You are alone in an apartment that isn’t yours.
You are taking care of a dog. The dog is active, and follows you around the apartment robotically, like a sentry, like it’s making sure you don’t mess anything up. It nudges your leg with its nose while you drink water from a glass, then wash the glass, dry it, and put it back in the cupboard, exactly where it was before.
Two days ago, you moved everything you owned into a storage container. All of what makes you a physical person that lives in the world – your things – are in a box that is now, for all intents and purposes, owned by the company. For three days, until it drops the box on the lawn of the new apartment, your new home, which is not empty right now. Someone else is there, moving all of their things into a box, presumably. Also, presumably, not one box. Many boxes.
You lost your cell phone. Well, not lost, just misplaced – it will be in the office tomorrow, because that is where you left it, but there was a terrible, fleeting moment where your cell phone was maybe packed into the storage container. Or maybe it was on the street, and someone else picked it up and put it into their pocket, to sell online. But no. It’s in the office, on the desk. Not your desk. A shared desk.
Every now and then you pat your empty pocket, something you do to check for your cell phone. Once in a while, you feel a phantom of the vibration mode. You could swear it was your phone, telling you that you received a text message, but there is no phone in your pocket. You think to yourself, again, for the umpteenth, uncountable time; you think to yourself that your cell phone is in your office and will be there for you in the morning.
It will not have any battery left, so you will have to wake up early to grab your cell phone charger from your overnight bag and go to the office and charge your phone. You need your phone.
The dog licks your knuckles. It feels reassuring. Your knuckles are not something that tastes good. Maybe they’re salty. Dogs seem to be on a constant quest for salt, which is why all dogs try to lick your lips if you put your face close enough. Lips are salty.
This isn’t fact, this is scientific conjecture. You think to yourself, I will look this up on the internet, when I have my computer and an internet connection. You do not have either of those things.
There are magazines in the apartment, but your eyes are drawn away from the text and onto advertisements for cologne and cigarettes and clothes and cars. You can not afford to buy anything advertised, but your mind can’t seem to afford the concentration a 300 word article on “What’s New” demands.
You turn on the television, and turn it back off. You mentally log the channel the television was on, in case you do decide to change the channel to something else. For some reason, you are worried the owner of the dog and the apartment will mind his channels changed. He is away on business and probably does not mentally log the channel he left his television on, but you are worried about it anyway. “Leave everything as you found it,” is the motto.
You wonder what it would be like, if you had a dog, and someone that you were paying to take care of that dog. If aÂ vase was broken when you got back, would you mind? Would you believe the caretaker that the dog broke the vase? Would you try to have that dog caretaker pay for the broken vase?
Would you report him to his supervisor if he messed with the order of your DVDs?
You decide to go to bed, because everything else is too difficult to concentrate on, or think about. You worry about the storage container, and the company who is in charge of it. You worry they will deliver the wrong storage container with the wrong physical life inside. How will you react? In your head, you resort to violence. You would go to the office and break some heads, is your thought.
But you wouldn’t.
You go into your overnight bag and find your toiletries and go to the bathroom. There is a towel hung on the towel rack and you wonder if it is a clean towel or not. Probably not. You open a cupboard that miraculously is the towel cupboard, and you take one out. You wash your face, dry it on the clean towel. You take out your toothbrush.
You forgot toothpaste.
There is a tube of toothpaste, the apartment owner’s toothpaste. It’s out on the counter. You try not think of repercussions and you steal a dab of toothpaste. You brush your teeth, you try to smooth any new indentation marks on the tube that you made, and then-you realize.
You are trying, very hard, not to exist. The dog is watching you in the doorway. You do not, as far as the world is concerned, exist. No one can call you because your phone is lost. Your things are in a void very disconnected to your current reality. The dog is your only reminder of your existence. He needs you. For water, for food, for walks.
You exist because the dog exists and vice versa.
It does not take long for you to resolve to keep the dog awake all night, until you can leave in the morning to charge your phone. You get a ball, and throw it, very softly, across the floor. The dog goes to fetch the ball, and brings it back to you, eyes bright and tail wagging.
Good dog, you say, to remind yourself you have a voice. You throw the ball again.