On my day off

Got into an argument with my dog today.

Normally our discussions are complex and combative– more than anything, Mary Jane (unfortunate thing, my brother named her when he was 18) likes the rhetorical process and never resists the opportunity to dispute me on things. She’s a great debater, though. We’ve had discussions about time as a dimension and the White Stripes’ later work and Great Expectations (in my opinion, the worst book ever written. Mary Jane, by the end, agreed with me). She sits with me on the porch while I roll cigarettes and refill our cups with bourbon, and regards me with those great big sad dog eyes of hers, ears a-perk and tail a-wag and those adorable brown dog brows flexing and softening in thought.

“You’d never understand,” I told her today. “You’re just a dog.”

She yawned.

“You’re right, that was cruel of me.” I said. “It’s just that I get so bored in the city these days. I don’t really want to drop out of school. I like the work and stuff, and it’s a nice, loving environment most of the time. But I get the itch, you know? It isn’t like there’s nothing else I’d rather do and I’m starting to get all nervous that I’m going to spend the best years of my life in school when I could be falling in love and meeting everyone in the world and chasing the sun into the west, you know?”

Mary blinks.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to be so pedantic.” I said. “I’d even be willing to transfer to another school, but there isn’t any better place than Columbia for what I want to do with my life. Granted, I don’t know what the fuck that is, but whatever I want is there. They’ve done so much for my writing and my confidence already, not even just as a writer but as a person.”

Mary says something beautiful, something you’ll never understand, something that you only tell your children on their wedding days. I tap my class against her bowl of bourbon and take a long sip.

“You’re right… You’re right. When you’re right, you’re right, and you, Mary Jane, are right.” I said. “But it’s normal, isn’t it? At my age, to be this restless? To want everything? I mean we sit around this town all day and we go and we see my friends and everyone just looks so bored, you know? Bored with themselves, bored with eachother. It’s like, for fuck’s sakes, you’re too young to be this miserable, spending all of your time bitching and moaning about dishes and air conditioners. You shouldn’t be a fishwife at 20, there’s just something awful about it. And I’m so scared of turning into them that when I start to see it happening to me, I freak out completely. It’s like, I never want to forget that I can die at any time, like death sort of hangs around the neck of youth like a gold-plated albatross and everyone tells me I can’t live my life that way, but I can’t do it their way either. I’ve tried and I feel miserable inside. I want responsibility in one sense and I want to be an adult but I want to have fun the way that I have fun. A little wild, maybe, but I mean, god damn, I have a time of it. And I kind of want that forever, but I don’t. I don’t know where to draw the line, where and when it starts getting pathetic, and where and when I’m just making excuses for things.”

Mary bites at a moth.

“Well that seems a bit harsh.”

Mary paws at the moth.

“Fear is good sometimes. Fear keeps you on point. Fear keeps you moving. You have to stay moving.”

Mary stares at me.

“It does for me. I mean, I do stupid things, sure, but not all of them are stupid. I have moments of brilliance. And just because things seem like a bad idea now doesn’t mean they won’t pan out. Who says easy is better, anyway? I mean, this is easy now and I’ve gotta sweat and curse and swear for every dollar I earn, but it sure as hell ain’t worth it. It all feels transitory. I’m only getting through it because it’s a road through the middle on the way to somewhere great and I’m aware of that constantly, but that’s the kind of thing people say and never end up getting there. Bill once said that there are two kinds of men in the world, manipulators and men of action, and manipulators are the ones who are all talk and then a man of action comes around and they’re shown to be total cowards. Action, Mary, action. That’s what keeps the fires burning. I feel like a Bruce Springsteen song, you know?”

Mary looks at me.

“Well it’s something to consider,” I said. “Agree to disagree, for now?”

We shake paws.

“Come on. Dinner’s almost ready.” I tell her.

I flick my cigarette into the coffee can I keep for that purpose. The sun is getting low and the air is getting cold and I have a long night of work and thought ahead of me.

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