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The Dog in the Night-Time

by Omi Ford

The dog stands in the road like it belongs there, like it has never known anything but the road. It does not look at you, gazes unflinchingly into the gloom at something you strain your eyes in a hopeless attempt to see as well.
Turning to go, to leave the strange dog to its strange road, you’re caught, pinned to the spot. It’s eyes, yellow-green pools of reflected light, hold you there, thumbtack in a butterfly’s wings.
Something else glints in the light- a tag worn on a collar half-hidden in its shaggy fur. You find yourself surprised, though you know you shouldn’t be, but something in you cannot reconcile the image of this wanderer with that of a home, of someplace it belongs that is not the road before you.
The dog is still staring at you, unmoving. You crouch down, slow under the weight of its gaze, gently beckon it closer. Another surprise- it comes without hesitation. It sniffs at your hands, your clothes, your face, and permits you to run your hands through its fur.
You try to get a look at its tag, but it jostles you in its attempt to lick at your face and you laugh, ruffling its ears.
And just as suddenly as it had come to you, it leaves, trotting away, claws clicking on black asphalt. It pauses just once to look back at you, eyes near glowing in the dim. You wave, perhaps dumbly, and the dog turns to go its way. Watching it fade into the dark, you wish it well on its journey.
The road continues on.
To get somewhere you’ve got to leave something behind. This is what the dog knows, this is what the dog pretends not to know. As long as it keeps its tags, it’ll always find its way home.
The dog has always been a dog of the road. This has not changed.
Once, I saw a sign and, for a moment, felt the future crystallize before me.
Several lines of clouds, each successively shorter than the last, so that they formed an
arrow in the pink-orange sky, pointing towards the sun where it sank below the horizon
Ah, I thought. Of course.
The dog was not always alone. Had been a constant companion to those dear to it, had made the passenger seat its own, the miles slipping by under spinning wheels. Spinning.
A home laid in wait at the end of those journeys, short though they usually were. Home, and warmth, and a love that was not always gentle, was not always easy, but love nonetheless.
Days were spent in wait for a return, for the opening of the door, for the emptiness of the home to be filled up again, for the familiar request.
Then- passenger seats and open windows, basking in the wind whipping at its ears, the sun in its eyes, the road that carries them along. It loves the road too much to not accept the request every time, and so they call it what it is, its name title, descriptor, and endearment at once.
Let’s go for a ride, Road Dog.
The dog has always been a dog of the road.
This is what has changed: no companion, nothing to rely on but its own feet, no promise of home at the end of the journey, only the hope of it dangling from its neck.
Some nights, the dog does not stop, cannot stop- keeps running because it has forgotten where it was going, keeps running until it forgets there was a somewhere to get to, that all roads must end somewhere.
Its destination had been clear at the beginning, but enough time on the road would cause anything to lose its way. The dog is not sure where it is going anymore, but it keeps running, running through the dark. It’s all it can do.
Some nights, the dog tries to out-race the sun. It has become so accustomed to the night, daylight reduced to a stranger intruding the home, hostile invader.
Daylight demands acknowledgment, recognition, but in the night, it can run until it forgets direction, forgets the road, forgets itself.
The dog runs as fast as it can, but light and time come to reveal us all, and even runaways can’t run forever.
Some nights, the dog can hardly move for the fear.
“You are always running.” Someone I knew said this to me once.
And I hated him for being right, hated him more or saying it out loud. I know what I’m
I don’t need a mirror to know what I look like.
Once, the dog waited for the empty home to stop being empty. And then- overnight, in the blink of an eye, it never was again. Full, overfull, bursting at the seams, and the love that was mostly gentle became only sometimes so, and the dog felt the call of its name from far, far away and knew it was the call of the road, and knew it was time to be alone.
The dog left the home. The dog embarked upon the road. The dog knew it would be gone for a long, long time.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? The answer I once had no longer fits, rubs in all
the wrong places, the compass spinning.
But they tell me I have to know where I’m going if I want even a hope of getting there.
Where do you see yourself?
Dead, might be an answer now, but the truer one is this: I don’t.
The fear: that nothing lies at the end of this road. The greater fear: that something does.
You are restless in sleep that night. In your dreams, yellow-green lakes glow at you from a distance, but no matter how fast you run the distance between you and them remains the same. Still, they call to you, and you chase them for as long as you are able, chase them right out of your dreams and into waking.
Rolling out of bed, you wander aimlessly through your home. Your skin feels too small to contain you but the house too big, too spacious with just you in it. You consider running.
The sun is over-bright and glaring when you venture out onto your front step. Shielding your eyes, you turn to look down the road but are not surprised to find it empty. It is very likely you will never see the dog again. You know this.
To get somewhere you’ve got to leave something behind. This is what you know.

Omi Ford is a multi-disciplinary creative trying to make sense of his thoughts one word/image/second at a time.


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