillow fights, the lack of makeup and the overwhelming scent of practically-burnt bacon, the visits at work, the wilted flowers and cards with misspelled sentiments, the stupid emojis in text messages laden with grammatical errors, the missing out on my precious time alone, the sharing the last bite of cheesecake, the instant photos with filters to make us look like something we most certainly were not, the tags in the admittedly ridiculous “woman-crush-Wednesday” and “man-crush-Monday” posts, the cliché trips to local museums, and the naked crying in the bathtub, smudged black makeup running down my face with him by my side comforting me – over feeling so cheap, sad, and dirty. Even still, I will forever choose cheap, sad, and dirty over feeling nothing at all.

          I escaped the coyote, and together the stranger and I watched him skitter away. He stopped once in the middle of the driveway to look back at us. I could swear I felt him lock his refletant yellow eyes with my boring human ones.

          The stranger wasted no time in “getting to know me”. His calloused hands were promptly on my Taco-Bell-sponsored waist before he even asked me how I was. It dawned on me then how silly we are for constantly asking that dreaded question: “How are you?” to fuck buddies, acquaintances, and complete strangers when we don’t actually care how they’re doing at all. I realized then that I didn’t care that he didn’t care because neither did I. I allowed him to continue to touch me in whichever ways he wanted for a little bit before asking him the question I really wanted an honest answer to: where the whiskey was.

           The strange man’s kitchen was impressive. Uncharacteristically clean for a bachelor pad, with updated appliances and a motherfucking herb garden on the counter. I wondered how he’d gotten so wealthy. I didn’t know what he did for a living, which was odd for L.A. It is typically the first question people ask one another here. This one didn’t strike me as a trust fund baby but he didn’t seem much like a film industry type either. Handsome but stupid. Surely too stupid to have earned that much money on his own. In the end, it didn’t really matter. Financial stability is not sexually transferable after all.

          Three glasses of Irish whiskey on the rocks and I would have stopped him and made him use a condom, but pouring that damned fourth and touching it to my lips might as well have been the same as me consciously consenting to him fucking me unprotected. There was no foreplay. There was no kissing. There never was. I had fucked several men since the break up but had not mouth-kissed a single one of them. I’m not sure if that was my issue or the men I was so carefully choosing, but either way I found it increasingly difficult to recall what the sensation of touching someones teeth with my tongue might feel like.

         The journey to the stranger’s bedroom was a whirlwind. His place was large with several unnecessary rooms and the bedroom in which we ended up was far, far away from the kitchen where our rendezvous had begun, but I can’t remember a thing about what the halls looked like or even if there were stairs.

         His bed was large, soft and white with the type of thick and heavy comforters you could lose your iPhone in. There was nothing taped or nailed to the ivory walls. There were no books, no dresser. No lamp, no nightstand. No clock, no decorations, no clothes piled on the ground or in a laundry bin. No windows. There wasn’t even a scent. Come on, everyone’s room has a scent. Did anyone live here? Maybe one of the other bedrooms was where he slept and this was just the room he brought random women in to fuck them. This was not the first time that night that everything inside of me told me to stand up and just leave right then. But shit, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to find my way back to the front door.

         He was courteous enough to help undress me at least. Some weren’t. My boots and bra had been carelessly abandoned in the kitchen. That particular bra was expensive and cute. I hoped I’d be able to recover it upon my departure so that some other stranger might have the prividlege of slipping it off of me one day, perhaps more gently than this one had. His lips met my collar bone immediately upon our arrival in the stark room and continued moving lower, but never became aquainted with any part of my face. My hips writhed, not from passion or anticipation but from nervousness. I had no idea what I was nervous about. It wouldn’t be my first one night stand. But that’s just it – that was exactly what felt different. I knew before it even began that it was a one night stand. This fuckstick had no intentions of ever speaking to me again after that night. I was more likely to see the coyote again. That’s why we’re here now I suppose. Most everyone fucks a total stranger at least once in their life. But not everybody gets to meet the same coyote twice.

          It must have been five in the morning by the time I left his place. My small one-hundred-and-two-pound frame had consumed twice the amount of whiskey he had, yet the stranger seemed much more drunk and disoriented than I was. He was beginning to drift off to sleep after cumming inside of me three glorious times when I finally snuck out, not before rescuing every article of clothing and accessory belonging to me.

         For first time sex, it was great. Almost as if he’d done it before. He knew just the right ways to touch me, cared that I got off too, and had a Pringles-can-sized dick. He had no trouble keeping it up either, even after drinking. He lasted as long as I wanted him to, and was able to get hard again not long after cumming. Sex is important to me. A man is only as great as he is in bed. My ex and I had an incredible sex life. It only got better and better as our fights got worse and worse. Unfortunately I don’t get to have that anymore. So now, I get sex where and when I can. That drowsy Wednesday I happened to get it from a stranger with too much money and not enough whiskey in a pretentious condo in Echo Park with a big ass chandeleir inside. I did not feel shame for what I had done, but walking back down the same steep drive I had walked up a few hours earlier, I’d already forgotten how good the sex had been. I wondered where my little coyote was and what he was up to.

          The second and last time I encountered the coyote in Echo Park, I was inebriated and crossing a busy street without looking both ways. If I wasn’t going to bother using condoms with perfect strangers, why should I? A man I had slept with several times but whose last name I couldn’t recall and I were walking to the third or fourth bar of the evening, some spot I had never been to before. Apparently it was an old cop bar and there was a documentary on Netflix about it. I made it a note to check that out later. I can’t remember what the name of that documentary is. A lot has happened between then and now. The coyote once again seemed like a stray at first. The two of us realized at the exact same time that it wasn’t. I silently wondered to myself if it was the same coyote I had seen weeks earlier, just blocks away in the handsome strangers driveway. My gut told me it was but I was skeptical then. I know better now.

          The small, scrappy, taupe creature seemed much more interested in me than in my tall, handsome partner. He told me not to get too close. “Those things are vicious!” warned my ‘friend’. But this time, I wasn’t going to let the little fella get away without delivering his undoubtedly important message to me. After my sexual encounter in the same neighborhood a couple of weeks prior had left me feeling gross, I had forced most of the details of that night (aside from the extravagent chandelier, of course. I can still remember now exactly how many crystals it was encrusted with, if you care to know) out of my mind, but the memory of the ki-oh-tee had remained vivid.

           The critter came up to me and brushed up against my leg, just as his brethren had, while my frightened fuck buddy groaned and backed away. He threatened to go on to the bar without me. It was nearly last call.

          “Go ahead” I spoke softly, so as not to startle my four-legged buddy.

           I wasn’t scared of him even if I should have been. I have an affinity for not being afraid of things that can easily hurt me. It is a curse more than a gift most of the time.

           I was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming urge to pet the meek animal. I knew how wrong it was. I had learned from a young age how to treat wildlife. You are definitely not supposed to pet them even if they come up to you, no matter how frickin’ adorable they are. But with my friends gone and no one else to see or judge, with the moon as our only lightsource and those damned yellow eyes which positively refused to look away from me, I had to reach down and feel him. It was no longer a choice. There’s no other way to explain it. When I did so, he did not move an inch. I thought this is it. I knew I might get snapped at. I was fully aware that other coyotes might be in the bushes and would jump out, ready to attack at my slightest touch of their comrad. I took a deep breath and lightly, slowly brushed my hand over his coarse head. His eyes immediately began to shut. They were usually open so wide that he looked eerily different with them closed. He scooted closer, his entire thin, stiff body now nestled between my calves. He trusted me and he wanted me to know it. But why? I hardly trusted myself.

           Next, something remarkable – which I still do not understand and do not expect you to either – happened to me. Touching the coyote like that had somehow caused me to experience a phenomenon I didn’t even believe in: an out of body experience. Suddenly, my body no longer existed to me but only my mind, watching my every move from afar. Almost as if I were watching a film, I watched intently as I consentually fucked stranger after stranger, voluntarily deep throated dick after dick, each time going home feeling blank and dissatisfied. These scenes were playing on a screen behind my eyes and I had no control over the remote. The volume was turned up all the way. There was no mute button. I heard myself quietly crying myself to sleep after a particularly damaging encounter with a stranger. The strangers in these scenes were not strangers I had slept with in real life, but they may as well have been the sandy haired stranger with the big chandelier or any that had come (inside of me) before him. That was the first time I had ever even considered that I felt used after having empty sex. All that time, I’d thought I was the one using men for sex because I wouldn’t give them any type of commitment. I wouldn’t go on dates with them even if they asked. I had deemed myself emotionally unavailable.

           It was hard to watch myself like that. If a friend of mine lacked respect for herself the way I clearly seemed to in those scenes, it would make me very sad indeed. I would surely talk to her about it. I would notify her of her grandoise beauty and enormous value to this world. I would urge her to perhaps masturbate more and learn to only sleep with men who treated her like a human being and not a plaything. If she had to sleep with strangers once in awhile, I would force her to always use protection. I would make that bitch get a birth control perscription and then, and only then, I would hug her and hold her and force her to talk to me about whatever it was that was hurting her inside so badly that she was trying to cure by having lots of sex with lots of different partners. That was when I realized that I did have a friend like that who needed me to do just those things. Her name was Myself.

           I can’t say if I was dreaming, drunk, dehydrated, or what, but I was certainly dizzy. I watched these scenes of this person I had gradually become but barely recognized making bad decisions for what seemed like hours. There was no end to the foreign film I had been forced to watch. No closure. The last thing I remember watching was a bigger-boobed version of myself showering off after yet another promiscuity-filled night. Then everything went black.

           I don’t remember falling down or sitting on the ground intentionally, but once it was all over, I was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the street with a dead coyote curled up in my lap.

          I think it is of importance to mention that I do not believe in fate. I don’t believe in a higher power. I do not know what happened to me that night. There is probably a reasonable explanation, I just haven’t come up with one yet. But then again, I don’t think I need to. Although it is a nice thought that the coyote was sent to deliver a message to me, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t believe it possible that he was put on this earth by some creator to open my eyes and teach me to love myself again. But I will tell you one thing: I have not had empty sex since. And now, when I find myself with an attractive man in Echo Park, I always demand to be kissed.

CHAPTER SEVEN

You loved me

the way you loved your favorite book

you read other books, of course

caressed their pages in your hands

carried them with you

discussed them with pretentious people in coffee shops

but still you remembered the sentences filling up my pages

the ones which made the blood

flood straight to your heart

you often thought of chapter seven

even months after putting me down

my cover art was pretty

I looked good on your nightstand

where I slept each night

the other books

which you stayed up late reading

could never quite understand why

you would not return me to the shelf

where I belonged

But

I loved you

more like I loved my favorite song

always stuck in my head

often hummed under my breath

while in line at the bank

or belted proudly, naked in the shower

rinsing the shame off of

my body once again

one time I got so into you I almost slipped on a bar of soap

if I really liked someone

I would show you to them

but mostly I didn’t want to share you

at all

you were not a physical object like I was to you

I could never hold you in my hands the way you could hold me

but there you were in my music collection

alphabetical order

next to all of my other favorite songs

isn’t it time you put me next to your other books?

I promise you won’t forget me

even if I burn

you’ll still see my words in your mind

the way I hear your beat

BLANKETS

Your fallacies are my fortress

I hide within your lies

disassembled 

from the ass up

I feel alone on top of you

 

the mask you wear doesn’t fit you 

it slides off 

as you slide in

distracted 

by the warnings tacked 

to the walls of my skull 

empty with you inside of me

 

if I am my ugliest 

as you whisper that I am beautiful

what would happen if you shouted it?  

 

wrapped up in your favorite blankets

my bones are freezing cold

SHARP OBJECTS

       Pretty girls remain sharp objects, no matter how smooth their skin. Pretty girls will harm you even if you get down on your knees, tug on the hems of their tight skirts and beg them not to. They will cut you to your core, quickly and loudly or softly and silently. You won’t know which it was until it’s over. A pretty girl will leave marks inside of you that you may not even begin to discover until you’ve nearly forgotten the way her long and silky hair would blow in the summer breeze or the anti-rhythm of  her uneven breaths which would threaten to keep you up all night. Beauty is power. No matter how handsome you are and regardless of how intelligent, you are impotent. Pretty girls are nice to look at and no matter how many times they’ll complain to you about the shapes of their bodies, their inadequate height, or their thin lips – they know it. 

 

       They know it, and they will use it against you if you let them.

 

       There are stacks and piles of poems written about pretty girls. There exist entire novels and award-winning films devoted to girls in possession of a type of beauty so powerful that no one can deny it is there. Too many artists have spent the better part of their lifetimes painting a pretty girl, just so that her beauty could live longer than she would. People like pretty things. We are drawn to them, regardless of our age, gender, or sexual orientation. But a pretty boy, a pretty flower, or a pretty car will never destroy you the way I am promising you a pretty girl will. 

        A really pretty girl will get under your skin until eventually you will hear her singing out of key in between your joints and tendons. She will cause you to ache in places you didn’t even know existed. You will lose sight of yourself on your mission to see her more clearly. You might even lose sight of all of the other pretty girls – and there are many – if you are unlucky enough to find one with eyelashes just long enough to destroy you. Your brain will trick you into thinking it’s worth it. Beauty is pain, they’d told you, and maybe this was what they meant. 

       Pretty girls have existed since the beginning of humanity, and you are not the first to experience their wrath. Nor will you be the last. But you won’t be able to save your successors just like your predecessors weren’t able to save you. So don’t even try. Let the pretty girls get inside of the bodies and minds of the men and suck them dry of all their rational thoughts. Let the men lose sleep. Let them look like fools. 

 

       Always notice the pretty girls when they pass you on the street or when they lay restless next to you in your king-sized beds. Remember the way the corners of their mouths crinkle when they smile or laugh. See them for what they are when you look at the way their jeans hug their hips. Note the way that only certain parts of their skin will tan. When her sky blue or honey brown eyes look directly into yours or off into the distance in your direction, think to yourself how pretty she is. Appreciate that beauty, respect it. Fear it a little bit. Do not worship it. For pretty girls remain sharp objects, no matter how smooth their skin. 

EXISTING HERE

Existing 

in this place 

like it was an art form

day by day 

nothing would change

but years would pass

and nothing was the same

condescending 

was his tone 

when he would speak to me

but I still liked the sound of his voice

 

playing with fire

was much more fun

than patiently waiting

for the ice to freeze

I loved him quietly

never shouted it from a rooftop

or showed up at his work

there was never a need 

for kissing in public 

oh yes, my love was quiet

but he was always close enough 

to hear it 

 

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOUR HEART IS NOT BROKEN.

      It hurt very softly. It was not an all-encompassing hurt, never a constant one. This was more of an achy, dull pain that would almost go away and then come back worse than before. It was the type of hurt that I would almost forget about if I was in the right place or with the right people or took just the right sip of the right drink. If the weather was just the way I liked it, and I didn’t get any parking tickets that day, and I got to do something I loved – like read a book on the beach or discover a new coffee shop or take my dog to the park –  I would almost completely forget that the hurt was ever even there at all.

       But then – quietly, softly, without warning, the hurt would come back. Just walking home from work some nights, I would pass a certain crack in the sidewalk or a certain song would come on Pandora blaring through only one side of my old headphones or maybe I would think of the way he would look at me or the way he would call me a ‘sexy, sexy minx’ or the way his skin felt brushing up against mine or his obnoxious laugh – randomly, for no apparent reason – and then, there it was again, that damned familiar hurt. Deep hurt. The type of hurt I couldn’t quite explain and didn’t even try. Not even to my closest friends. I needed a shoulder to cry on sometimes, a phone number that would text me back at any strange hour, or a human chest to breath onto in the sticky heat or the frigid cold. The people who really mattered would always give me that. I didn’t want to talk though. I didn’t need to talk. Talking never helped. Talking about the hurt brought thick gunk up through my throat and made me feel as if I would vomit if I had to say his name one more time or speak out loud about the past, or often even the loveliest possible rendition of the future. 

        I never felt it in my brain or my veins and it wasn’t really in my chest either. It didn’t feel even remotely close to the way I’d heard heartbreak described. I’d read all of the poems from the beat era and I’d listened to the ear-piercing “emo” music from the early 2000s before and I had talked many friends down from the ledge after being dumped by the people they’d truly thought were the loves of their lives. It still caught me by surprise. I didn’t really have a stomach ache. If I focused, I could certainly breathe. It was a hurt felt more in my bones. In every part of me, to the point where there was no way I could escape from it. It was a part of me. Sleep was only a temporary fix – for when I woke, BAM – there it was again. But not always. Only some days. There was no way for me to predict when it would come. Sometimes, I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was in tears outside of my apartment, wailing so hard and loud that my neighbors would come out and express their concerns because they’d thought my dog must have just died. Something did die, though. Not my dog. Not even a person. But death hurts the living no matter what it is that has died. That’s the thing – I was living. I must have been, to be feeling so much, so intensely. Even death can’t hurt the dead. Nothing can. 

        I know you’re hurting. I know it. It’s awful. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to console you right now. I get it.  It hurts bad. It hurts because it mattered to you more than anything else, and I’m glad that it did. Maybe it still does. I hope so. Something mattered to you so much that it had the ability to tear you apart this badly. You think this is ugly? Who told you that? It’s not ugly at all. It’s fucking beautiful. Some people never get to hurt this badly ever in their lives. I feel sorry for them, and you should too. To feel this much is human. Hurting this terribly is only an indicator of how much we were capable of loving – and guess what? That only means we are capable of loving that much again someday. I don’t want you to hurt. I know how it feels and I don’t want anybody to feel that way. But I want you to know that hurting is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. You have a big heart just like I do. And that’s not wrong or embarrassing or shameful at all. Not one bit. 

         So don’t forget about him, or her, or it – that thing, that person, that place – whatever it was that has caused you to hurt this way or to cry this much. Whether your tears are on the outside streaming down your face where everybody can see them or deep in your bones. Maybe you can’t eat or sleep and you can’t even be yourself anymore. Remember this. Remember exactly the way it feels. Don’t ever forget it. Thank it. Cry when you have to. Laugh when you’re able to. You are not special because you’ve had your heart broken, and neither am I. But we are not big babies for crying often. We are not immature or crazy or unstable for yelling and expressing our every emotion so loudly it might wake somebody up. They can sleep tomorrow. You are hurting right now. Right this very moment.  And that’s OK. 

BAD EGGS

remember that night we took way too much MDMA and

you projectile vomited onto the sidewalk and

i asked if you were ok

you just laughed because

we were “so high right now” and

i carried you home which was sort of far and

you were really heavy

my bouncy curls went flat because

the air was wet and then

we slept on the shag carpet

in my friend laurie’s apartment

for seven hours with

all of the lights on and

when we woke up i cooked us some eggs but

i think those eggs were bad and

we shouldn’t have been eating her food anyway

 

BENNY

       The garage door was open. It was summer. The radio was on. A rail thin woman with long, dark hair set in perfect curls came up to my driveway. I had been working on my car all day. She said that she‘d lost her dog and asked if I could help her look for it. Grasped in her long and bony red-nailed fingers was a full color flyer with a blurry photo of her dog on it. She called me ‘sir’ multiple times. I didn’t feel old enough to be called ‘sir’.

       The woman looked semi-familiar to me. I asked her where she lived.

       “I am staying with my father, just up the street from here. He suggested I ask you for help, because you are one of the only people in this neighborhood who has a car.”

       I nodded, and invited her into the only-slightly-cooler-than-outdoors garage. It smelled of sawdust and gasoline.

       I did not care much for dogs. I had never owned one, and didn’t give much thought to the beasts when I saw them attached to the ends of leashes walking by my old and crooked house. I certainly had never helped anyone look for their lost dog before. I wondered how she had lost her dog in the first place. Aren’t they supposed to come when you call them? I tried my best to make conversation.

       “What is your dog’s name?”

       “Benny.” she paused.

       “Will you help me look for him? It’s getting late and will be dark soon, and then it will be harder to find him.”

       I asked her how long she had owned Benny.

       “Only a year. I was sick. My father adopted him for me to aid in nursing me back to health. Benny helped me more than any of the expensive medications ever could.”

       “Everyone thinks I hate dogs, but I don’t really hate them. I’ve just never had one,” I told the woman defensively. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell her that.

       “What were you sick with?” I asked reluctantly.

       “I had a brain tumor. I don’t remember much of that time, because all of the medications made me very weak. I spent six months in the hospital, and once I got out I was confined to my bed at home for another six. If it hadn’t been for Benny, I absolutely would have gone nuts. I think he has healing powers.” The woman smiled crookedly as she gently brushed one of her dark curls out of her face with one of her sharp red fingernails. It dawned on me just then why her hair was so perfect. It was a wig.

       “A brain tumor, wow. I was just reading an article about brain cancer statistics yesterday. It explained that it is more common in men than in women, and is very rarely found people under forty. “

       “I am under forty,” she said quietly.

       “I think I have also read somewhere about people bringing dogs into cancer wards to help brighten the moods of the patients,” I went on.

       “Mmhm, there were other dogs that they brought into the cancer ward I was in, but Benny was the only one who would get under the covers and snuggle with me on my hospital bed.”

      “Yes,” I said, my voice rising, “do you think you could tell me more about him?”

       She stared at me for a moment, thinking.

     “No,” she said, cautiously.

      “I don’t have much time. It’s getting dark and I need to go and look for my dog.”

       I struggled to think of a proper response.

       “I understand.”

       Looking at the artificial center part in her wig, I thought to myself that she was right – she did not have much time at all.

       The woman handed the flyer with the photo of Benny on it to me. Her pale hand was shaking subtly until I grabbed it from her.

       “Have you ever seen him?” she asked.

       Upon closer inspection of the photo, it registered with me that I had seen the dog earlier that day, digging though my neighbor’s tipped over garbage can.

       “Let’s go and look for him,” I told her, knowing he couldn’t be far. We got into my mint green ’76 Cadillac Eldorado together and drove only a few blocks before we simultaneously spotted the mutt. I’d never seen so much genuine joy on the face of another human being as I did on hers right then.

       I kept in touch with the woman after that evening. A couple of years later, her brain cancer came back and killed her within just a few short months. I took Benny in when she died. He was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

       From time to time I tried to explain to people why I had adopted Benny. After awhile, I moved to a different city where no one knew that I hadn’t always been a ‘dog person’.

 

MY OWN KEY

you gave me my own key

to your place but

i don’t know why you did that

because

if i ever showed up there

uninvited

you would think i was

crazy

and we both know that isn’t true

 – or at least one of us does

i’m just not sure

which one