Cornered

I don’t know him. I didn’t know his dog. All I know is that earlier tonight, the incessant screams of “No! No! No! No!” that I’d heard coming from the street, which I’d attributed to some inconsiderate kid out to disturb an otherwise quiet Saturday night in my neighborhood, were really the screams of a man whose dog had just been struck and killed by an SUV on the corner, across the street from my apartment building.
“Whatever you do, don’t look outside,” the DOG called from the TV room. I knew this tone. It was the same tone he’d used whenever we were in the car and he’d see a dead animal on the side of the road. “Don’t look,” he’d say, and I would close my eyes and lower my head and whisper an apology for the loss of the animal’s life. “What was it?” I would ask. But he wouldn’t even tell me what kind of animal it was. The less I knew, the better off I was.
For the splittest of split seconds tonight, I thought, “It’s an eclipse!” He didn’t want me to damage my eyes by staring at the eclipse! But of course I knew it wasn’t.
“It’s a dog, isn’t it,” I said. “It’s a dog.” And instantly the tears came. “I have to look,” I said. “I have to see.” But he insisted I stay away. “Please. Please don’t look,” he said, and continued to repeat it every time I approached and said I had to see. I stood in the middle of the room, crying. I wrung my hands. Sat down. Stood up. Whirled around the room. Felt like I was about to implode. “They’ve covered him with a sheet,” he said. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I went to the window and looked down.
And there I saw the white sheet covering the dog. I would not have been able to handle seeing it any other way. But for some reason I had to see it this way. Several police cars, a fire truck, and other emergency vehicles were on the scene. And the shrouded dog just laid there. I just stood by the window and apologized to him and cried. Then dashed to the DOG’s bedroom, where Taxi was hanging out, sat down on the floor next to him, threw my arms around his neck, and hung on to him.
I know that tomorrow morning, curiosity will get the best of me, and I will have to cross the street and stand on the spot where the dog took his last breath. I will fill my lungs with the air that dog will never breathe again. I will cry for every walk that dog will never take and for the man who took him for his last one. I will stand there and hear, coming up from the pavement, every “No!” the man screamed.
A dog is barking outside right now, in that same spot. In my imagination, the dead dog has come back to life and is announcing his revival to me, telling me that yes, I will be able to go to bed tonight. I won’t have nightmares. But I know it’s not so.
Rest in peace, sweet puppy. I didn’t know you, but I love you anyway.