Wednesday I went to Kelly’s house so she could show me how everything was situated in her place. I would be dog-sitting Eddie and Ernie till Sunday and there was a lot to know. We decided that rather than uproot their lives further by schlepping them to Bridgeport, I would just stay at her place in Humboldt Park. We watched many episodes of Baskets and ate much delivered Club Lucky grub while discussing all the particulars.
The next morning she asked me to take the fellas on a long walk so she could get ready for her trip in peace. Then, a half hour after our return she was gone. I’ve lived alone in the same place for over two years; now I was in a different place, in a different neighborhood, with two dogs keeping track of my every move. It was kind of a mindfuck.
Knowing that I had to go to a play that evening and leave them in the house alone filled me with anticipatory dread. I recalled the ritual of leaving the house when I lived with Porkchop. We always had to distract him with treats and then get out the door before he noticed. I knew Eddie and Ernie didn’t require the same level of subterfuge and yet it still gnawed at me. When I returned I could hear their whines from the outdoor gate. Then they jumped all over me as if I’d abandoned them for years.
When we were going to bed they suddenly sensed that Kelly wasn’t coming back, there was more moaning and howling, but they eventually found their spots on the bed and drifted off. Thankfully, there would be no waterworks on the nights that followed.
Each day involved a long walk around the neighborhood, a bunch of time on the couch, then my leaving alone at some point. Saturday I had gallery hours at Hume so we walked all the way over there only to realize at the door that I’d left my regular keychain back at Kelly’s. This is what happens when my regular routine is disrupted. Luckily, Fontaine lives just down the street and was able to let us in. My gallery assistants dutifully barked at every single passerby throughout the afternoon.
Walking through Humboldt Park—a neighborhood I’ve spent little time in over the last decade, and with two dogs in tow—made me feel as if I was in another city. The pace of my stride was largely beholden to the dogs’ gait, which involved endless stops and starts, as every fencepost, bush, and vacant lot warranted investigation. Living among someone else’s things had a similar effect. After a couple days I started to forget most of my everyday life. And yet that life would be waiting for me come Sunday night when I walked into the Skylark for my bartending shift. The idea of that now felt completely outlandish.
Washing dishes, stripping the bed, and packing up the dogs’ gear for the trip to Sheila’s, further on the North Side, it was hard to imagine that this new routine was about to end. I don’t know if I could handle the responsibility of caring for living beings on an everyday basis but it was good to find out that I was still capable of it given the chance.
In a few hours I’d be back to the solitude I’ve come to know all too well.