Matthew Di Paoli
I have the strong urge to flee.
I’m riding the L train to my girlfriend’s and I know that once we’re done having sex in one of three positions she allows, we’ll probably talk about what food we’re ordering and if there are any good movies out, which there aren’t because I looked before I left. I won’t tell her that though, because it will give me time to think of something else to discuss while she’s listing them.
When I get there, she immediately has to take the dog out. He’s a five-month-old black puppy, and his beard has peanut butter on it. He’s excited to see me and jumps on me and licks me and I try to get some of the white crust out of his eyes. I rub him behind his sticky ears after I give up on the crust.
When we’re outside, she’s looking down at the dog and I’m looking at her. She’s short and blonde and pretty just like the last one. It’s like trading your Camry for a younger Camry.
She’s from Texas but doesn’t have the accent. She talks like all twenty-one year olds talk—fast and disjointed.
“I had the worst day. So whatya wanna do tonight?” she asks.
I feel unprepared. My plans have been thrown off. It’s too soon. I’m glad she doesn’t ask me about work, though. The only good thing about working part time is the amount of time it leaves for pornography. I lower my head and the dog looks into my eyes as he’s shitting.
“Good boy,” she says.
“Why don’t we eat first?” I say.
“Sure, what do you wanna eat?” She picks up the shit in an ATM receipt, reigns in the dog, and we head back inside.
It’s a little inside we have. I know she hates Indian and so I always suggest it and we will continue this until we break up. The elevator is slow and the walls are covered with a padded tarp. Someone must be moving. I kiss her on the lips. “Hi.”
When we get upstairs, she puts the dog in the crate and I open a bottle of wine in the acid yellow kitchen that connects the bedroom and the living space. There are dog toys and clothes everywhere.
“Sorry it’s so messy,” she says.
“I don’t care,” I say. This is another ritual. I’ve never actually seen her place clean.
I pop open the Pinot Grigio and pour it into two girthy blue plastic cups. I take a sip before she comes over. It’s not good. She won’t notice though. I’m guessing six dollars.
When she comes over to take the wine, I grab her ass and kiss her neck. She likes that, I know. I move her into the bedroom. She’s light. She begins to undress and I undress. I like to undress her, but it’s not worth saying anything. When I pull back the sheets, there are bits of rawhide and dog treats all over. The sheets are stained brown.
“Oh yeah. He likes to eat in the bed,” she says, standing in her panties. They have a little bow on the front just under her belly.
I put my hand on her waist and lower her onto the tiny dog bones. I can smell saliva as we make love. I think it’s the dog’s, but I have no idea what else is in that bed. My hands stick to the sheets as I brace myself, hovering above her. She keeps her eyes closed, but mine are wide open, staring into her pale lips. She feels familiar now, and I like that. There’s something very revealing about watching someone in the moment before she comes, but I’m thinking about what we’re going to get for dinner. Thai maybe, although I had Chinese for lunch.
Afterwards, we lay in bed and I put my arm around her. I think about inviting her to a birthday party I know about, but she doesn’t really like my female friends. The dog is yelping in his cage.
“Shut the fuck up!” she yells, even though I know she loves that dog.
“I wish you could stay over at my place. Your place is so far,” I say.
“Well your place is far from me.”
I guess I never thought of it that way. “Anyway, we should at least alternate.”
“I have the dog,” she says and gets up to go to the bathroom.
She got that dog right when we started going out. As far as I was concerned, it was just one more thing getting in the way.
“You know, when we first started dating you told me you loved dogs,” she yells from the bathroom over the yelping.
“I do.” He’s reduced to whimpering in his crate now. I wonder if I should let him out, but I don’t.
I don’t want to tell her that it’s just her dog I don’t particularly like. It’s like saying I don’t like Kim Kardashian and then being accused of not liking people. She also loves Kim Kardashian.
“Yeah, dogs are my second favorite thing next to muffins.”
She emerges from the bathroom still naked and I admire how clean and young her body is even sleeping in those sheets every night. Sometimes I worry I don’t appreciate her thighs as much as I should while they’re around.
“I need to go tanning,” she says, taking a peek at herself in the mirror and then sliding back under the covers. She rests her head on my hairy chest.
“The only people who are always tan are douchebags and celebrities.”
“Well I guess I’m a douchebag.” She turns away.
“That’s not what I meant,” I say. I stare out the dirty window. There isn’t much to see but the tops of bare trees and a few windowpanes guarded by blue curtains. It’s cold. I imagine what it would be like to be someone else in a different city. Maybe a marine biologist in Rome or an asshole in Paris. I wonder if they feel as hollowed out as I do. I wonder if they drink whiskey by themselves and pour half of it in their potted plants. And I feel an incredible urge to flee.
She turns back over and presses her nose to my cheek. “So do you want to get Italian?”
“Yeah,” I say. “Perfect.”
Matthew Di Paoli received his BA at Boston College where he won the Dever Fellowship and the Cardinal Cushing Award for Creative Writing. He recently finished his MFA at Columbia University for Fiction. He has been published in the Nib Magazine, FictionWeek Literary Review, BlazeVox, Ascent Aspirations, Newport Review, and Post Road literary magazines among others. He also has an article series with Atticus Books called On Location NYC. Currently, he is writing a novel entitled Doc and teaches Writing and Literature at Monroe College.