Skate Dogs

by

10/13/2002

300 East 10th Street ny ny

Neighborhood: Lower East Side

I heard that Jack died. I take that back. I heard he was killed. I take that back too. I heard he was put to sleep. It was one of those pieces of information that had a hell of a lot more resonance for me than it did for the person who told me. In fact, the person who told me didn’t even know Jack. I knew Jack. Not that well really, but I knew him well enough to care about the truth.

When you’ve saved someone’s life, even if that someone is a dog, and then you hear they’re dead, it’s kind of traumatic. Jack OD’d on Advil. Seriously. I guess if you’re a dog, that’s all it takes, a hundred or so Advil. But that’s not how he died, that’s how I saved him. I found him at Alison’s apartment. He had chewed right through the plastic Advil bottle and was foaming at the mouth. It was about two in the morning and Alison was asleep. We rushed him to the emergency pet clinic on East 10th. That’s one good thing about New York, places tend to stay open just about all the time. The vet had to give him an IV of water to dilute the Advil and I had to hold Jack in a bear hug for about an hour with a needle in his vein. Jack was probably up to about sixty or seventy pounds by then and was shaking and squirming like mad.

Alison had rescued Jack from the pound, trained him, and cured him of all his bad habits, except chewing through things I guess. Alison loved Jack more than anything. She was entirely devoted to that damn dog.

This is what I had heard: Alison didn’t have to put Jack to sleep. That’s the thing about rumors. They don’t have to have anything to do with the truth. Sometimes they’re true, but not this time. When they’re not true, when they can’t be true, people just don’t realize the implications. A guy tells me that Alison put her dog to sleep unnecessarily and he just doesn’t realize what that means.

I dated Alison. Well, that’s optimistically euphemistic. I was sleeping with her. I was walking Jack a lot, even taking care of him for a week here and there, and sleeping with Alison. I really don’t know what else to say about Alison or about our relationship. I really can’t remember what we ever talked about. In fact, I don’t think we talked about much, but thankfully, most of the time it didn’t seem to matter. Jack liked me from the start, which helped. He was wild with everyone else, except Alison and me.

It was an ephemeral relationship and Alison and I both knew it. She had a boyfriend that she would probably get married to (she did), he was away, and when he came back it would all be over. That’s not to say that fact didn’t depress the hell out of me. She was the kind of slinky blond they cast in movies as the hit man’s girl, the one that by the end you realize is actually the real assassin. I often did feel that some deep meaningful connection was about to happen between the two of us, but our best moments were always purely physical. Making out in the middle of Mulberry Street during the San Gennaro festival. Sex one afternoon in her apartment, with the voices of the neighborhood kids filling the room–screams, giggles, wild laughter. The night Jack OD’d, Alison holding onto my hand while I held Jack.

As the day that Alison’s boyfriend was returning came closer, she started to slide away from me. The end was unspoken, but it was pretty clear. Our denouement was the trip to Oneonta. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that before we left. I don’t even know why I went on that trip. My last moment in the sun, I guess that’s how I saw it. We were looking for a house to rent. She had a crazy idea about leaving everything and moving upstate with Jack. She wanted to find a house in the middle of nowhere and spend the winter writing.

A bit of advice: Never take a die-hard baseball fan to within ten miles of the Hall of Fame just to look for houses and go roller-skating. That’s what we did. We looked at three houses and went to the roller-skating rink in Oneonta. I wasn’t particularly good at skating, and whizzing around the rink in a tightly knit pack was the cream of the Oneonta crop. Fourteen and fifteen-year-old guys who could really skate, hot dogging it through the crowd. Alison thought they were great. She called them Skate Dogs. Every twenty minutes or so the DJ would play some special Skate Dog music and call out for some maneuver that, of course, only the Skate Dogs could do. I honestly thought to myself that if I could skate that well, if I could do those back cross-overs, everything would be right between the two of us. When we got back to the hotel room I still had slim hopes, but when Alison came out of the shower and climbed into the other bed, I knew that was that. It was official.

After we got back to New York, I didn’t see Alison again. I decided not to call, and I guess she decided the same thing. I missed her, and Jack, but a few weeks later I heard she had rented a place upstate in Margaretville and had left the city. I didn’t see Alison again for almost a year until I turned a corner near my house and almost ran right into her. She was with Jack, and when Jack saw me he went absolutely berserk. It was a good icebreaker because Jack was barking and jumping and licking me like crazy. It took about five minutes before we could get him to calm down. Alison seemed glad to see me, but I think that it freaked her out how much Jack seemed to miss me. We talked for just a couple of minutes. When we said good-bye she really had to drag Jack away. I think this time he knew he wouldn’t se me again.

So now Jack is dead and Alison killed him. At least that’s the version of the story that made its way out to me in Los Angeles. I don’t think it’s the truth. It can’t be. I can picture Jack perfectly, zipping around the little dog hill in Tompkin’s Square Park, stealing balls from slower dogs, showing off. Jack was a Skate Dog. Alison loved Skate Dogs and Alison loved Jack. That’s my truth. When the guy told me that Alison had put Jack to sleep, I didn’t tell him he was wrong, that it was impossible that she could do anything to harm him, that he must have been suffering terribly. But it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway. He didn’t know Jack at all, and to him, the rumor was just as good as the truth. In fact, it was probably better.

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