i should be making a collage right now. or painting. or molding wet clay into a curvy, bulbous vase. or playing an instrument. or love-making. instead, i am drinking the last of my coffee, which went cold 30 minutes ago. i am hugging joker, who taps me on the shoulder with his right paw at least ten times a day, begging for the affection someone else never gave him. i lavish him with attention, every day, even at the expense of my other dogs. they don't seem to mind. though when his youthful exuberance infringes on the order of things, they are quick to put him in his place. order is restored quickly in the lives of dogs.
i have two male dogs, and both of them have it in the eyes. joker's are the eyes of a little boy. kaiser's are all soul; he is 11, but he's had those eyes from the very beginning. he has had a way about him from the very beginning...slightly forlorn, sweet, gentle. he wasn't supposed to be my dog; i had picked out the black puppy that was rolling around, jumping on the other pups, doing whatever he could to get the most attention. then i noticed the brown puppy by himself, lying near the imperfect circle outside the doghouse where too much paw traffic and pee had killed the grass. mamma dog was also brown but a lighter shade that would match my morning coffee. she was a pitbull, and so was the white male dog on the other side of the yard; but as kaiser grew, his longer fur and wide ears that did not hang in that telltale pitbull way made it clear that another suitor had been sweet on morning-coffee mamma dog. he was only 5 weeks old, but they let me take him home anyway.
i was 23 when kaiser came to be mine. i lived alone in a brick apartment complex on valley view road in morgantown, behind the football stadium. my apartment was a two-bedroom, but one of the bedrooms was locked so i could get the one-bedroom rate. i picked the lock very early on, and that bedroom is where kaiser would make huge messes for me to clean when i left him alone. the boy who lived upstairs from me also had a pitbull. sometimes she'd run into my apartment when i had the door open, and she and kaiser would play like little kids who'd had too much sugar. neighbor boy was very disappointed in his dog's small size, and i often resented the way he resented her. i forget neighbor boy's name but i remember his outline; he had a big head, which was always topped with a backwards ball cap, and from there down everything about his body got progressively more narrow. like an exclamation point. except there was nothing exclamatory about him. he was okay looking, but every time he walked up, all i could see was a wall of forehead coming at me. and in all that space he had up there, not an interesting thought resided.
it was fall, 1999. one night i had gone out by myself downtown, to bent willey's, which was populated mostly by drunk, horny, khaki-n-ballcap wearing frat boys, and girls who looked like they had been spit out by a conveyor belt. bent willey's had two floors; the bottom had two rooms, one with a bar and one with a pool table. the top floor had three rooms; one with a bar and tables, one with a pool table, and one with a dj. i ran into neighbor boy in the upstairs bar, next to the pool table. i can still picture his shit-eating grin and how i knew that he was about to worsen my already unpalatable opinion of him. i think we said hello and made two seconds of small talk before he grabbed my ass. i told him if he ever touched me again i'd break his fingers. that's exactly what i said. i remember bc afterward i thought it was funny that i'd said that.
although this was 11 years ago, i know for certain i had never given neighbor boy an invitation, direct or implied, to get friendly. i guess he was emboldened both by budweiser and the presence of his fellow frat buddies. not to say i was above frat boys; in fact, at that time i had one in particular i'd fool around with whenever we ran into each other. it would usually begin at the dance club across the street from bent willey's, where the line to get in would always wrap around the corner of the building. i'd go by myself, or occasionally with a group of classmates from high school. they knew the owner, and maybe he let us skip the line a few times, i can't remember exactly, but once we got inside i'd usually wander around on my own and leave my friends to their psychotropics. frat boy and i never slept together; we just made out a lot. i wasn't really attracted to him as much as the idea of stealing his attention from the sorority girl who was also always at the club. i think she was his ex and wanted to reconcile. he never said for sure, and i didn't ask. the dirtier looks she gave me, the more it fueled my fire. burn, baby, burn. one time he took me back to his frat house; a huge brick building whose insides were as cold and empty as the drunken sex happening in any given room on any given night of the week. it was the phi psi house, i think. at the top of a very steep hill called fraternity row. when we got to his room, there was a small bed with no headboard against the left wall, rows of protein powder on a shelf by the window, and a picture of him with a little boy in a frame. he told me it was his son and asked if that bothered me. i found it odd that he'd ask if anything bothered me...being considerate isn't high priority for 21-year-old men who live in a house that reeks of alcohol, sex, and vomit. i said no, the kid didn't bother me. in fact, i found him instantly sweeter. of course i did. because men with kids or puppies are more responsible...looking. in this case not even the cute kid was enough. the guy wore chains and tight tshirts. and he danced. no way would he ever end up in my picture frame.
joker is back at my side, pawing. and i've forgotten why i started writing today anyway...something along the lines of all the things i could be doing...but i'm always doing something else instead.