We trained the dog to ask to be let out when she needs to do her thing. What she does is, she goes to the slider and scratches; twice for poop, once for pee, although we can’t take credit for her specificity. She came up with that on her own. Then she started scratching three times, which means, There are noises outside. I must find it, and kill it. Never caught anything though.
Today, she scratched three times, went out, turned right around and stared at us, her breath fogging a pulsing circle on the glass.
We’re beginning to worry.
You couldn’t get a seat at the bar. It was stuffed full of folks watching the big screens, the big game, all wishing they were there.
Around the bar, the gorgeous and the timid gathered at tables and chatted up acquaintances on phones, wishing they were together, while waiters dealt drinks and thought idly of the time they got to get away. It was a mob, shoulder to shoulder, full of noise and stink and life, and not a one was present.
Except for the old man eating an ice cream cone by the door.
He was present as hell.
She’s staring at her phone.
She’s staring at her phone.
She’s unblinking, at her phone.
She’s still staring at her phone.
We try to talk to her.
She mumbles “mhmm”, or “wha”.
Then announces, “Could it mean buttered toast!?” Oh, the disbelief. She types away.
And stares at her phone.
I stand, anomic. I’ve no idea what’s going on.
I’m out the door.
Her battery’s almost drained dry.
At last, she’ll be off her phone.
She frantically unplugs my phone and plugs hers in.
She’s back on her phone.
This lady’s on TV. She’s at a counter, chopping onions. She’s watching TV too. Tears stream down her face. Then someone comes in with this setup – “You okay? Why so sad?” She sniffs and keeps chopping. “I’m not sad. It’s the onions.” Canned laughter follows this joke, this, lie. Have you ever chopped onions? Sulfur gas rises from every chop and turns into acid when it reaches your eyes. To be clear; sulfuric acid in your eyes. She should be running around screaming, “My eyes! My god, my eyes!”
She’s never chopped an onion in her life. Friggin’ liar.
In your 20’s, bar drinks are fun. Flirty. You can get Sex on the Beach. A Screaming Orgasm. Buttery Nipple shots. Fireball shots. It’s essentially liquid sex candy and everybody’s getting laid.
In your 30’s, you’re moving up in the world. You graduate to a little class. You order a Cosmopolitan. A Something Martini. Maybe a Something Margarita, or a Vodka and Something.
By your 40’s, drinks should have names like Student Loan Payout. Oh my god, yes I’ll have one of those. Or Full Car Maintenance. Would you like a Home Loan Down Payment? Bartender, make it a 20%.
It’s very early and very cold, and she’s pulling her leash tight around the landing to the final steps. Suddenly, she stops.
A man is lying there. A few burned out candles by his face.
He’s startled and sits up. He’s young, with a scraggly beard and weary eyes, and lights the cigarette he already has pressed in his lips.
“We used to sit here and smoke,” he says. “But now, she’s gone.”
Gone? As in, dead? Or has she left him? I can’t think of what to say.
“Can I get by? My dog has to pee.”
Roll call in homeroom is shorter by four names today. The empty desks have already been pushed to the back of the room. Outside, the flag flies at half mast, which means we’re still allowed to say goodbye. I add my name to the cards on their desks and pray their souls find peace.
Soon, the flag will rise to full mast, and when it does, we won’t be allowed to say their names anymore.
“It’s the price of our freedom,” they say, and, “this is not the time for questions.” They’re angry when we speak. How dare we bring it up at all. It’s the price of our freedom.
Except, I don’t feel free at all.