The blue Christmas lights are still up in the foyer and I plan on leaving them there. I use them as a night light for when I shuffle to bed heady drunk with wine. I have to slip through the squeaky door of the bedroom and shed my clothes like a cicada birthing wings. I love the drunk before sleep, when I let my dreams soak like a cookie in milk. I shimmy under the covers between dog and woman. I shove the dog and gently kiss the woman as she pulls away from my cold hands. I warm them between my legs and tuck my feet and when I warm all up, I replace her surrogate pillow and spoon her until morning.
She wakes me after she has showered and taken the dog for his relief. She pokes me and kisses me. She tells me the time. If I am not too hung over, I grumble and sigh my clothes back on and the dog hangs low. I cook oatmeal and put cinnamon in and split a browning banana between the bowls. I start the coffee.
The dog is always at my feet, looking cow faced through the wisps of hair that spider over his eyes. He is a friendly dog, an affectionate goof of fine temperament with a nose for squirrels. He licks the floor and his empty bowl sleepily. I fill the bowl with puppy kibble. He eats as I crack eggs into the blue ceramic dish we bought at our thrift store. I take out the fry pan and hear the click click click of the burner before the gas catches. I add my special olive oil to the hot pan and quickly dice some shallots.
Time wades in a swirled wake.
Something has happened.
I whip the eggs methodically with a fork, spinning a kite in. I dump the eggs into the pan and hear the oil burst. I grind pepper and dump the shallots with the back of my knife off the cutting board into the pan. I tear some basil from the pint glass next to the stove and roll the leaves together before slicing and dumping. I grate some Parmesan over the egg and wait. I light a smoke and sip my coffee. The woman is in a furious query for her belongings. Her lips are thick with rust lipstick.
She is in our small kitchen, disturbed.
”Did you drink this all?” She asks, holding up the empty bottle in front of her like a testament.
”Yup.” I reply, flipping one half of the egg over.
She is clearly upset. The edges of her mouth are turned and she is wound tight. Tired and stressed. I can taste old booze on my breath.
I swore before I moved in that if my drinking became topical, I’d tell her that she knew I was a rummy before we shacked up. I’d dump her for the wine, just like I dumped myself.
She is already on the phone and typing on her computer in the office. I gingerly place the bowl of oatmeal and the half omelet on the corner of her desk. She nods toward me, acknowledging her breakfast. She is chain-smoking and talking loud to a bad employee on her static cellular phone while her food gets cold. The dog is at my feet and I resent him for a moment. I could still be sleeping. He pushes the ball he has in his mouth into my shin. He pushes again, dropping the ball, snorting like a horse, picking up the ball.
I take him for a walk to look for squirrels.
”Be right back.” I yell into the railroad apartment.
The day is bright and cold. The translucent moon is still hanging on the horizon with a few stars in a powder blue sky. I breathe deep and my nostrils freeze. The puppy is already favoring feet and licking their snow packed salt embedded pads. He remains with me in the cold as I watch the morning give.
The woman is out on the corner as we return and she kisses me goodbye. I can taste her waxy lipstick. I hug her, pulling the leash. It is an awkward hug between our thick jackets and the cold morning. Our small dog jumps against us, not knowing. He waits and watches her with me as she pulls away, he pees a yellow tunnel through the snow.
A curtain of relief opens. The dog puts his ears back and we prance for blocks until I realize his feet are too cold and I pick him up and carry him home, massaging the pads of his feet.
He licks my gloved hands.