TWICE AS LONG
They performed sex acts on each other, but were abstaining from actual sex, and it occurred to her that, as a result, each time they interacted sexually, it took twice as long.
Sometimes he would tell her things she didn't care about. My roommate, he would say. The stars, he would say. And she would withdraw into herself, occasionally mumbling, until she felt very far away—staring at his face from a face "behind" her face—and his voice would become a sort of white noise, until all she could hear was her small "second face" telling herself that when it was over—when their relationship, which was, for the most part, still blossoming, inevitably ended—she would focus solely on finishing her novel, which she had been telling people she'd been working on for years, but which she'd started only recently.
He opens the front door. Get down, he says. Sit. The dog sits.
Good boy, he says. Good sit. He kicks off his boots into a pile of shoes.
Get away from me. He pushes the dog, who's begun jumping up against him.
Hi, a voice sings from the shower.
Hi, he sings back.
Hi, the voice sings again, quieter.
The dog jumps up on the couch and wiggles his bottom half violently. He stares at his leash, hanging from a hook in the wall.
Unable to focus, Calvin got up off the bed. He walked into the living room, picked up and set down an empty cup he'd thought contained water, and returned to the bedroom. "Doo," he said, petting the dog. "Dooooooooo." He massaged the dog's neck rolls, pulled up a thick handful. The dog groaned. Calvin pet its rear end with strong, thudding pats. He lifted one of its legs and held it, extended there, while he rubbed its belly. He looked into its eyes, comfortably, in some respects, loved. "Doo," he said. "Bunty chingrata," he said. "Bunty chingrata."
When my younger brother Brett and I were children, we played a game, regularly and with much enthusiasm, called "Dog." Brett pretended to be a dog, and I pretended to be his owner.
WITH SUSTAINED VIBRATO ON THE LAST "O!"
When he was happy, he sang to the dog—"Good dog / Who's a dog? / Who's my best friend? / My best friend!" or, his favorite lately, "Miso buntissimo / Miso buntissimo! / Miso, miso / Buntissimo!"—but when he was not happy, he sang nothing. He ignored the dog.