Despite the novelty of a companion, I was still feeling that same anxious resentment that all special occasions inspire in me—the restlessness that I am not enjoying it enough, the glass guilt that immediately followed a huff or an eye roll when something was knocked over, when I had to pick up warm shit with a grocery bag on the walk we took at noon.
The dog was very cute and I could understand at least partially the American tradition of worship towards the species because he did seem to have his own personality and feelings and a version of dreams and desire.
That night, we watched a cooking show and then three episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I cried over Shandi being sent home, and then more over not being five-foot-ten. We sat on opposite ends of the couch, his eyes drooping in the last half hour. I took it for granted that he would follow me to bed when I got up and turned off the television, but he didn’t; I was surprised at my own disappointment.
I wasn’t tired, but it felt cruel to read or listen to music with my door closed while he stayed in the living room, so I laid in the dark with my door open and didn’t even scroll or jerk off, like it was the olden days.
When I woke up to the sound of his tag rattling and his tough, animal nails on the wood floor it was very dark. I figured by now it was probably around the time I was used to going to bed.
In the dim, his eyes were black and green, reflecting the street light that came through my window. He stared, I stared. He wagged his tail. I slunk out of bed and had the sense to put on a robe, like someone in a film, someone with a routine and reason, someone who has a way of doing things, a skin care regiment. One day, I may even have slippers.
We headed through the living room and then to the back door. He darted into the dark of the small yard, another reason I shouldn’t have a dog of my own, I thought, not enough room to run around.
He peed, I yawned. There was a hole in my heart that felt pasted over, for a moment; the days could still move in different directions. I heard a ceramic pot crash and crack and he yelped, but only in fright; when he came back into the sphere of orange light his tail was still wagging and he was uninjured.
I ushered him back in; I wasn’t mad. He watched me lock the door and get into bed with my robe still on. I turned away from the wall, my head poking out of the blankets, just in time to see him crouching before landing on my legs—there was no time to disagree. Everything is heavier than you think once it’s lying down, but he was mostly bones, it seemed. We battled for a moment and came to a compromise, his tail thumping on my right foot, his head on my left leg.
I stuck a hand out to hold his ear, his soft ear. He leaned into it. His paws had some dirt from the yard but I noted this objectively, which, again, surprised me.
I sat up. I was usually finicky about fur on my clothes and furniture, but all of a sudden I found myself throwing my arms around the dog’s neck, like a little girl in a movie, like we had a transcendent bond and he was finally home.
The tears welled up without theatrics and fell quite freely, not thin and sticky like when I tried to induce catharsis sometimes, after a long day. It didn’t feel like being wrung out, it felt like easy, round drops.
I understood why they were called pearls, rolling in a curve from my eye down my nose, falling off the cliff of its bridge. It felt sincere, which was the best part. I wasn’t special, and that wasn’t a curse. It was a relief, admitting to myself that it had always been the same loneliness, and it was nothing to be ashamed of.