• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 08

tether & tender

In the summer of 2012 and the florid heat of peach-drenched Georgia, my best friend was my neighbor. She was a blonde that liked to be called a 'dirty blonde' and her house number was 212, the same number I use for all my usernames and passwords now.

"Cooper, no!"

A large retriever bounded around her carpet-lined house (hardwood cost more and hurt more). I pet him and discovered that he was soft in some places, mostly just the top of his head, but otherwise he was too rough, and I was convinced my friend had a severe impairment in her sense of touch because she couldn't keep her hands off of him.

I stand with my head above the bathroom sink and faucet in my mouth. Water bubbles into my mouth and gushes out and I try not to swallow it because it tastes like iron. Blood rinses into her sink, and I feel bad for making her mother hold my head as my teeth fall out and her white sink stains crimson. I wave awkwardly at her older sister, kinda emo, kinda nice, as she comes down the stairs, confused. I am too, but mostly scared.

That night I wonder what I did so wrong to Cooper. I figure it must be that I pet the only soft spot of his entire body, his entire soul, probably. Or maybe he hates girls who have the same color skin/fur as him. I touch the scar under my chin that I have to this day and wonder why Americans love dogs.

"This is Gizmo and Mittens!"


tether & tender

One is black and grey striped with a white underbelly. The other is orange striped with the same underbelly. Gizmo is, obviously, the black and grey one. I first see him pooping in his own private litter box and I'll never forget the smell. Of the litter, that is.

He is quieter than Mittens, and I see him more, so he has become my favorite. He is undoubtedly softer than Cooper. I don't understand why my best friend, even though we like and hate the same things, loves her dog more than Gizmo. But I don't ask her because I know she'll stare at me indignantly and maybe tell her white mother about her weird Chinese friend who hates dogs.

I am a teenager, melancholy and Gizmo, and I wish for my (now Texan) best friend, born bright, and Cooper. The 212 on the mailbox she left behind glints at me and reminds me that her ghost has been rented out to Indian newlyweds with a baby.

On Facebook, I see my friend's profile and see the heartbroken "RIP Cooper I love you".

Right away, I wonder if she cried when he died and if Gizmo is still alive. I touch the white scar on the tip of my chin as if it calls Spirit Cooper to me and I tell him,

"I'm sorry."