The Dog Sitter
Young Rader

Mostly, I am the only one in my apartment. It is very quiet and there is no one to watch
me cross the threshold of a room. I don’t own a TV because to watch TV alone is to live without
passion. Furthermore, lives begin and end on TV like it is simple to begin and end. I take
advantage of this technological deficit and look out the windows and see everything
extraordinarily well. This could mean I live a peaceful life.

I do, I do.

On occasion, I watch Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog. Mrs. Chattopadhay is a woman with powerful black eyes and smooth skin. She is my upstairs neighbor. Her mouth looks sensitive. Inside it are gathered precise dictions and curious inflections. When we meet, Mrs. Chattopadhay and I, her dog sniffs my doormat. In a moment, Mrs. Chattopadhay turns around delicately with her suitcase and leaves behind her little dog, which is white and has a stubbed tail that reminds me of a lamb.

Now Mrs. Chattopadhay’s little white dog watches me move into clothes with its redrimmed eyes after I shower. It really is like a lamb! I don’t feel ashamed. Instead I move as if I usually dress without peace and am very sad.

Later, Mrs. Chattopadhay calls from someplace I’ve never known. She asks me to put the phone up to her dog’s ear. But I don’t. I listen instead to the space between us and wonder what exists within this distance; its emptiness is exceptional. Then Mrs. Chattopadhay tries to speak to her pet: Yes, I’m fine. It’s not obvious and it’s difficult to understand. I leave in order to see, she says. I imagine Mrs. Chattopadhay on a bed. No, nevermind. In a chair next to a window with a glorious view. She says: I miss you. Do you miss me as much as I miss you?

I breathe into the phone so as not to sound human.

Mrs. Chattopadhay says: You do.

She is silent. Everything between us expires and meanwhile, her dog licks my hand.

Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog pulls hard on its leash. It is foggy outside and everything cannot be seen. Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog, despite its small size, pulls me across the streets I don’t want to cross. I wonder how Mrs. Chattopadhay walks with her dog, how her steps might look, transmuted. I observe her dog nip at overgrown grass. There is gray in its gums. For some reason, this devastates me. Then Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog lifts its head and pulls hard. The leash escapes my hand. Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog darts across the street and disappears.

I move as if to avoid my next step and the steps afterward, which is to say I do not move at all. The ground goes on and on. Come back? I call out. Once or twice, I have come across posters of lost dogs, loved. The words used to describe them were desperate because of love. I have never experienced this kind of love.

Why not? Why not!

In imitation of Mrs. Chattopadhay, I say: Do you miss me as much as I miss you? But I cannot imitate the intricacies of Mrs. Chattopadhay’s voice. There is nothing in my words that is
precise or curious. It’s the longest I’ve been outside since I can remember. It’s easy to forget
what I’ve missed. I am about to give up when Mrs. Chattopadhay’s dog reappears and runs toward me. I kneel down. I reach out my hands and click my tongue three times. I say: I’m fine, yes, yes. Triumphantly, the dog’s collar chimes with its gait and its leash curves along the ground like a reckless snake trying to gorge on the words at the edge of myself.

Young Rader lives and writes in St. Louis. His work can be found in Hayden’s Ferry Review and SmokeLong Quarterly.