There were a few things I wanted to tell him but I didn’t have the chance. Sometimes that’s how endings work; the words you want just aren’t there.
Here’s the thing: Jake loved his dog. Now that’s not something that usually bothers me. In fact, most times I think, “Good, a man should love his dog.” Not to say a man couldn’t love a cat, you understand, but it’s just not the same. Dogs and men, they’re identical. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, either. I’m stating fact.
I’ll try to explain what links them. First things first: Both men and dogs love independence. Or, actually, they both love the delusion of independence. See, because both need masters. That’s not the best word. Let’s say both men and dogs need leashes. Yes, that’s it. They need tethers, boundaries, to make them happy. Open the door and let them patrol the yard.
Let’s be honest, more often than not they’ll be afraid to cross the threshold alone (and even more afraid to cross the street). Let them go.
This is not to say I let Jake date around. We were both faithful throughout the relationship, as far as I know …
No, the dog didn’t share the bed with us, so I can be thankful for that. But the dog always took the passenger seat when we would drive to the park, or a friend’s barbecue or something. Imagine, me, a grown woman, in the backseat of Jake’s car with Tulsa in Tulsa’s seat, driving around like nothing was out of the ordinary. I think about all the people who laughed at that.
Tulsa was nice enough. Friendly and obedient. Played with children gently and watched for danger. And she liked me, even though Jake said Tulsa usually hated women.
Once, that dog saved me from a strong-arm robbery.
It was a night Jake stayed late at work. I had just finished situating the bills and our account when I heard the handle on the front door move slightly.
I guess I thought it was Jake fumbling around for his keys or something. I thought maybe he dropped them on the way from the car. It was dark out and they’d be hard to find, and anyway, who else could it be? I unlocked the door for him.
A man came in — dressed in a gray sweatshirt and filthy denim. He held a knife, I think, it was something sharp and I remember how the kitchen lights flashed off it when he moved inside. I think I screamed. If not, I’m not sure how Tulsa knew I was afraid for my life. Maybe dogs actually can smell fear.
Anyway, Tulsa jumped up from the floor and bit the man’s forearm. Have you ever seen a dog bite? Most dogs just hold on after they’ve bitten something. Tulsa’s breed needs to scissor their teeth in over and over again. It’s instinct, at this point. Bred into them. I remember hearing the man’s blood pour hotly against the ground, and then he was gone, and Tulsa barked furiously after him.
I remember once, after Jake and I finished brushing our teeth and he got into bed, Jake turned the lights off before I made it into the bedroom. I remember being in the hallway when everything went dark, and suddenly this house, which used to be ours together was his alone. I remember the darkness changed where things were. My body wanted to disappear altogether, fold itself into the night. Tulsa’s collar rattled, I distinctly remember that. It was like she was telling me the way, calling for me: “I know you’re lost out there. We are here.” I want to hear that collar again, but when he left, he left her collar and her leash. They’re out there somewhere. Something tells me they’ll be back. I can hear bodies moving when I’m alone at night, right before I fall asleep. They’re on their way home, and I’ve left the door unlocked for them.
— Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.