Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pet Sounds

Years ago in the city-- before the animal-litter laws and formal leashing enforcements--I took in a feral dog.  No one called it that, but it was definitely not domesticated.  It couldn't bear to be touched or even approached... but was so beaten up by the elements and other wild animals, it accepted the can of meat I offered it on the sidewalk of upper Madison Avenue one afternoon.  A week later, like some spirit-animal, it found its way from the Broome Street bar where it was tied up to the townhouse gallery on 92nd Street where I worked.  It waited for me for days until I came in. 

He got used to humans, and despite the fact I lived in this cool loft with a brick wall and a balcony where the dog could pace and watch the world, he'd give me this look every once in a while, like 'is this IT?" He'd take every opportunity to escape and run wild in the park or down to the East River, just to remind me of his roots-- his canine soul.  

The dog-to-human ratio in the city has increased since the pandemic.  Everyone has a dog now and many have new dogs or newly-acquired dogs.  Shelters have never been so empty.  In my building maybe the majority have dogs.  Not a single cat that I know of, across 48 or so apartments, but barking dogs-- large dogs, small dogs, neurotic dogs, sweet grateful rescue dogs.  It's nice.  After the death of my feral pet who lived an uncannily long life, I never replaced him.  Apologies to my son who wanted a dog so badly-- and I regret this, but I was so stressed with single-parenthood and working nights, living often from a bag of yesterday's stale bagels or leftovers... I just couldn't manage having to disappoint an extra pair of begging sad eyes.

Every day it seems one friend or other calls me to check in-- or really to check themselves in, because every single one has some complaint or symptom they had never noticed.  They are bored, they hate their spouse; they hate sex; they hate food or they eat compulsively.  They drink too much or not enough.  Their back hurts...  their leg hurts; their feet hurt.  They have carpal tunnel and hand tendinitis.  They are claustrophobic and nonproductive-- addicted to exercise or slobbed out watching hours of reality TV repeats with bags of Nachos and imaginary guacamole they don't even bother to whip up.  They hate themselves and do not shower or shave.  They order clothing that doesn't fit.  They lie to their family and themselves.  The cheaters can't meet their secret lovers and the users have trouble getting their dealers to meet them.  

Personally I feel dull.  I miss the conversational/musical stimulation of a good underrehearsed gig and the edge I take on at the end of a night, criticizing my own work to my peers, assessing the audience... sharing anecdotes from the ride home where at 3 AM there's always some psycho or self-appointed orator or performance-vomiter on the subway.  I remarked tonight that I used to be a C# minor chord and now I'm more a D-flat minor diminished.  Thats it-- I'm diminished.

But it occurred to me today-- we have become our own pets.  Our little claustrophobic daily routines, our limited circumferential routes-- even our eating-- we are leashed and restrained... dual-domesticated.  Even the bi-polar among us-- our extremes are room to room, not block to block.  We are stifled and tamed. We talk the talk, but we no longer walk the walk.  We can't... we're masked and quarantined.  We're leveled.  Sit.  Lie down.  Sleep.  We pick up after ourselves-- well, some of us do.  The other day my neighbors were in the elevator and I wanted to ask 'which one of you does the barking?  But I simply smiled with my eyes.  I've learned to do that-- straight-faced underneath.  It's a new kind of disguise.

When my son was little we inherited a pet snail from his science classroom.  It lived in a plastic salad container  and required very little maintenance.  Once a week I'd put it on the kitchen counter and clean the little house out.   Instead of pulling inside its shell like a frightened turtle, it let its antennae all the way out like it was stretching.  Extending.  I sang to it... figured it can't see, but maybe it could hear.  It seemed to tilt in my direction.  It was brave-- it was exploring the world outside its container.  Back inside, it would circle several times--laps-- like a swimmer without water, spreading its slime around the way they do.  His name, bestowed with the innocent irony kids exude, was Speeder.  He, too, lived way beyond the normal expectancy of his breed, but there you go.  He had his little routine, his little life-- his outings and his feedings.  

My personal production this week oozes rather than runs.  I'm beginning to feel like that snail in my container-- all of us-- corralled and boxed and restrained-- slowed down... becoming in a way complacent and compliant with what we have, with the future sequentially postponed in blocks of time that melt and freeze like those soft Dali clock faces hanging on lines.  Even the dark of days' end is greedy and quick; we are deprived of long sunsets and poetic evenings. Trapped like leashed dogs, like fish in a bowl, like amphibians under rocks-- alone in our doll houses and little plastic cages which social media has rendered transparent, we are our own voyeurs-- performers and audience simultaneously.  Sometimes I feel as though I could be eating that plastic sushi you see in restaurant windows.  With our diminished smell and taste, we Covid survivors-- what difference would it make? We are no longer feral; we talk about our masks and wash our hands and don't touch one another.  

Last night as I ran around the reservoir in the wind, a duck was squawking.  What was it saying... maybe 'is this IT?' I envied it the freedom to change ponds, to get up and fly away.  I wondered if it could see the cartoon-colored lights of the southern skyline from the park-- the way it's changed, as though it's another city altogether-- another backdrop, another 'set' which emerges with more and more clarity as the leaves disappear.  I remember the ducks in Iceland-- how they didn't seem to mind the cold... and the night I buried Speeder by the Meer-- sadly, in the moist black dirt, noticing as I held him one last time how he smelled of the sea.

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Blogger Bromark said...

The mostly silent connection we share with other creatures is mysterious, but can be so refreshing and satisfying. A welcome break from The barrage of words usually required for us humans to connect & relate to one another.
As a writer, you are able to creatively break out of your quarantine headquarters,,,,, then allowing your words to be released to the world, is a mostly selfless gift that is appreciated by friends, family, fans.....those who can then partake in getting lost for some moments in your poetry, your stories. Thank you for sharing tfat gift with us.

November 16, 2020 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Touching and poignant as always Amy

November 16, 2020 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

From Leo:...more riveting writing Amy. ...snails n' puppy dog tails. just love it. somehow this line: "But I simply smiled with my eyes. I've learned to do that-- straight-faced underneath. It's a new kind of disguise." brought to mind these, as we're still lost in disbelief...

If I listened long enough to you
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

November 29, 2020 at 3:58 PM  

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