“I’m not a pet you can stroke”
When Alex said that she cracked my heart. It made me think that I was going to be waiting around until she finished the fucking job, or somehow putting up one hell of a fight. It had seemed tender to me, but I really was just rubbing her bare legs like a giddy kid with a boner and a new toy. It also made me think of my dad and the dogs he killed.
The first one deserved it because he bit me in the face the day Dad brought him home. We forgave him for being a feisty puppy, and a German Shepard. Days later, he grabbed my brother by the shirt and swung him around in a circle. I was up in my room looking down to the backyard as a cloud of dust rose up. The next dog was a Chihuahua that Dad got at the animal shelter. He was all white and half-Jack Russell, but nothing about him was feisty. He had a hole in his heart and loved laying in a ball under the sun. I was racist and thought it was because he was Mexican. I called him Sandy and loved him. Only I fed him, walked him, or played with him.
“He’s a lovely little dog, but he’s not a lucky fella. Optimistically, his heart will last another two weeks or so. I’m sorry.”
I said my goodbyes and shot five rolls of film with the first dog that belonged only to me. Then nothing happened. He was alive a year later. Sometimes he’d yelp if you picked him up suddenly or gruffly, but who doesn’t? We took him to a different vet for a basic check-up for fleas and worms. The vet was old; he stroked his flabby chin and pinched his lips looking at my father. I stared at the vet’s eyes, not into them, but at the way the skin around them was like wet tissue paper – the veins popped up like ripples, ready to break apart the skin. He said Sandy was riddled with cancer. He said that Sandy had a slow and painful death ahead of him. I’d be lying if I said I was smart enough then to know we all do regardless, and that to look into Sandy’s shimmering black eyes or his round, pink belly bobbing up and down, was all you needed to see that he didn’t like this, but knew it was the truth. He was scared of death. He knew it was coming. Dad put him down there and then. I cried.
Four years later I was twelve and we’d had three more dogs die with a needle in the scruff of their necks. They all had something wrong with them, said my Dad. One mangy bastard was a sympathy pet for my brother after the spin in the dust and after I’d been given Sandy. His dog was healthy as anything until he jumped off our balcony chasing a butterfly and broke both of his front legs in five places. Dad said he was a stupid, filthy mutt, and a waste of space. Another dog was hit by a car and crippled. Dad finally paid real money for a dog from the pet store, but he didn’t realise he was buying a Rottweiler. A year later when we moved houses, there was no fence and too many toddlers living nearby. He gave it the needle to be safe and I stopped crying after that.
“You looked cold.”
“Your hands are cold.”
“I love your legs is all”
I’d organised a sunset picnic to have a reason to see her. I called everyone I knew so she’d feel like it was relaxed and casual. Only 3 showed up. She was wearing a light pink skirt with frills which I hate, but her legs were amazing. I couldn’t stop staring at the evening light shining on her legs. She was short and they were compact. I guess she was compact. Her shoes were always heels and on that night they were black wedges with a brown bamboo finish. He top was a simple black thing all matching long curly black hair and strong red lipstick. She was five years younger than me and called me on all of my bullshit. I hadn’t had a book published yet, nor done a damn thing to impress her. She spoke three languages and knew grammar better than I did. She hated all of the films I loved because they were Hollywood crap. What really stays with me above all else, is how good she smelled. Beneath her cheap perfume, her sweat, her saliva, her pussy – her whole smell-cocktail – gave me butterflies.
It was our third date. We argued more, but I did manage to get her into my bed again that night, but had me turn out the lights.
“Why do I have to do that?!”
“I want to see your tits. I want to see your amazing pussy and everything else. You’re beautiful!”
“In time, okay? You have to build to it”
Her last relationship had been intense and she still felt the burn when I first met her at that bar. She just wanted a fuck and I gave it to her, but it was too much fun to not try again. The next time we fucked we’d had dinner and looked into each other’s eyes for too long. We both had the day after free, so I took her for breakfast because I like good coffee. I started smiling when I looked at her in between bites of bacon and she was tense. I thought being sincere and interested in her would make her feel good. The hug goodbye felt warm in spite of the cold wind.
The picnic changed things. After that date she left early in the morning – for work – and I didn’t get a reply from her for almost two weeks. Then she was drunk and bothered me with texts for hours while I was drinking alone to work on my first book which was stalled in the second act. I eventually shat out something to be proud of, or just finished the bottle of wine. I jumped in a cab and met her at a disgusting Sydney bar near where she lived with her parents. It was a beautiful part of town that was also a sonuvabitch to get to. I had money then, but we took the bus back to my share-house because we were drunk and forgot how long it would take. She fell asleep in my arms while I held us both up. She was too tired or drunk-sick to fuck so we just lay half-naked on the bed for a while and then she took a cab home at 4am.
A couple of weeks later we had a bar date and tried to fuck but she was finishing up her period, so it hurt. I think that was a lie. I shouldn’t have looked at her that way. I shouldn’t have bit my lips that way when I slid into her.
“Make love to me like it’s the movies again; soft and slow.”
“I thought you wanted ‘Bedroom Charlie’” She’d said that I was two different people, a sweet & poetic Charlie, and a ferocious bedroom Charlie.
“It was nice last time.”
When she said that, it was the end of things. We should have stuck with rough sex – if you’re choking each other it’s too hard to choke on love, or something that smells like it.
After the Rottweiler Dad became set on only having smaller dogs. When I was fourteen he brought home a Maltese terrier who was full of energy, but shy as hell. I fell in love with him but couldn’t get him to warm to me. I lay down with him on the cold, dusty hardwood. He sat like the Sphynx and I was on my back, coyly looking over at him. I pouted at him then broke into laughter. He stared at me with bored black eyes. I rolled over and wagged my tongue, made raspberry sounds and called his name in a baby-voice. His white eyebrows lowered, his snout spasmed, and he darted under the dining room table. That scene repeated itself for a good week or two. One day I took him for his first walk. Every minute or so he’d stop to piss on a post, but never piss. He wouldn’t shit either. He’d sniff it and look back at me, then sniff it, then try to hide behind it. I forced him along the footpath for fifteen minutes and he glared at me more and more. Every time I squatted down to pet him he’d run off and get snapped back by the leash. I yelled at him,
“What’s wrong with you? Goddamn it, just come here and follow me!”
Five more minutes and I was white hot with frustration. I reached the playing grounds near our house and let him off the leash. He dodged and ran for another dog, pissed himself and fell into a ball. When I ran up to pick him up he sprang back to life and ran away from me into the bushes. I swatted thorns and sticky leaves away, crawled in slimy soil to find him and he darted underneath me. When I finally caught him by the side of the road I picked him up, held him in the air face to face and shook him,
“Bad! I just want to love you, ok? Come with me!”
I didn’t fall asleep after I came with Alex. I played with her hair and let her fall asleep on my arm. I told her horrible secrets and showed my fears but I told her that whatever happened to her, she’d be okay. I sent her filthy texts and lit incense while we listened to old Blues songs from the 30s. She wanted to strip slowly for me. Whenever she drunkenly texted me, I showed up smiling. I went to art exhibitions I didn’t understand and took her to vintage shops while I looked for jackets and jeans.
“What do you think this is Charlie?”
“I don’t know”
“You know I don’t want a boyfriend right? Is that what you want?”
“It’s too early for any of that. I can’t put it in a box.”
“I’m not asking you to.”
“I want to keep sleeping with you, that’s all.”
“Why do you keep… y’know?”
“What the fuck is this? Stop being such a girl. Are you trying to use reverse psychology on me? I… Fuck, I like you Alex, a lot, and probably more than you like me so I don’t care. The future isn’t real and doesn’t matter!”
“What? I don’t even know how to respond to that. I asked you a simple question and you are being rude.”
“Okay, sorry. I want you to know that I’m not just a sleaze bag. If you want just the sex then fine, I’ll stop doing whatever it is I do that you don’t like, but I’m not averse to the prospect of a relationship.”
“What do you want?”
“I could go either way.”
I didn’t hear from her for a long time but things were going well for me, then they went very bad. I got involved with a girl with bipolar disorder whose medication dried out her pussy so we had to use a lot of lube and she found it nearly impossible to come. I didn’t like her enough to help. One day I stole her meds and I couldn’t come either. We bumped pelvic bones for two hours, lathering the red, pink, hairy mess every ten minutes or so trying a few dull positions in rotation and mercilessly munching each other’s genitals until we got tired, switched to hands, then back to bumping bones. We smoked a lot of pot to fight the numbing of her medication, but it only my mouth and her cunt even drier.
I kept going back to the bar where I met Alex but I never saw her. After a month with no contact, I saw Alex’s friend at the bar and she told me she’d gone to Japan for the rest of the summer. She wanted to be alone and focus on school. I stole more bipolar medication but I still didn’t feel any better; I didn’t even feel numb like they say you do. I drank and I drank, then the novel started taking shape and I met another girl who looked exactly like Alex, but even prettier. She wasn’t as dark or withdrawn and cynical. She acted like the world was ridiculous but still beautiful and no one could see it like she did. I wrote her poems and resisted fucking her. She was a pure angel and I felt like we had something unspoken. I overheard her at a party talking about how much she’d missed some guy’s cock, and when I turned around to look at her, she was playing with the bottom of his T-Shirt and biting the tip of her tongue while smiling dumbly.
Alex came back finally and met me at a bar. I had not been that happy in longer than I could rationalise, but I was already drunk when she arrived. I was raving on about the new girl with an idiot friend. He was another writer and with an enviable amount of tragedy in his past, but a terrible pot habit. I tried lazily to fuck Alex and she gave me a hug then got into a cab. It was the last time I ever saw her, and I can’t make out her face in my memory. When I feel hopeful, she was crying. When I feel anything else, she was disgusted.