I grope for my phone under the covers to see what time it is. 3:17 a.m. is illuminated before my face and inwardly I moan. I have to be up in three hours for work.
Man is awake. Must see why.
I hear our new dog, Patches, rushing down the hallway to hop on the bed. In an attempt to discourage this behavior I yell, “Go lie down. Now.”
Loud noises. Stop. Man made noises. Decide to go back to living room. Have to shit.
As the jingling of dog tags recede, I lay back down hoping to get some rest. The rest of the house is cold and the only chance I have to fall back asleep is to stay in bed and not fully gain consciousness. I’m sure Patches is fine. He’s probably just bored. Maybe he heard me wake up and wanted to check on me.
Eat more food. Really have to shit now. Going to tell Man.
Of course it’s too good to be true. “No. Go to bed,” I yell. Patches obeys for the moment and returns to the front of the house.
Must shit now. Sniff around kitchen. Find good smelling place. Shit. Piss next to it. Man made more noises. Must go see now.
I see Patches poke his multi-colored head around the door. His ears flop and his tongue lags as saliva drips onto our hardwood floors. His expression reminds me of those late night commercials for the starving third world kids, kind of sadly hopeful that maybe you’ll be the person that can help them. Knowing that I’m encouraging something my wife strictly forbade, I whisper his name and pat the bed next to me. He complies, overjoyed, and hops up to snuggle next to me. His splays his body across my chest and brushes his cold nose against my wife. She groans and rolls over, away from us. He looks at me like he’s done something magnificent. He’s a lot heavier than I expected so I scoot him over so that he’s lying by my side instead of on top of me. He harrumphs and sticks his nose in my armpit. I lean my head towards my wife and fall asleep.
Man summoned me so now I keep watch while he sleeps. I was protecting his chest. Then I sniffed the woman and she made noise and moved and now I protect man’s side. I sniff his smelly spot so I know what is not him.
I had the dream again. I hate reliving those moments. The fighting with you, Julio, over my self-medication so I can sleep at night, the offensive brightness of the hospital lights, being a prisoner to that godawful hospital table where they pulled my lifeless babe from my body, even the beautiful night where we danced on the sand when I told you I was pregnant. It all hurts. Even when I fall asleep, it’s there, every emotion as raw as the first time I experienced it.
There’s no escape, not even from myself.
I shudder and look over at you and at Patches who has snuck into bed against my wishes. Dogs were never allowed on the bed at my mother’s home. They would shed all over the blankets and Patches with his fur would show up no matter what color I changed the bed spread to.
You awaken at look over at me, concerned.
“Sandra, are you okay?” you ask, “Did you have the dream again?”
“It’s nothing, dear. I’m fine,” I lie.
We both roll in opposite directions and go back to sleep.
You cuddle the dog and I cradle my empty abdomen.
As I run through the hallway to get ready for work, the smell hits me. I slow to a walk and peer into the kitchen. Patches’ excrement greets me. Patches, who was following behind me, stops short and begins to whimper.
Man is stiff. I’m afraid of what’s in the kitchen.
“Why did you do this? Bad dog! Bad dog, Patches!” I yell as he cowers. In a moment of frustration I stomp my foot at him, which makes him yelp and run back to the bedroom. I run after him so I can drag him back to the kitchen and correct him. I find him hiding under the bed, tucked away so I cannot reach him. I can only stare into his fear filled eyes. He knows he’s done wrong. I retreat to the kitchen to clean his mess before Sandra wakes up.
I’ve been faking sleep through the whole ordeal. I pity Patches and am relieved you left him alone. I’m almost tempted to pull him out from under the bed and let him hide under the blankets with me. Almost.
I am a Bad Dog.
After you leave, I coax Patches out from under our bed. He crawls like a penitent on his belly and licks my hand with the doggy equivalent of remorse. He’ll never really know remorse though. He’s no human. He’s embarrassed probably, because he got yelled at.
Julio brought him home to cheer me up after I lost the baby. Through the fog of depression, even I could see the dog looked ridiculous. Wild, shaggy patches of brown, white, black, and a copper red decorated the dog’s fat body. His squat legs, bushy tail, and elongated nose only exaggerated the effect.
For the most part, he was Julio’s dog. I’d smiled when I’d first seen him, but that was the extent of our relationship. Thoughts of the child I no longer had kept me bedridden with misery and in no mood to take care of a dog.
Times like today though, when Julio lost his patience with the dog and seemed as frustrated with life as I was, I felt like I could finally relate to my husband and maybe find a spot in my sore heart for this goofy mongrel.
When I come home that evening, Sandra is watching some reality T.V. show in the den with Patches resting by her feet. This is the first time I’d seen her out of our bedroom since she lost the baby. A thermometer sits beside her on the couch.
“I’ve been checking it daily since the,” she can’t finish the sentence.
“How’s it been?” I ask, having no idea what to say.
“Pretty regular,” she says.
“Well that’s,” I try to say before she cuts me off.
“Look, I’m willing to try again if you are,” she says, “I’m scared but,”
“It’s okay,” I finish for her, “And yes, I do if you do. I’m,”
“Scared too, but we need this,” she finishes for me and adds, “We need to try.”
A brief moment of silence follows.
“What made you change your mind?” I ask.
She makes a noncommittal shrug towards Patches. He looks up at me, a little less sad than when I left him this morning. Then she pulls him up on our white microfiber couch and starts scratching the top of his head.