It’s a funny thing,developing a habit-you do something once,twice,three times and then it’s a habit, part of the landscape of your day or if I’m being accurate and hey,lets be accurate, my night.
The dog got left behind,along with the sofa no-one sat on and the ugly crockery and two pairs of F*** me shoes and a mountain of unpaid bills, stuffed into a cupboard drawer.
I’m not sure which was supposed to upset me most, the dog, small, snappy,leaving a trail of fine white hair all over the house. The shoes, I’d never seen them before, was I supposed to torture myself, wonder who exactly she had worn them for?.
On balance and yes,the pun is intentional, it’s the bills, all those unpaid balances, just laziness,muddled thinking. She knew, god knows I’d told her often enough, pay off the balance, don’t give the banks a penny.
So, a month down the line, its me, the sofa and now I know why no-one ever sat on it, the ugly crockery and the dog and let’s face it, lumpy sofas, overly patterned plates – ironic, she called them, well you can live with them, but the dog is a problem.
It wanders around the house, always just under my feet, i remember to feed it, change its water bowl, walk it round the block twice a day, but clearly, it wants, needs something else and one night, I just snap, grab its lead and start walking.
The first night, we manage half an hour, but I stick at it and within a couple of weeks, we’re striding out, an hour, 90 minutes, even longer sometimes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not some sort of bonding thing, but, the animal is tired now, less bothersome and when I finally manage to persuade the dry cleaners to give up my summer weight suit without the ticket, i discover that I have lost some weight.
I also re-instate the designated space on the kitchen cork board for shoe repair, dry cleaning and other important stubs of paper. The system worked before she came and there is a tangible relief in returning the notice board to function rather than as a space for random postcards, take away menus, bits of paper, even odd earrings stuck into the tiles.
I take a step back and admire my handiwork and then I rattle the lead and we leave the house and maybe because tonight is the first time that I’ve tried to re-introduce order, form, put her ” artistic” clutter behind me, but I find myself still walking 3 hours later and then the dog stops, sits down and refuses to move any further.
It’s late, gone midnight and although I could carry the dog easily enough, I’m wearing my favorite Sweater Shop jumper, the one she said was beyond irony, the one with the little jaunty golfer on the front and I don’t fancy getting it covered in dog hair.
For a second or two, I consider getting a cab, but that would involve an entry under the special expenses heading on the spreadsheet and that causes havoc with the spacing and I’m not even sure if cabs take dogs, even small ones.
And then, in the distance, I see a bus, all light up, packed and as it gets closer, I put my hand out and it stops and we get on.
I’m half expecting some sort of kerfuffle about the dog, but the driver doesn’t even seem to notice and when I look around I can see why.
The bus is full of young people, all looking the way she would have liked to look, if she hadn’t been 37 and worked in Information Technology and had a weakness for cheese and onion crisps and fun sized mars bars.
I sit up straight and don’t make eye contact, but these children are loud and suddenly the dog barks and the girls two seats down notice him and before I can say anything, they have scooped him up, wrapped a pink feather boa around him and taken his photo.
It’s a great relief, I cam tell you, when the bus gets near enough to home to justify a quick exit. As I leave, the girls call out
“Bye Bye doggie, Bye Bye dog man”.
I don’t look back and when I get home I choose my tie and shirt for the morning and hang then up in the bathroom all ready for the day ahead.
It’s the kitchen cupboards that do it next time, tins and packets by size and type and all the labels facing outwards. She used to say that there was no point
“who would ever look in our cupboards ?”
But when I pass the pastas, sauces and casserole materials area later, I pat the cupboard door with a sense of a job well done and then I shake the lead and we head of into the night.
I can’t say I’m looking for the night-bus, it’s not a plan or anything, but, but, when 2 hours later, the dog does the sit down thing again and I check my watch.
Another bone of contention
“Why do you wear a watch ?” she would ask, a pseudo-question, asked seconds before she would deliver her answer, the answer,
“No-body wears a watch anymore, what don’t you just check the time on your phone, like everybody else”
I wanted to point out that the time she wasted, rooting in her large variety of possession eating bags to find said phone was actually far more time consuming and onerous that simply tilting my wrist, but at that point, when perhaps we both believed that the relationship was worth saving, I was keeping my mouth firmly zipped a lot of the time, so I said nothing.
i tilt the watch face towards me again, just for the pleasure of this simple task, gone midnight and in my head I justify something, the dog is tired, i am tired, it will be good to sit down, get home safely.
The bus comes, we get on and immediately there’s a shout
“its the little doggie and the dog man”
– the same girls, four, five seats down the bus and they’re waving and maybe because it’s late or because I’m remembering another of her pseudo questions
“why do you never take any risks, do anything you haven’t planned for weeks and weeks?”
but, i walk down the bus and slide into the seat in front of them and they’re leaning forward, hands outstretched to grab the dog and they’re smiling and the blond is doing that women rooting in bag thing and pulling out a phone and then she’s leaning towards me and showing me a photo of the dog, my dog, wearing a ridiculous pink feather thing and she’s smiling, grinning really and the dog looks like it’s smiling and I can’t help myself, I’m smiling too and I realize that the movement feels strange across my face and just for a second I wonder when I last smiled.
And then we’re all staring at each-other and I don’t really know what to say, but the dog fills the gap and then I notice where we are and I can’t help myself
“well, this is me then”
and even as I say it, I think – you’re 39 years old and you talk like your dad, but the words get me and the dog out of the seat and towards the doors and as we go the girls shout out
“see you again dog man” and I can’t help it, I smile again.
I decide to re-order the books and CDs, not just alphabetically, but into sub divisions of genre, it’s a big job, takes several evenings, but eventually, it’s finished and I sit on the sofa that no-one ever sat on and survey the ordered shelves and feel a deep sense of calm. I’m even considering really pushing the boat out, a small whiskey on a work night, even get as far as the kitchen, when the dogs lead catches my eye and without too much analysis, we’re out the door and up the road into the night.
So, three times, consider it a habit now, part of the weeks routines, patterns.
Thursday, Friday nights, long walk, 12.08 night bus. They’re always there, the blond and the other one, her hair has been pink, purple, blue over the last 9 weeks. Students, just starting their night when all sensible people, people like me, are tucked up in bed.
We’ve got a thing going, they pet the dog, take pictures, they say he’s got a Facebook page.
They’ve started petting me too, patting my arm, draping mad bit of clothes over me.
They say they want to take me clubbing.
They say I should wear me Sweater Shop jumper.
They say it’s retro – cool.
They say it would be a laugh.
And we smile, a lot.
I’m not mad, I’m not loosing my mind.
I know I’m a nearly 40 year old data analysis clerk who likes order, neatness, structure.
But one night, I’m going to get on that night-bus without the dog and I’m going to do something without planning, without preparation.
That’ll show her.