Friday, January 1, 2000
WELL I SEE THE COMPUTERS DIDN’T DESTROY the world last night so life must go on, I guess. In celebration of this second chance graciously allowed us by our binary overlords I’ve decided I’m going to keep a journal. It’s not a diary, and it’s not “gay” like my stepdad says. Ray thinks anything that isn’t over-the-top macho is gay. Mom sort of gets mad at him for that I think, but what could she do about it? My sister Amy tells him off though. She’s the only one in the family who isn’t mean to me. For a sister, Amy’s pretty fantastic.
So my English teacher Mr. Dinsmore says keeping a daily journal is an awesome thing to do. Says he’s kept one since he was a kid in the seventies or eighties and looking back on your thoughts when you’re old is really fun. And Mr. Dinsmore’s wife has the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen so he’s pretty cool and not gay at all. Whoever gets the hottest girl is obviously the coolest guy and if you want a good looking girl too then you damn well better pay attention to how the cool guys get them.
Anyway it’s the very first day of a new year and a new decade. People said it was a new century and millennium too but math says that’s not until next year and I trust math more than people. Still, I figured it was the perfect time to start my journal that I’ll be faithfully maintaining every single day until I grow up and get a sexy wife with big boobs like Mrs. Dinsmore.
Tuesday, September 6, 2000
I guess I’m a little behind on my entries.
I just started the eighth grade today and we all have to keep a journal for English class, even the boys, so I remembered I had this one that I had started before and figured I could use it. I don’t know what to write in the stupid thing. It’s hard to write stuff when you’re told you have to. My dog died so I guess I could write about that. She was thirteen, same as me, and I had her all my life. My sister Amy cried. So did I. Ray says we need a new dog right away but no dog could ever replace Daisy.
I have to write 150 words a day which sure seems like a lot when you have nothing to say but I guess I’m done for now. Wait, hang on... okay, now I am.
Wednesday, September 7, 2000
My mom and Ray were fighting last night about getting a new dog. My mom says no and Ray says yes, so we’re getting one. Mom’s mad and Ray’s all excited. I don’t know why. It’s not like he cared about Daisy and he won’t care about this one either.
What to write about? We’re going to be learning about Shakespeare in this class. I’m not looking forward to that. I hate the way they talk. It doesn’t even make sense. Why can’t we read books by people who didn’t die a million years ago? People who speak English properly. Like, it is English class! The book is a play and it’s called “As You Like It”. So far, guess what? I don’t like it! I like math way better. Everything has an answer there. None of this “interpreting” stuff. Who knows who’s right? English teachers just make shit up.
Monday, September 12, 2000
Well damn, I missed a few days. Mr. Jordan says as long as I have the right word count by the end of the week he won’t deduct marks, which is cool but I really don’t feel like writing that much.
Anyway, surprise surprise, we got a new dog on the weekend! She’s pretty awesome actually. She crapped on the dining room floor as soon as we brought her home but she hasn’t done it since. She learns really fast. I wanted to call her Scamper because she looks like a scamp and my mom liked that but Ray wanted to call her Blaze because he says “Blaze is a bad-ass name,” so it’s Blaze.
Mr. Jordan was going on about that Shakespeare book today and part of it sounded pretty neat. At least it got me thinking about math. He (Shakespeare) says in the book that Man has seven stages in life and he goes on to list them. I wrote them down, kind of, and it almost works that you can divide each stage into thirteen years: seven thirteen-year stages.
So I realized that since dogs live for about thirteen years (Daisy did anyway), a guy can have seven dogs in his life – one for each of the seven stages. Cool, huh? I had Daisy for my first thirteen years, when I was mewling and puking and all that and now I’ve got Blaze for the second thirteen. Unless she gets hits by a bus or something but we can’t consider all the variables like that. When Blaze dies of old age it’ll be 2013 and I’ll turn twenty-six that year. I’ll be finished my whining schoolboy phase and be checking out my mistress’s eyebrow, whatever the hell that’s all about.
Whoa, that was like two full journal entries! I’ll be caught up in no time.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
And that was the final entry.
I couldn’t remember anything I’d said when I was a kid and started writing this journal except that you get a dog for each phase of your life. For some reason, that always stuck in the back of my mind and when a few weeks ago Blaze died, right on schedule at age thirteen, it brought it all back and compelled me to search for this old book, which I finally found in a musty suitcase in my mother’s attic.
I was hoping I’d written something more profound -- some prescient gems about what awaited me down the road during “the second thirteen”, but whatever. At least good ol’ Blaze featured prominently as she was there with me throughout the second phase. Well, the bulk of it anyway. The “ignorance is bliss” years I guess.
I’m sure the remaining stages, however many I’m fortunate enough to enjoy or unfortunate enough to endure, will each have their own summits and valleys, bright avenues and dark alleys but this second stage is unique in that it’s the only one in which your age doubles from the start to the end: I’m now thirteen plus thirteen. I am two dogs old.
If it wasn’t apparent by the sudden mysterious demise of the journal entries, I didn’t really excel in school. I didn’t have the discipline and anyone who attempted to supply me with some was met with furious resistance. Guys in my family had never gone to school much and I wasn’t about to be the first and get razzed about it by my stepdad and his asshole brothers and all them. Beer and weed and girls, in any order, were far more alluring, easier to obtain, and a much less conspicuous path for me to take.
Despite having turned my back on most conventions by the age of sixteen, Blaze, who was an energetic and playful three year old by then, had really become my buddy. She always wanted to go everywhere with me but back then I rarely let her. That is, until I learned her value as a “chick magnet”. That’s the term Brian used. He was Amy’s boyfriend and considered a real catch by all her girlfriends, but they also said he should have been unhooked and thrown back after he stopped struggling.
Amy was twenty-one then and didn’t appreciate anyone’s advice about what she should do or who she should do it with. She got stuck on Brian, which was awesome for me since his network of cool now encompassed me, however peripherally at first.
Brian told me a lot about dogs and I listened eagerly. I was finally getting an education worth receiving. He explained how it was all in the tone of voice and in the eyes. He showed me how to get Blaze to do all sorts of wicked tricks, to do whatever I said without ever having to raise my voice. Without ever making verbal threats. With just the tone of voice, and with the eyes, total control could be obtained. He told me how even though they appear to want independence, to run free, unencumbered by rules or restraints of any kind, they really yearn to be controlled. Deep down, they beg to be told where their boundaries are and there’s nothing that makes them happier than when they find them and when they’ve managed to please their master. That’s when you throw them a bone, Brian explained, but not every time or they’ll come to expect it. It’s important they never know if their good behaviour will result in a treat or not. You got to keep them in suspense. They just need to know one will be coming eventually as long as they remain obedient and never stray.
Confidence leads to better technique, Brian assured me, and better technique leads to greater confidence. There were definitely many false starts but I gradually began to see results with Blaze. Brian seemed to have been right about so many things. I urged him to become a professional dog trainer but he scoffed at the idea. He said it really had nothing to do with dogs. I puzzled over that for a short while but let it go as Blaze returned with a Frisbee and set it at my feet. I praised her for it, but not overly.
It might’ve been a year later when I was considered a bit of a miracle worker with dogs myself. I’d been careful to follow Brian’s advice every step of the way and the effort paid off. Brian had told me that once I became that good and I could take Blaze everywhere with me, the chicks would start crawling all over me, as he put it. He said girls just love guys with dogs because it says that they’re nurturing, responsible, and family-oriented. Even if the chicks don’t know they want those things, their hormones know it. I told him I’m not any of those things but he assured me it didn’t matter. The appearance was all that counted. Image is everything, he said.
He seemed right, of course, as he usually did. With Blaze along, I had no problem attracting the girls. Girls I’d never met and would’ve considered out of my league would come up to me smiling, pet Blaze, and start asking me questions about her, and then about me. The problem was I had no idea how to respond. I’d stutter and say something stupid then ramble on trying to explain myself until I’d finally manage to chase them away.
I figured since Brian was so great at teaching me how to train Blaze then maybe he could start giving me some lessons on how to not scare girls away. He laughed and told me I didn’t need any lessons -- that I already knew everything I needed to know. I told him I definitely did not know because I was terrible at talking to girls.
Don’t you get it, man? Brian smiled. Bitches are all the same.
Listen, I readily admit I’m not proud of how I acted for the next few years, but I did get laid a lot. It was in the confidence and the technique. It was in the tone of voice and the eyes. It was making them eager to please. It was throwing them the odd bone.
It was control.
I was twenty when I met Sheila at a party. Wasted as we both were, we managed the mating dance admirably. Smoothly swaying to the music we were producing on the fly, we allowed our melody to write itself. And when it came to the chorus neither of us missed a beat despite the hidden skips of our own hearts. Sue me for being sappy but that’s how it was.
But it wasn’t the usual. I suspected immediately there was something I wanted from Sheila, more than the typical conquest and abrupt parting. My suspicions played out and I soon found myself recklessly in love with her. She admitted feeling the same for me but that wasn’t strange at all. There was nothing odd about her behaviour toward me, as girls often adorned me with their undying love; only my own behaviour was out of character. And despite my feelings, or perhaps because of them, I sought mental superiority hard and fast. It was all I knew and the girl never had a chance.
I would like to throw a curve in here – to relate how Sheila was immune to my well-practiced techniques, impervious to my gaze and voice, but if anything she was easier to ensnare than many of them had been. She was very eager to be mastered. The only difference between her and the rest, besides the fact she was the first girl I ever truly loved, was that Blaze, curiously, had no time for her. Only after I would command her to allow Sheila to pet her, would she oblige, and only then, grudgingly. I knew this hurt Sheila’s feelings and I worked with Blaze to help her overcome whatever her problem might be. I suspect the major bone of contention was Sheila taking a permanent place in my bed when she moved in with me – the spot that had always belonged to Blaze.
Sometimes I would’ve actually enjoyed having Sheila come out and party with me on weekends, especially after she moved in with me. But if Brian and my family had taught me anything it was that a woman needs to stay at home and avoid risking any unrespectable behaviour, and to be there waiting to get me safely to bed when I eventually wander in drunk. And she was. Always. I loved her deeply for that and she loved to be loved for it.
Brian married Amy in ’08 and Sheila and I took the leap the following year when I just turned twenty-two. She’d hinted that she always wanted a fairy tale wedding but that would’ve meant having to put up with her family and all that shit. I could see no reason to let my wedding be ruined by that bunch of weirdo feminists and pussies. I was so grateful Sheila had rebelled against her upbringing. We ended up going to a Justice of the Peace at City Hall and just getting it over with. No hassle, no family, no charade. True love isn’t proved by pomp and ceremony; the proof is in actions.
We moved a few towns away in order to dissuade her parents from visiting so often and that worked pretty well. Once or twice a month we’d go to Brian and Amy’s for drinks and a barbecue or they’d come to our place, but the visits became more infrequent over time and the bonds began to fade. Christmas visits remained a must though, and a blast was usually had but I’d started feeling a little uneasy about some things. I wasn’t really sure what at the time.
It bothered me, for one thing, when Amy and Sheila would joke about how they knew Brian and I loved them by how strict we were - how they’d know we didn’t care about them any longer if we stopped keeping them on a short leash. The three of them would laugh about that and I guess I would too but it didn’t feel quite right, not after a while.
I started to feel like the whole short leash scenario... I don’t know, maybe it’s cute imagery for some couples but it felt wrong somehow – although not wrong enough to make me change my ways. How would I, even if I wanted to? These were the only ways I knew. I loved Sheila to death. Surely that commitment made up for any old fashioned tendencies – especially if she liked me being that way.
On the bright side, Blaze was finally starting to warm up to Sheila. The first time Blaze had lain at her feet Sheila was nearly in tears. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I was happy for her too.
Sheila asked me one time why I was opting to visit Amy and Brian less frequently. She wondered if I was becoming disillusioned with my favourite big sister, but that wasn’t it. I realized then that I was becoming disillusioned with Brian. He was no longer the cool older guy that I’d once idolized. He was still the same as always but it seemed like I eased past him at some indiscernible point in some intangible way and now he was trying too hard to impress me, to regain what I think he too felt was slipping, and he mostly just came across as lame.
Amy had invited us over for a barbecue two summers ago and, since we hadn’t been there since the winter, I decided what the hell. I called to confirm and Amy answered the phone. Her voice was a little muffled and she sounded shaky. I told her we’d be there for the afternoon and started into the obligatory small talk when I thought I heard her starting to sob a little. I asked what was wrong. She was reluctant at first but with a little pressing she was soon gushing out the whole incident from the night before.
Brian had come home drunk after last call expecting his dinner. When there was none to be found he woke Amy up and asked her why she hadn’t made any. She was groggy and told him she thought he’d be too tired to eat so she didn’t want to waste food. He called her a few derogatory names and ordered her to get up and cook some supper.
She thinks she may have expressed annoyance, possibly rolled her eyes or something, and Brian had become infuriated beyond all reason. Amy said you could tell his pride had been hurt at the bar because he always picked a fight with her when he got home after being outwitted or outboxed by a drunken acquaintance. She knew that was the worst time to give him a reason to get upset but she’d been too tired to be cautious. He’d grabbed her by the hair and yanked her out of the bed and onto the floor.
Amy surprised herself then, she said, in that the worse he got -- the more he abused her, verbally and physically -- the more angry and stubborn she herself became and steadfastly refused to comply with his orders. Brian had been incredulous at the lack of respect and got on top of her and started choking her. She’d tried to fight him off but his rage was far greater than her ability to defend herself. His grip had tightened as his eyes bulged and his face turned purple and contorted. She had been sure she was going to die, she said.
As I pictured him with his hands around my sister’s throat I clenched the phone so hard it left deep impressions in my skin. As calmly as I could manage, I asked Amy how she’d gotten out of it. She didn’t know but she suspected the moment she felt she was dying he felt it too and that scared him and sobered him a little. Just enough. He released her, called her a lazy cunt and went to make himself something to eat. She’d lain there trembling for a good while, she said, before quietly getting herself back in to bed, feigning sleep when he crawled in beside her some time later.
Sheila knew something was very wrong by the way I was speaking with Amy. She began to massage my tightening shoulders. Blaze manoeuvred her muzzle into my free hand, for my benefit, not her own, until I relented and began stroking her.
At first all I could think of doing was rushing down to Brian’s work and smashing his face in, in front of his co-workers and continuing to do so until he was nothing but an unrecognizable mess. I soon realized that wouldn’t be the wisest course of action, even if I could be sure I wouldn’t come out of the tussle second best.
I told Amy she needed to leave him. She said she couldn’t. I was expecting that response but it still hit me hard to hear the words. I told her it would happen again - that she knew it would - and the next time she might not live through it. She said she understood but she couldn’t leave him. She didn’t know how.
I’d pleaded with her that day, to no avail. I became distraught and didn’t know what to do. I felt completely helpless to save my sister’s life. I called an abused women’s hotline and I was crying when I tried to explain the situation to the lady who answered. I don’t know how often men call those lines but she didn’t seem too surprised so I took that as a good sign.
It didn’t take long before I was disappointed though. There was nothing she could do for me. I don’t even know what I had been hoping for when I called. It was just desperation, grasping at straws. The lady told me as sympathetically as she could that unless my sister decided to leave on her own, then there was nothing they could do to help her.
Exasperated, I asked how could someone ever leave their controlling abuser without the abuser’s permission?
Yeah, that’s the thing, she said.
That’s the thing.
I was still shaking when I hung up the phone, so enraged, feeling so god damned useless. It then struck me that there was something I could do, if not for Amy, at least in honour of her, and for Sheila. I resolved at that moment that I would never again lord over the woman I loved. It would be a whole new game; I would do everything in my power to make sure my wife had the strength of mind to leave me if she ever felt she wanted to. If you love something set it free and all that, right? An entire dismantling of the relationship’s structure would have to be undertaken and rebuilt on equal footing from the ground up. It was daunting but I was determined, and I never wavered.
I wasn’t great at keeping up with half the housework but I tried. I was better at sharing decisions than I realized I could be though. I began including her, asking her opinion on all matters that concerned us both rather than just taking charge and doing what I thought was best. I started complimenting her on her choices, her views, her taste, and her accomplishments - everything from which mutual funds to invest in, to which television show to watch.
I realized her lack of confidence was something I had preyed on -- a weakness I had exploited and used for my own selfish purposes – to feel superior. To be superior. In control. Brian, the ultimate cool guy who I modeled myself after, now appeared for what he really was: a tiny little insecure man who needed to manipulate women to feel better about himself. And me: I had been his pathetic little mirror image.
My plan worked. Sheila’s confidence grew by the week it seemed. Her voice became stronger, she held her head higher, she advanced at work by leaps and bounds, going from a part-time cashier to a manager in under a year. It was a remarkable transformation to behold and she made me so proud to be her husband. And somehow Blaze became her best friend during that metamorphosis; I was becoming second choice for Blaze’s affections. I can’t say I wasn’t a little jealous but more than anything I found it a fascinating development.
In retrospect, I find ironic folly in my plan, in that I failed to inform Sheila of its implementation and objective. I don’t know, I guess I thought telling her would somehow undermine the effort. So as always, I had decided on my own what would be best for both of us. That oversight was possibly my biggest mistake.
She left me in the fall.
It was obvious that I didn’t love her any more, she said. Since I wouldn’t refuse to let her go out drinking with friends from work, that made it clear to her that I no longer cared about her. When I didn’t ask where she was, what she was doing until four in the morning, that was because I must have wanted her to find a boyfriend. So she found one. She found one who was jealous of me, her husband, and who wanted to know if and when she was intimate with me and ordered her to leave me. He treated her like a dog and she obeyed. She felt secure with him. He controlled her completely and she felt loved again.
I had come home from work to find her closet cleaned out of her essentials and favourites. Our dual bank account was cleaned out too. After all, her boyfriend was between positions at the moment and they were going to need any advantage they could get.
She took Blaze too and that was the final straw. I drove around to the shabby house where Sheila was holed up with her new master and demanded she give me back my dog. Through a ripped screen door she insisted she hadn’t taken Blaze; the dog had jumped in the car and wouldn’t get out. I called bullshit on that and she opened the door wide.
Call her, Sheila said. I did and Blaze came to stand by her side, just inside the threshold. Sheila held her hands in the air to prove she wasn’t holding the dog back. I whistled. Blaze cocked her head in that cute way she had but didn’t move. I called her, I patted my leg, I whistled again. I raised my shaky voice and she stood firm.
A voice from inside the house – a man’s voice, calm, confident, and in control, called her name and Blaze wagged her tail, turned, and disappeared down the hall and out of sight.
Sheila closed the door and followed.
She called me last Thursday to tell me Blaze had died. The vet had wanted to know her age and Sheila couldn’t remember. Thirteen, I told her, and that’s when that Shakespeare stuff came back to me and sent me searching for this old journal.
The Daisy stage had seemed so carefree in comparison. But as tumultuous as the Blaze years turned out to be, I wouldn’t give up the lessons learned for anything. I didn’t get a dog to replace Blaze when she and Sheila left me; it didn’t seem right then. But I’m twenty-six now and ready for phase three. At least I think I might be, but who knows what hurdles will spring up between now and when I’m thirty-nine?
I don’t know if I’ll find that bubble reputation that Shakespeare mentioned, but the dog pound is my first stop tomorrow and, together, me and my new pup will go looking for it.