A man fiddles with his top button and recounts his sadness. I sit, half-listening, as the speakers above us garble. With music or talk radio, I’m not sure. When I’ve had enough I go outside to smoke a cigarette. Someone asks to borrow my lighter and calls it pretty even though it’s not. I listen to three strangers discuss politics and it sickens me. A man laughs and then screams, laughs and screams, until the woman next to him asks him to stop.
The walk back frightens me. I’m not sure which side of the street I should walk on and I never recognize any of their names. I call the first person I think of and they pick up after six rings. I lie when they ask if I’m drunk. They have to go. I say me too, thanks for answering, goodnight, sleep tight, and so forth. I pull my keys out too soon, put them back into my bag, and then struggle to find them again. I miss the weight of a car key, its substance.
My dog is asleep when I get home, jerking and making sounds. Speaking, maybe, or whispering. I don’t have any Advil. The man who lives above me drops something or collapses, I can’t tell. I think about San Jose, my grandmother, Jerry Lewis, the election, my dentist’s face. Who is Fred Astaire and what did he do? Why can’t I think of anyone I’d enjoy spending time with? Then I fall asleep and I don’t dream of anything.
I go to work. My dog is asleep when I get home. Her nose wiggles. I walk to the bar, get drunk, call a friend. I won’t drink in secret anymore—that’s my new rule. I ask her if she remembers the girl we knew who would cut her pizza with scissors. She says she does, that girl’s name was Shelby, her marriage was annulled but no one knows why. Then she tells me she has to go and to take care of myself. I say yes, yes, you too. I admire the moon’s persistence. They could have changed all the street names this morning and I wouldn’t know it.
My dog is awake now, excited for me to be there, eyes expectant, mouth agape. I lay down on the floor next to her. Yes, I say, yes, this is what it is to love and be loved. Look at us! We rely on each other. Solidarity, co-dependence, cooperation, self-actualization. Sentimentality, generosity. Happiness, health. It’s all here. I’m throwing up, I’m coughing, I’m feeling sorry for myself. I drink a cup of water—happiness, health—and read a paragraph or two of the book on my nightstand but I’m too drunk to put any of it into perspective. Then I fall asleep and I don’t dream of anything.