We lost the dog. Well, you lost her. Janet, the Machiavellian collie next door whose bum hip made her strut with the obscene sway of a seasoned prostitute. From the moment she walked into our house, a constant sardonic gleam sprang from her eyes, as if she was fixing to wrap her jaws around the world’s jugular.
It was the beginning of August. I had just moved back in after we both tried to love other people. I promised to stop leaving, to curb my restlessness. At first, my words were a meaningless Bible you held to your chest. Our home looked unfamiliar to me, how our combined possessions sat there with the sexless functionality of hotel furniture. We danced around evidence left behind by departed lovers—a clandestine stash of Sweet’N Low in the cupboard, a radio dial in my car tuned to death metal. The messy process of forgiveness rendered our habits uninhabitable, the way we moved about like guests, wiping coffee rings from the counter, performing our daily routines from the polite periphery.
Janet belonged to the neighbors—married couple, recent Midwestern transplants. You felt sorry for them, their sweaty, new-to-town desperation, how they overly praised our vegetable garden. They flew to Kalamazoo for a funeral. Her dad’s, maybe his—I can’t remember. They dropped off Janet on the way to the airport, muzzle on. She sized me up immediately, her bound lip drawn tight above her front teeth, and peed all over my squash.
You had offered to watch Janet because your Jesus complex had a soft spot for psychopaths. You were determined to win her over, and after a couple of days, she’d gone from blind hatred to barely tolerating us. We decided to celebrate this victory with a picnic—because summer demands witnesses. We tried to rise to the occasion, adding our checkered blanket to a sea of others. Postage stamps on a giant grass envelope. Janet seemed to mellow in the presence of so many kinds of salad—macaroni, egg, fruit. She sidled up to you, transfixed by the spread, and gently lifted a wedge of pineapple from your wary palm. A triumphant smile slid across your face at her humility. You softened and surrendered the leash.
She bolted, one good hip more than picking up the slack. I shot up after her, no shoes—JANET! My oily heart was pounding slick, darting past an overflowing trashcan, into the woods. Debris chewed apart my bare feet. Janet was a distant rustle of bramble, then nothing. As I chased after her sound shadow, a dark part of me swelled in admiration of her escape.
Somewhere through the trees I heard you breathing, shouting for me to stop. My lungs tried not to remember how we fell in love, yelling dirty words into the velvet void of Arches National Park at dawn. Hands cupped around my mouth, I stood before the Cove of Caves and called out all the things I wanted you to do to my body. You sank to your knees in red dust to hear the echo.
She was gone. Not knowing how to come back to you, I still ran. Fight beating thick in my junkyard bones. Each nerve in my feet a tiny fugitive bleeding into the ground.