as my parents pulled away from the curb, my dog stood in the passenger’s seat, paws propped on the door, looking for me. i like to think he saw me through the window, through the glass, because his ears perked up with recognition, but the car was pulling away into traffic, and he was disappearing from my line of sight as i was disappearing from his.
i cried on my way up the escalator, through the security checkpoint, to my gate. i cried off and on during the five-hour flight. i pulled up photos of my dog from puppyhood to now and cried over those i edited them.
two days later, i started my new job, and it was a lonely first day. the company is tiny (so tiny), and i didn’t really talk to anyone and found that weird and disorienting and discouraging. i tried not to stay too late because i could feel the onslaught coming, because i didn’t want to cry in the office on my first day, and i managed to make it out and onto the subway before i started crying. i cried on the train ride home. i cried in the market where i went to buy some basics. i cried when i got to my apartment.
i cried so much that night, my eyes were painfully swollen the next morning, that i had to sit and ice my eyes before i could put my contacts on, that my eyes were red-rimmed the whole day. i cried some more that second day, too, on the street outside my office, in muji, in the office bathroom.
that first week, i thought a lot about quitting, about just screwing it and going back to LA — hell, i hadn’t shipped any of my stuff yet; i hadn’t signed a lease; and i hadn’t received my relocation bonus yet. it would have been easy enough, resigning and packing my suitcases back up and hopping on another flight across the country, and i thought about doing just that so many times, i don’t honestly know what was stopping me from doing it. i could have easily, and, maybe, a few years ago, i might have.
the thing is, though, that that same week, i went to dinner with friends for my birthday. i had brunch plans for that weekend and dinner plans. i had a reading i was going to the next week. i had more people to schedule catch-up meals with, DMs and text messages going back and forth of, we should meet up! when’s good? i was talking more with my coworkers and realizing that initial weirdness was that my boss had parachuted me in over their heads, had never put us in touch for them to have a chance to vet me and get to know me, and i really liked them.
because, yes, i did like my new job and the work i was doing, and, yes, i was happy to be back home in new york city, but the thing that kept me here was that i have a community here — i have people, and, as it goes, i love people.
after three weeks at this new job, the holidays roll around, and our office is thankfully all working from home. i fly out to LA, taking a stupidly late flight that gets delayed for hours because i want to see my dog sooner than later, want to cuddle him and his soft fur even if it means arriving at 1 in the morning, which, really, becomes 3 in the morning becomes 4 in the morning.
he seems hesitant to see me, and i wonder if the punk even missed me at all. i spent the last three weeks crying because i missed him so much, but he doesn’t seem that happy to see me, and i wonder if he’s forgotten me — but, damn it, aren’t dogs supposed to remember you even years later? something about your scent? no?
he’s more excited to see my brother later that morning, and i’m offended. goms! i love you! i tell him while he’s happily in the back seat, wagging his tail furiously while trying to climb on my brother’s lap. i’m in the passenger’s seat, alone because my dog abandoned me to greet my brother ecstatically.
maybe, though, it was hesitation because gom soon re-attaches himself to me, sleeping at my feet when i’m working, whining at me to sit on the floor so he can climb up on my lap with his toy, sprawling out against my leg at night. he follows me around everywhere, sitting outside the bathroom, wanting to go on car rides, pawing at me for whatever i’m eating and acting offended when he doesn’t get any.
som follows gom, so som gets in on the cuddles, too, jumping out of his crate in my parents’ room in the middle of the night and running down the hallway, pawing at my door to be let in. he runs over to where i’m sleeping on the floor on a futon, ignoring gom’s possessive, annoyed growls and barks, and curls up on my left shoulder, away from gom who sleeps on my right. there’s little that feels safer, more comforting, than two puppies curled up on either side of you, one (som) flopping around dramatically every time he wants to change positions, the other (gom) happily content to stretch out against your side because you’re his human and you’re right here where you’re supposed to be, and, yes, he missed you.
one of the biggest lies i told myself for over a decade is that i was a misanthrope, an introvert. i told myself that i didn’t like people, that i liked being alone, going things alone, and that was all my way of protecting myself.
for over a decade, i hated myself because i hated my body because i was told over and over and over again that my body was too big — it was grotesque, monstrous, and it needed to be whittled down in order for it (and, in extension, me) to be made acceptable. one of the consequences of that was this lie i told myself, this wall i built around myself so i didn’t have to feel like i had to put myself out there because that would mean opening myself up to rejection. what if people really were repulsed by me? what if no one wanted to be friends with me because i was so big and ugly and disgusting? what if i really were a monster?
instead of facing what felt like inevitable rejection, i retreated. i read a lot, saw movies alone, sometimes went days without talking to anyone other than small talk with baristas and cashiers. i always had roommates, and, sometimes, we’d chat, but i’d soon shrink back to my half of the room, plug in my ears, and pretend to study.
it’s not that i was totally friendless — i had two close friends whose friendship was invaluable, one of whom is still my best friend today. i had a handful of friends from high school i’d see every so often, even though we’d been scattered across the state for college. that was pretty much it, though, and, for years, for over a decade, i convinced myself that that was enough, that i was fine, i’d be fine, i could ignore the fact that i was often crying myself to sleep because i was lonely, that i felt so much sadness when a day, two days, three days had gone by and i hadn’t had a real conversation with a human being.
to be honest, i don’t know what changed. i moved to brooklyn for law school. i made it one year in law school before withdrawing from school because i was so depressed and suicidal, that was the only way to save my life. i’d spent that year retreating, too, because i still felt so monstrous — i’d just spent a month in japan and korea, had fled korea a week before planned because i couldn’t take the open judgment about my body anymore — and i hadn’t even wanted to be in law school, anyway.
i withdrew, moved out of law school housing, and maybe that was the change because withdrawing from law school was the first proactive step i took into pursuing the thing i wanted to do, the thing i knew i did well, and that was writing.
having a dog is a great way to meet people.
when you take your dog on walks, you’ll meet other people taking their dogs on walks, and not everyone is the same, but most dog owners like to stop and chat. if you don’t meet other dog owners, you’ll meet other dog lovers, especially when your dog is like mine and loves people, wants to meet all the people, flops over almost immediately for belly scratches.
i like meeting all the people, and i’ll stop and chat with anyone who wants to stop and chat and give my dog scratchies. so far, though, my dog has not been successful in getting me any dates, but maybe one day soon he’ll learn that that’s why i take him on walks. heh, am i joking or not? >:3