There Is No Dog
When I was nine, my mother and sister and I were at Disney World. My mother insisted we eat a seafood buffet for dinner on one of the first nights we were there. With my plate piled high with King Alaskan crab legs, I pointed one at my sister and waved its claw at her using the ligament I had found while digging out the meat. She still cites this instance as being a reason she is now a vegetarian. The next morning, her food poisoning surfaced. I woke up to the sounds of my sister puking in our hotel bathroom while mom was on the phone with Disney, the company entity, not the man, who sent a doctor. The next day, we got off of the shuttle at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, and my sister puked onto the cement all of the Sprite she drank for breakfast in front of Disney, the entity, not the man, and its constituents. The next day we went back to the Magic Kingdom when my sister was feeling better. We rode a ride called the Haunted Mansion and stopped at a cart parked outside of the exit where someone in a scary costume sold kitschy gifts to people who liked the ride and Disney, the entity, not the man.
My mother bought me a dog leash. At the end of the leash was a muzzle, and the whole thing had been sprayed with some kind of chemical so that it became stiff and didn’t hang limp when held. The idea was that when held, it looked like the holder was walking a ghost dog. I walked around the park with my ghost dog leash all afternoon. A stranger, a woman in a deliberate early 90’s neon green visor with teased bangs exploding out of the top, stopped me and asked if she could pet my dog. The woman knelt down beside me and my stiff, ghost-dog leash and mimed petting a dog, allowing her hand to cascade down the front of the ghost-dog’s face from the top of its forehead down the curve that led to the long snout. As she stroked the ghost-dog’s face, she asked, “What’s your dog’s name?”
I stared at her with the same inquisitiveness.
There was no dog.
I insisted on carrying the leash everywhere we went for the rest of the week and refused to pack it when we left to go home to Iowa where lots of real dogs lived. I carried it with me through the airport and onto the plane. No one else asked me what the dog’s name was because there was no dog.
Fifteen years later, there was a dog.
He never took me to Disney World. He never ate crab legs, or had food poisoning. He was never jealous or made judgments about neon-green visors. He never yelled. He was love in its purest, raw form.
The invention of love died while my hand cascaded down the front of his face from the top of his forehead down the curve that led to his snout, and I tell him he’s good.
When it’s over, I have to carry my boyfriend out of the backdoor of the vet’s office. He is twice as heavy as me in pounds, but weighs the same in despair and guilt.
There is no dog.
Bridget Gelms is featured in the inaugural issue of Embodied Effigies.
Bridget was born in Iowa and raised in a bed and breakfast similar to Forrest Gump’s. She hung out with Kevin Costner’s kids when he stayed at her house while filming Field of Dreams. Neat, huh? She moved to Muncie, Indiana in 2006 to attend Ball State but soon left to travel around Australia, surfing and eating avocado. She returned to Muncie and has since earned a degree in film studies, a degree in English studies, and is currently working on a Master’s degree in English studies. She hopes to enter into a Ph.D. program in 2013.