“Would you just do your business?!” The dog looked up at me, soft brown eyes glazed over and sad. “Samson always went right away,” I mumbled under my breath, as if the dog could understand me.
I threw my head back and sighed, tugging on the leash a little too hard to get the dog back inside. I climbed the four flights of stairs to my apartment and let him off the leash. He ran inside and I locked the door behind me, the clock on the stove blinking 2:13 am, mocking me for not being asleep. I rubbed my eyes and scratched the stubble that had seemingly turned into a full-fledged beard overnight. I turned on my heels, realizing the dog had disappeared.
“Shit,” I said, sprinting into the bedroom. I burst through the door just as the dog was putting his leg down next to the puddle of pee he’d just created on the corner of my bed.
“Are you fucking serious! We were JUST outside for twenty fucking minutes!” I screamed, not caring if I woke my neighbours up. The dog lay down on the floor and looked up at me with guilty eyes.
“Don’t look guilty when you know better! Why the FUCK don’t you get this housetraining thing yet?” I could feel tears of anger welling in my eyes and I furiously swiped them away. The months of insomnia were starting to really take a toll on me, and I was finding myself flying off the handle much quicker lately. I started angrily pulling the sheets off the mattress to wash them and spotted out a pile of poop in the corner. I looked at the dog, then back at the mess—then back at the dog, and I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“FUCK. YOU!” The dog ran out of the room, stupid fluffy tail tucked between its legs.
A few months earlier
“I just… I don’t think we want the same things anymore,” Rebecca said over breakfast.
“Wait, what are you talking about?” I replied, holding a forkful of pancake near my mouth.
She fidgeted, twirling her hair and looking everywhere but at me. “We just want different things out of life, I think. And I don’t want to be the one holding you back from what you really want anymore.”
“You’re not holding me back.”
“Well…” she trailed off, still not looking at me. My heart sank, as the reality of what was happening began to hit me.
“You think I’m holding youback, don’t you?” I asked, still holding my fork, but the pancake dropped off it. She rubbed her neck, tilting her head to the side.
“Well, Dan, honestly, yes. All you do is sit around all day, and you don’t care about anything. And then I have to come home from working two jobs and clean the messes you’ve made.”
“Okay, so I’ll clean more. How does me being at home hold you back? That doesn’t make any fucking sense.” I speared the piece of pancake again and shoved it into my mouth. She hadn’t touched her eggs and was now sitting with her arms folded tightly across her chest, leaning back from the table.
“Dan don’t get worked up. This is actually a part of it too, you have such a bad temper and it can be really embarrassing.”
“Oh, it’s embarrassing for you? Really? That’s fucking interesting. Because you’re so fucking perfect right?” I knew I was overreacting, but I couldn’t make myself bring my voice down. I was shaking with adrenaline.
“Okay, well, if you’re going to be like this, I’m going to leave. We can talk later when you calm down.” She stood up and walked away, ignoring my yelling at her as she walked away. The entire restaurant had eyes on me now, but instead of settling down, and wallowing in embarrassment, I yelled at them, too, mouth full.
“Oh, fuck off, you never dated a total bitch before? Good riddance!”
On my knees, cleaning dog shit off the floor at two in the morning, I relived this memory. I’d replayed it many times in my head over the past few months, but I focused on different parts of it every time. Last time, I’d focused on trying to see her freckles and her blue eyes. Her face was starting to blur into one that was unrecognizable, and that scared me.
So, I forced myself to paint her face into the blackness of my mind’s eye. I started with her ash-blond hair, cascading in perfect curls down her back. Then her milky-white skin with scattered freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her adorable nose with the pointed tip, and the defined cupid’s bow. Her soft, pink lips that stretched across her whole face when she smiled, revealing a slightly crooked tooth on the top row.
This time, though, I focused on myself, and my reaction to the words she said. I thought about the entire restaurant’s busy Sunday crowd glaring at me, and I forced myself to feel the burn of the dozens of shaming eyes on my face.
That night, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling until the sun came up, while the dog took up more than half the bed, sound asleep. Lucky bastard.
By 7:00 am I knew sleep was not going to come to me, so I got out of bed and forced myself to shower. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d showered, so I figured I was probably due. After my shower, I decided to take the dog for a very long walk to tire him out, so he couldn’t annoy me for a little while. I wrestled him into his harness and dragged him downstairs and out the door. I had to tug on his leash every couple of minutes to keep him moving because he stopped to sniff every god damn blade of grass.
“Come ON, dog, let’s fucking keep it moving here!” I tugged extra hard on the leash and the dog made a choking noise. A lady walking across the street stared at me. I ignored her, lowering my voice. “Let’s go, dog. Come on.”
We made it to the park nearby, and I was trying to allow the dog to take his time, letting him stick his nose into the ground. Then I saw her. I only saw her from behind, but I knew it was her. Her hair looked just as I’d imagined it, in perfect, loose curls that always took her way too long to do. It was flowing out of a knit toque with a pom-pom on top.
Her shiny black boots met the hem of her dress at the knees, and she looked like a celebrity caught by the paparazzi on a particularly nice fall day.
Samson was with her, walking nicely on his, and some guy I didn’t recognize was walking next to her on the other side. My heart sped up and I tugged the dog’s leash, hurrying towards her. She turned around, hearing my footsteps before I was able to approach her.
“Dan, wh—is that your dog?” She looked at the dog who was looking at Samson as though he were a mirror.
“Yeah, it is. Since you took Samson when you left, I had to get a new one.”
“An identical one?”
“I liked Samson.”
She shook her head. “Okay, well good to see you, I gotta go.” She tried to walk away but I stepped in front of her. The guy she was with was just standing next to her, moving ever-so-slightly closer to her.
“Wait, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend here?”
“Oh, I know who you are,” the guy said, looking down his nose at me, even though I was a good inch taller.
“Well, I don’t know you, do I?” I said, looking him in the eye.
“Dan, please…” Rebecca started, then looked around, eyes wide.
“Dan, your dog!”
I looked around, realizing that I had let go of the dog’s leash at some point, and I couldn’t see him anywhere.
“Shit.” I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I could just let him go, but then took off in a sprint to find him. I ran all over the park, asking people if they’d seen a large poodle with a leash attached to it. I wasn’t sure what to call out since he didn’t even have a fucking name.
It was starting to get dark out by the time I’d finally given up and gone home. I stopped at the liquor store on the way home, realizing it was about to close. I started drinking from the bottle as I walked back to my apartment. By the time I got there, I was already a little drunk.
I let myself in and sat on the couch, not bothering with a glass. Before I could think twice, I had drunk the whole bottle. I thought of Rebecca and Samson and the guy she was with in the park. The way her eyes widened with worry when she realized the dog had ran off. The way that stupid guy was acting all protective. Yeah, good luck, buddy. She doesn’t want anyone’s help with anything.
And the dog. I thought about Samson sleeping comfortably, warm and cozy in myhouse, curled up on the floor beside the bed while she fucked that asshole in mybed. I could feel the heat rising up in my cheeks coming from my chest. Or maybe it was from my belly where the burning liquid was sitting like a ball of fire in my empty stomach.
I could feel the rage starting again. Why did she get to keep the dog, anyway? We got him together. We also got that house and everything in it together. I had to uproot my entire life, move to this shitty apartment and buy all new belongings. How was that fair? Why did she deserve to be happy and I didn’t? `
I stood from the smelly, dog-pee infested couch that I’d gotten second-hand and that I was pretty sure had bed bugs, steadying myself on the arm. I grabbed my keys without thinking twice or really knowing what I was doing and left without my jacket.
I got into my car, knowing I was way too drunk to be driving, but ignored my conscience’s better judgment and slowly backed out of the driveway. I drove to the house and parked down the street.
I walked as stealthily and steadily as I possibly could, given my drunken state, and I tried to remember where the automatic light trigger was. I stepped extra wide around the house, making my way to the back lane.
I peeked over the fence and saw a figure behind the glass door leading onto the deck. I ducked down and waited. I heard the door open, then a man’s voice saying something that I couldn’t quite make out. I heard the sound of Samson’s collar jingling as he ran out.
“Perfect,” I whispered to myself. I looked back over the fence and tried to get Samson’s attention. He looked at me, his ears perking up. “Come here, buddy, come here Sammy,” I whispered. He hesitated, but then started galloping towards me. “Good boy, good boy. You remember me, hey? You want to come with me?” He cocked his head to the right, waiting a moment. I leaned in a little closer and spoke clearly, suddenly feeling totally sober. “Come on, buddy.”
I woke up with the familiar throbbing in my head, turning stomach and blank memory that was indicative of a rough night. I rubbed my temples, groaned and turned over in bed. I felt my stomach turn and I jumped out of bed and barely made it to the toilet in time to throw up.
I groaned and sat on the bathroom floor. I heard a jingling from the other room. I got up, remembering that I should feed the dog. I looked at the clock on my way to the kitchen. It was already past noon. What the fuck.
I grabbed the dog food and emptied some into the dish, not caring to measure it. The dog came running and started going to town on the food. I looked into the living room to see where the dog pissed and shit while I left it unattended for god knows how long. I looked around but didn’t see any puddles. Wow, a miracle.
“Good boy! Wow, fucking finally.” I said, immediately regretting yelling so loud. I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands until I saw white.
My phone started buzzing from the other room. I hobbled as fast as I could to go answer it, but by the time I got there I’d missed it..
4 missed calls: Rebecca
I gasped and started dialling her back before even listening to the messages.
“Dan, where have you been?” She said, panicked, without saying hello.
“What’s going on?”
“Samson is missing.”
“Wh…” My stomach dropped as my memory of the night before started coming back. I looked at the dog.
“Dan, are you there? Did you hear me?” Rebecca asked. I started sweating and felt like I was going to be sick again.
“Uh, yeah I’m here, sorry. Samson’s what? Gone?” I reached for the dog’s collar and turned over the tag.
IF LOST, PLEASE RETURN TO 215 CRESCENT BAY
“Dan? Are you listening? Can you just keep an eye out for him and call me if you hear anything?”
“Yeah, yeah sure, of course,” I said, and hung up as soon as she said goodbye.
“Shit, Sammy. I fucked up.”
He looked at me and cocked his head to the side, as if saying, Well, what the fuck are you going to do now?
I took Samson for a walk to the park where I’d crossed paths with Rebecca and the nameless man, and I started looking for my actual dog. I’d taken Samson’s collar off and shoved it between my mattress and box spring like some kind of illegal substance.
My head was still aching from the hangover and I couldn’t fully see straight. I started asking strangers if they’d seen a dog that looked exactly like the one next to me, but they all shook their heads and walked away.
“Shit,” I said, looking down at Samson, who was looking up at me expectantly. “What?” I asked. Samson did a little growl and then a small bark. “What’s up, buddy?” I looked around, but Samson just stared at me. “I don’t know what you want,” I said, leading him back towards home.
When we got home, I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket and dialled Rebecca.
“Hello?” Her voice sounded defeated and sad.
“Hey, how’s the search going?” I asked, looking at Samson who was sitting on the floor, staring at me.
“Nothing yet. No leads or anything,” she said, her voice breaking.
“What can I do?”
“I don’t know, nothing…probably.”
“What if I help you search for him? Maybe if he hears both of our voices calling for him he’ll come.”
“It’s worth a shot, I guess.”
I met her in the same park as before. We waved awkwardly from across the park as we walked toward each other.
“Thanks for helping,” she said as she bowed her head, blonde hair falling into her face. She looked much less done-up than usual. Her hair was wavy and tangled, fresh from the shower, and she had almost no makeup on. She still looked great, though. She always looked great.
“Oh, yeah of course. I love Sammy, I’d do anything for him,” I said, picturing him in my shitty apartment, sleeping soundly on my bed. I felt a brief wave of guilt wash over me, but I quickly dismissed it.
“So, where have you looked?” I asked when she didn’t say anything for a while.
“Everywhere.” Her voice broke again, and I could tell she was about to start crying.
She sniffled, then cleared her throat. “I walked around the neighbourhood all night last night just calling his name out until two in the morning.”
“Yeah, Josh and I went on a search, but he gave up around eleven. I didn’t want to give up because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway, so I kept looking.”
“You shouldn’t do that, Bec. Not in that neighbourhood, it’s dangerous,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. She looked at it but didn’t move away. After a moment, she subtly shrugged out from under it.
“I know, but I just can’t think about anything else. I feel like I’m going crazy. I just sit at home, checking the lost dog Facebook page over and over, and calling all the shelters in the area asking if anyone has brought him in. I even called the police.”
I perked up and looked at her. “The police?” I tried to ask calmly.
“Yeah, I figured it was worth a shot, who knows right? I’ve heard of some weird shit going down in our—my area with people stealing dogs and selling them to dog fighters and stuff,” she said, shaking her head.
“I don’t know, Bec, Sammy’s a poodle…” I trailed off
“And?” she asked, looking angry.
“Well…poodles aren’t exactly a prime dog fighting breed.”
“Well, whatever, Dan! My mind is scrambling for any possibilities and I’ve hardly slept, don’t make me feel like an idiot on top of that. I could be out searching on my own,” she said, crossing her arms across her chest.
“I know, I know, I was trying to help you be realistic,” I said.
She looked at me, saying nothing.
“What?” I asked.
“Can we get a drink?”
We found a place around the corner from the park and hopped onto a couple seats at the bar. It was more casual than a table, with the bartender to act as a sort of buffer. I could tell she was being careful not to give me the wrong idea.
“So, what happened with your new dog? Did you get him back?” she asked, zoned out on something in the distance, sipping from her straw.
“Oh…yeah, I found him not long after you left,” I said.
“That’s good,” she said, slurping the last of her drink and flagging down the bartender for another.
“Yeah,” I said, watching as she ordered another.
“Samson will turn up,” I said, putting my hand on her shoulder, and quickly pulling it away and running it through my hair. She just nodded and continued sipping her drink.
“You seem like you’re doing a bit better,” she said, looking at me.
“Yeah, things have been okay lately,” I said, looking at my nails with the cuticles that I’d chewed to shit.
“Just okay?” she asked, blinking slowly. She was starting to get drunk already, I could tell. She was always such a lightweight and she’d pounded back two double gin and tonics.
“I mean…” I reached a hand back and rubbed the back of my neck. “I think you know I took the breakup pretty hard, but I’m finally starting to feel better.”
“I didn’t want you to see me with Josh because I knew it would hurt you. So, I’m sorry that happened,” she said, sounding sincere.
“Oh, well, it’s not like I didn’t expect you to move on. And a girl like you doesn’t stay single for long.”
“Well, tell that to Josh,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“He broke up with me last night.”
“Why?” I could feel anger mixing with jealousy mixing with excitement, and the cocktail of emotions wasn’t sitting well in my stomach, especially on top of the whisky drink I’d just finished.
She waved a hand dismissively in front of her face, hitting herself in the nose. “He said I was ‘too much’ for him to handle right now and that he wanted something ‘more chill,’” she said, giving me an annoyed look.
“That’s fucked up, Bec, he’s a fucking idiot.”
The guy sitting next to her at the bar who had been clearly eavesdropping leaned in towards her. “He’s obviously insane if he broke up with you. Only an idiot would ever let a girl like you go.”
Anger started beating out the other feelings inside me. Rebecca smiled politely at the man.
“No, for real, if he thought he could do better than you, he obviously has a mental problem,” the man said, turning his body toward her.
She laughed uncomfortably. “Thanks, that’s sweet.”
“Can I buy you a drink?” He asked, leaning in.
I closed my eyes and started breathing deeply, controlling my anger.
“Oh, I think I’m okay actually, thanks.”
“C’mon, just one drink? You can tell me all about this asshole that broke your heart.”
“Hey, she said no, buddy,” I said to the guy.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked, as if I hadn’t been sitting there talking to her the whole time.
“I’m with her,” I said through gritted teeth.
The man laughed much too loudly. “Yeah. Right,” he said, laughing again. I stood up from my stool and inserted myself between him and Rebecca, who was burying her face in her hands.
“Leave her alone,” I said, trying my best to sound intimidating.
“Or what? What the fuck is this, some cheesy eighties movie? Are you going to ask me to take this outside?”
“I will if I need to.”
“Dan, stop,” Rebecca said from behind me.
“She asked you to shut the fuck up,” the man said.
“I think you should mind your own fucking business,” I said, getting even closer to the man.
“Alright, buddy, this chick isn’t worth fighting over, let’s just call a truce and get back to our drinks.”
Before I could even think about what I was doing, I felt my fist connect with his jaw, the impact knocking him off his stool.
When I came to, I was sitting outside on a curb with Rebecca holding an ice cube wrapped in a napkin to my throbbing face.
“How does it feel?” she asked, hiccupping.
“Your face,” she said, laughing.
I smiled, but the pain in my lip got worse with the stretch and I swore. “Fuck! Ouch.”
“Be careful, your lip is pretty bad,” she said, staring at my mouth.
I looked at her as her eyes darted up and down from my eyes to my lips. She licked her lips. She was giving me the signal. She had to be, right? She was pretty drunk, but there was no mistaking that move. I looked down at my hands: the right one was throbbing as badly as my face, and there was already a bruise on my knuckles. When I looked back up, her face was moving closer to mine and suddenly we were kissing. The pain was excruciating but I was not going to be the one to pull away.
I woke up to light shining into my bedroom through the window. I groaned as the pain in my face and my knuckles kicked in. I let my sore hand slide off the side of the bed and covered my eyes, shielding them from the light with my other one. I felt something wet on my hand and I opened my eyes, whipping my head to the side. Samson was licking my hand, sitting politely next to the bed.
“Oh, hey buddy,” I said, patting him on the head and turning onto my side. There was a body in bed next to me, and it took me several seconds before the memory came back to me, and my stomach flipped. Rebecca. I sat up a little, and looked at her bare back, freckles scattered all across it. You could tell how soft her skin was just by looking at it. Her hair was tangled and matted but still shone. I smiled, remembering the night, so happy. Finally, we were going to get back together. I knew the breakup was just a little blip in our relationship. I knew she’d come back. She turned over, sighing.
I kept watching her, and she finally opened her eyes, fluttering at first. Then they snapped open and she stared at me. She looked around the room and then back at me.
“What the fuck,” she said, a statement more than a question.
“Good morning?” I said, trying not to move my face too much.
“Oh, no,” she said, putting a hand to her forehead. “I shouldn’t have done this, I’m sorry Dan. I’d better go.” She started getting out of bed, but realized she was naked. She turned to look at me.
“Can you just…close your eyes for a minute, I know that’s dumb but please just do it,” she said. I nodded and closed my eyes. As soon as she stood up, I opened them every-so slightly and watched her through the slits in my eyes as she scrambled to collect her clothes. She shook out a shirt on the floor, but it was mine, and she tossed it aside. “Shit. Keep them closed,” she said, bending over and retrieving her shirt. She pulled it on without her bra and pulled her jeans on. “What the fuck…?” She trailed off.
“They’re closed, I swear!” I said, shutting my eyes all the way.
“No, Dan, what the FUCK is this?”
I opened my eyes to see her holding Samson’s collar that I’d shoved under the mattress. My heart sped up. “It’s the dog’s collar,” I said, trying to sound calm.
“It’s Samson’s collar,” she said. Samson’s ears perked up at his name. I cursed internally.
“Is that Samson?” she asked, pointing at him, tears spilling down her cheeks. He galloped over to her and she put a hand over her mouth, tears flowing.
“Bec...” I said, ripping the covers off and hopping out of bed.
“Don’t come near me,” she said, fear in her eyes.
“Bec, let me explain,” I said, not taking any more steps toward her.
“Get the fuck away from me, you’re fucking insane. I’m taking my dog back.” She glanced at the nightstand where her phone was sitting. She looked back at me, watching my gaze as I looked over at it. She lunged for it and grabbed at Samson, trying to find something to hold onto him by.
“Bec, please,” I said, desperation seeping into my voice.
“Get the fuck away from us. Don’t ever call me again or I will call the cops on you so fast,” she said, looking right into my eyes. I watched her as she led Samson out of my apartment, leaving her bra on the floor. I picked it up and held it in my hands for a few moments before hurling it across the room.
“FUCK!” I screamed. I stood there in my boxers—chest heaving and face throbbing—for what felt like a very long time, trying to calm down, when there was a knock at the door. I didn’t bother putting clothes on or looking through the peephole before whipping the door open.
A woman with cropped black hair and tattoos all over her right arm stood there, holding onto a dog that looked a lot like Samson.
“Hi, is this your dog?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah, I think so,” I said.
“I found him roaming around the back lane last night, but you weren’t home, so I kept him in my place over night.”
“How did you know he was mine?”
“I’m your downstairs neighbour.”
“Do you want him back?” she asked, looking my nearly-naked body up and down.
“Oh, yeah, thanks,” I said, pulling my gaze away from her to look at the dog. “Come here, buddy!” The dog hesitated, but wagged his tail once, then a second time and then ran towards me. I pet him and scratched him behind the ears. “Good boy, good dog, I missed you,” I said. I glanced back up at the girl who was smiling, head tilted to one side.
“He’s a really sweet dog,” she said.
“Yeah, he is,” I lied.
“I’m glad you two could be reunited. You must have been worried sick.”
“Oh…yeah, I’ve hardly slept. I’ve been out all night looking for him, I haven’t been eating…” I trailed off.
“Poor thing,” she said, clucking her tongue in sympathy. “What’s his name? I was just calling him ‘Dog.’”
I laughed. “His name is Samson.”