barking dogs, dirty dishes, cool cats, & a little sympathy
It was the first morning when I did the dishes and didn't have to hear that damned dog barking. I probably should have used more Lemon Joy, but I didn't want to get suds all over the plastic bottle's neck. I wondered if the neighbors had finally put a muzzle on their neglected mutt.
Mostly I wondered about where Johnny was. Probably waking up with some bimbo to make him breakfast. It had been a year, but still I thought about him. It wasn't healthy. I scrubbed at the melted cheese caked onto my favorite plate.
Johnny loved when I did the dishes. He loved my having breakfast cooked for him by the time he woke up. He loved a little loving for dessert after breakfast. That good ol' boy loved everything I did for him. He just didn't love me.
My ex-husband Johnny. He was thirty-two now, but still wore leather pants to the recording studio. He was a sound mixer, probably still hoping to be invited to join a real band.
He was one cool cat. Great looking, a real pouncer in bed, and so graceful walking in the door. And just like a cat, he was graceful on the way out the door, after I fed him and washed his underwear.
I nicked my fingernail on a fork tine and cursed loudly. Now that the house was empty, I found myself swearing more freely. I sucked my nail and meandered into the big bathroom, seeking a band-aid. There were no band-aids. I wrapped my finger in toilet paper.
There wouldn't be any company in bed tonight, I thought. I sat down heavily on my bed and started to cry. The water in the kitchen sink was losing its suds, and a grown woman was crying over a pricked fingernail. How pathetic the scene might have been, had I not been so alone. When the warm weight brushed my leg, I leapt onto the bed and screamed my bloody head off.
It was the neighbor's dog, Stony. He sat at the foot of my bed obediently, staring with those sympathetic eyes that adult dogs have. I must have looked a mess, standing barefoot on my bed with one hand wrapped in toilet paper and the other wiping the tears from my cheeks. Stony just looked into my eyes and sat there.
I felt foolish, standing with my head almost to the ceiling fan. The dog, despite its reputation for being annoyingly loud, was obviously not unfriendly. It didn't growl or run at me. I sat down on my bed, eyeing this mutt. He was a big dog, probably forty pounds. A lab? I don't know dog breeds. Short black hair, perky ears, and a big long snout.
I wondered how it got in. Maybe through the screen door on the back porch. Probably I should have gone next door to tell the neighbors about their dog. But I didn't. I wondered if I should shoo the thing out of the house before it crapped on my carpet. But I was too deflated. Who was I to be snappish with this dog just because I felt depressed? Every dog has its day, the saying goes. I figured, why ruin this one's.
I left the bedroom and flopped down on my couch. Oprah was on my usual prime-time channel, but one thing I hate is daytime TV, so I changed it. Eventually after flipping a hundred times, I settled on the History Channel. Some documentary about Swiss handgun makers during World War II. My mind tuned out.
I thought about Johnny some more. I knew it was right, not to be with him anymore. But at night it got real lonely around here. And I started to doubt all those small things I had used as reasons to end it. Was it really so big a deal, him not remembering my birthday? Men aren't that good with calendar dates, so should it have mattered that Johnny thought to buy our last anniversary gift on the very night, after I gave him his? Did I really need breakfast in bed that one time, when he was already up early? Perhaps I had been nagging him, and not just asking for equal time in our marriage.
Stony's muzzle rested itself on my thigh. I looked over to find the big dog lying on my couch. His little eyes looked up at me. He let out a single whimper, shifting his head only an inch to a more comfortable resting position. Instinctively I stroked between his ears. He curled up against me and suffered my hand's attentions thankfully.
My eyes blurred on the TV. Johnny was one cool cat. Great to look at, but not too easy to live with. Cats want you around for their pleasure. When they don't need satisfaction, they sure don't come around to see if you need anything.
I glanced down at Stony. Dogs are dependent. They want to hold your attention. They want to be with you. They want to always be in the same room with you, even when they're sleeping. They are loving and sympathetic. And even though Stony couldn't understand my complaints, he was here for me.
It has been two weeks now. Stony sleeps under the kitchen table while I do the dishes. He licks my fingers when they twitch, when I'm thinking of lost loves. He doesn't bark for hours on end anymore, and I haven't cried on my bed recently.
And since I haven't heard from my neighbors, I can only conclude that perhaps Stony does understand my problems. All we needed was a little personal attention.