Feed on
Posts
Comments

 

It Takes a Dog to Track a Dog

Angelic Yousef

 I walk the nine blocks from my office in downtown Manhattan to my apartment. I want to surprise my wife with lunch. I bought her favorite, pasta royal. The city is full of noises and filth. The city streets are filled with shards of glass from broken bottles. The sun reflects light on the open discarded food containers. The rotting food adds to the urine smell. You cannot walk two blocks without experiencing these markers of the Big Apple. The smell of urine and the cacophony of construction are always in the air. I am used to these things. I am a private detective.  My normal line of work is tracking down unfaithful spouses and proving their infidelity. I guess it takes a dog to track a dog. I told my wife I was helping the police on a high profile kidnapping. This, of course, is a lie. The case has been on the news for several weeks. A little girl was taken by her father. He took her because he believed the mother was an abusive drug addict. It was the perfect cover for my affair with the beautiful Tonya. I met Tonya six months ago at a diner just ten blocks from my Manhattan home. I have been eating at the 50’s diner for over 10 years. It was a Tuesday. I wore a suit. Giovanni, the best Italian suit on the market. I looked suave. On this particular day, I walked the five blocks from my office to the diner. I wanted to celebrate the close of a case with a cup of coffee and a chat with old Deloris, a waitress that has been working at this run down diner for over thirty years.  

I open the familiar glass and chrome door, the hinges squeak loudly. Deloris barely looks up as I take my usual seat; a booth that has a perfect view of the wild life we call New York. The restaurant was once a genuine 1950’s diner. The booths are red and curved with faux chrome to emulate the classic 57 Chevy. The diner has been open for over 50 years. Unfortunately, the booths that had once been a bright, cheery red are faded to a dirty, filthy, mud-red with rips and tears in the once lush vinyl. The tables are not the shiny, bright linoleum, but are sticky and gooey, with the compressed wood underneath swelling through. I look down at the floor, the dizzying pattern of black and white checkers makes me nauseous. Deloris comes over without a word and sits across from me in the booth.

We have established a routine over the years, she and I. She sits down. I stare out the window, or at the menu, and pretend I do not notice her. I know she needs a breather; she is, after all, over sixty years old. I look up and act startled.

“Deloris, how long you’ve been sitting there?”

She snorts and says, “Long enough that I’ve aged twenty years.” She lightly hits my arm.

I laugh and give her my order of bacon, eggs, and pancakes, as if she really needs me to tell her. I’ve ordered the same dish for over ten years. She huffs at me, as if I gave her the longest order in the world, and then she leaves to give the ticket to the cook.  She never complains about my preference for breakfast at dinner time. Perhaps she doesn’t care.

There is a new waitress. I ask Deloris about her. She looks surprised, this is not our routine. She looks over her shoulder, as if she has forgotten that she is not the only waitress working. She looks back at me with a smirk, “Oh, that’s Tonya. She is a student at CCNY.” Deloris smears the word Tonya. She has a deep grumbling voice, due to all the cigarettes she smokes. I ignore the name smearing, “She’s cute. She’s kind of young to be a waitress,” I said.

“Don’t you know kids can work at the age of 16 now?” Deloris said sarcastically.

“Oh, come now, Deloris. You were a child laborer at one time, right?” Deloris snatches the menu out of my hands and bops me hard on the head. “You mind yourself, Mr. Adam, or I’ll throw your ass out of here so fast your head will spin.”

I give her an apologetic glance and I get a shrewd smile in return. I know that I am forgiven, for now. I watch her leave to hand my usual to the cook. I turn my attention to the clock above the wall. Out of all the run down items in the 50’s diner, the clock, though greasy, still holds its bright, neon glow.

I watch the new waitress for a while; she is young, probably in her late teens or early twenties. She is small and thin. I like her smooth mocha skin. I imagine how that skin would feel. I can feel myself going too far in my fantasy. I look out the window. I feel the pull of compulsion as I turn my attention back to the young, beautiful waitress. She is clumsy, too petite for this job. I imagine her in a few years after she has finished college. She will wear a tight, black suit and square rimmed glasses. She will stand in front of an office of impatient men. They will roll their eyes as she explains what she wants sold that day. She spies me watching her and gives me a smile. I finger my wedding band with my forefinger and thumb. I start to twist it. I debate with myself. Finally, I make the decision to slide the ring off and put it in my pant’s pocket.  I look out the window, but I am listening to the other people in the diner. A man sitting at the bar is purposefully squeaking his chair whenever the new waitress walks by, replicating the sound of bed springs.  An elderly couple is talking to Deloris. I look up to see her shifting her weight. I feel badly for her. Her joints must be killing her. She must have sensed my stare, because she looks up and gives me a quick roll of her eyes. I smile. If the old couple does not stop talking soon, Deloris will probably pour the hot coffee she is holding on them.

The young waitress sets a coffee mug down in front of me.  She asks before she pours, “Do you want coffee?” I just nod. She pours the coffee, I watch her hands. They shake with the weight of the carafe. I ask her if she’s married, though it is obvious by her ring, she is. She smiles brightly. I can tell that she has been married recently. Nobody smiles that brightly after a year of marriage. She happily rambles to me about Lysander, her one true love. I want to vomit. I want to tell her love is only a fairytale, it does not exist. You will cheat on him or he will cheat on you and in the end someone always leaves.

***

I was an only child in what I thought was a loving marriage. My father always acted like he loved my mother. They were always kissing. They would say “I love you,” at least fifteen times a day. It was a normal morning. I had gotten dressed and was feeling fine when I left for school. My mom was dressed for work. She was a realtor. My dad was in a hurry, he said he was late for work. They kissed and mom and I hopped into the car so she could drop me off at school. We were a block away from school, when I started to feel sick. Mom asked if I wanted to go back home. I was 16 and was trying to act tough. I told her I was fine. It only took an hour before my mom was called back to the school to pick me up. I had thrown-up all over the teacher. In my defense, I had told her I was not feeling well, and she didn’t believe me.  My mom was partly mad and partly amused. She gave me dirty looks, while trying to suppress a smile. When we arrived home, we were surprised to see a green Ford pick-up parked in our drive way. Mom entered the house cautiously. She told me to wait in the kitchen. I was afraid someone had broken in. I was not about to let my mom get hurt, so I followed her. I could hear moans coming from my bedroom. My heart was racing as I went ahead of my mom. As I walked towards my room, she caught my arm. I could tell she was frightened too.  I ignored her grasp and opened the door. I saw my father and a woman together. I did not want mom to see what I was seeing. I closed the door. I am sure the look on my face told my mom exactly what I had seen. If she had not believed it, the proof came quickly when my father opened the door. My mom stood frozen. Wrapped in my bed sheet was a young, attractive girl. Ashely, I recognized her from my 6th period biology class. She stared at me, while my mom stared at my father. I was filled with a rage that I had never felt before. I hit my father square in the jaw. I watched him laying halfway in the hall and half in my bedroom. My mom left two months later. I was not allowed to go with her.  Both my parents wanted me to finish up at my current school. After that day I did not hear either of my parents say “I love you.” I think my father hates me. I know that I hate him. I will never forgive him. The last words I remember my mom saying to my father were, “all men are dogs.” I am no exception. I never expected to cheat on my wife. In fact, I was determined never to be like my father. I guess my mother was right, all men are dogs and I am the worst.  

 ***

When I look at Tonya, I think about my wife. I remember how she wore her hair down. My wife had the perfect mix of copper red and silky blond when she was young. She was sexy and flirty. Her skin, much like the young waitress, is flawless. She had alabaster skin that had baked perfectly in the sun. I loved kissing every inch of her.  I feel a twinge of guilt. I once slept with my wife’s sister.  I love my wife, but she is not an attractive woman now. She no longer dances, her copper blondes have faded to greys and browns. Her once flawless skin now wrinkled and dried with age. Not like this waitress, who has all the marks of vitality and beauty. I let the grip of guilt wash away as I turn my focus onto this beautiful waitress’s hands. Hands tell a lot about a person. It is obvious that this is her first job, that she has not been a waitress long. How do I know this? Her hands are pretty; there are no cuts, no burns. Her nails are perfectly manicured. I dare anyone to find a waitress with beautiful hands. Another customer flags her down. She leaves with a skip in her step. I watch her dance away. When I get up to leave, I tell Deloris to give the new girl my number. Deloris believes that infidelity keeps the marriage bed hot, and was all too eager to take the dance out of the new waitress’s step. I was surprised when Tonya called just a month later. I had all but forgotten about her. She informed me her new husband was cheating on her. I was not surprised.

I have been with Tonya for six months now. I am sure that my wife does not know.  I think about leaving my wife from time to time. She is a good woman, just like my mother was a good woman. They both deserve faithful men, if they exist. As I arrive, lunch in hand, to my apartment building, I notice a black sedan parked in my private parking. Even though I do not own a car, it pissed me off that some jerk would just use my space. I see Reggie, the doorman, and voice my complaints to him. Reggie is a large man. He is a man of singularly few words. Today he is a little more chattier than usual. He tells me that people park there time to time, especially people who come to visit my wife. I feel the burn in my cheeks. I had no idea people came to visit my wife. My wife never mentions that she has had anyone over. I ask Reggie, “Is there someone visiting her right now?” He says nothing, but looks up. I take this to mean yes. I thank him and hurry inside. The apartment complex is one of the best in New York. Much like a well-polished hotel, the rugs in the lobby, stairs, and elevator are always well looked after. It is always clean and there rarely are any drifters who come in to get out of the cold. I think this is, in part, because Reggie is a very scary looking guy. I take the elevator up to the sixth floor. With every ding the elevator provides to mark the floors, I can feel my blood pressure rise. I grip the bag of food tighter and tighter. The final jolt of the elevator makes my heart leap into my throat. I don’t understand why I feel so anxious. How many times have I told my wife I was visiting a client, when I was really out with Tonya? My wife was the faithful one. I was the dog. I keep this little mantra in my mind as I take a step off the elevator. The blue carpet muffles my steps as I approach apartment 626. I press my ear to the door. I hear nothing except the buzz of the lights. I pause briefly before inserting my key into the lock. I turn the key slowly. The tumblers sound loud to me. I pull the handle down as quietly as I can. The door opens soundlessly. I smell a sweet, musty sent. This exacerbated my vibrating nerves. I place the bag of food on the kitchen counter, next to the door. Our apartment is large, with an open floor plan. I can hear my wife talking with her lover in the next room. Her voice carries from the bedroom. I cannot handle seeing her body, sweaty from the exertion of love-making, pressed against another man. I leave the apartment before I can do anything rash, like kill the son of a bitch who dared to touch my wife.

I did not bother waiting for the elevator. I flew down the stairs. Anger made me stop at least twenty times. I want to go back up to the room. I want a fight. I want to place my hands around the throat of the bastard who chose to be with my wife. I make it down to the lobby, when I realize that I left the food. “Good,” I think to myself. Let that bastard and my wife know I was there. Let my wife wallow in guilt for her infidelity. She now knows that I know. My stomach aches. My head hurts. I feel sick. I think about Tonya. I wish I could turn back the clock. I guess many people do. One moment of passion leads us to so much trouble. I thought my wife did not know about the affair. Did she guess? Did she follow me? I am always careful. I even make sure, when I take Tonya out, to pay for each meal separately, so any receipts will look like I dined alone. I wonder how she knew? Could this be the reason she went astray?

I look out the door and see Reggie’s back. I am angry at him. How could he allow an ass-wipe to go up alone with my wife? It’s Reggie’s fault. How long has this been going on? Why didn’t Reggie tell me sooner? He was here, he could have prevented this. I feel the outrage leave me even as I think of it. I am mad at myself. I can feel the heat returning to my face. I question whether or not I should go back up and confront my wife and her lover. I leave the apartment building. I need the stinking air to cool my heated face and time to collect my scattered thoughts.  I feel my phone buzzing in my pocket. The caller ID tells me it’s my wife. I answer it.

“Honey, is everything alright? I didn’t hear you come in? I saw the food on the counter and you were nowhere to be seen.”

I want to forgive her, hell I’ve cheated on her so many times I lost count, but I cannot let go of the feeling that someone touched her, ruined her. What can I say? I am a fool.  I am too filled with anger. I cannot answer her. I hang up on her. It feels good, only for a second. I am ashamed of my actions. I think about calling her back. I can’t face her. I feel the need to tell her. It is not fair to her.  I turn around and head back to the apartment. As I walk back, the anger returns. I will confront her lover, and kick his ass. She calls me at least ten times before I reach the sixth floor. As I approach our apartment door, I am reminded of the day I confronted my father. Anger fills me again and I open the front door with a mighty thrust. I am ready to fight. I want her lover to know I am coming for him. When the door swings wide, and so quickly, it bangs loudly against the wall. My wife jumps and lets out a scream, as does her best friend, Morgan. They both stare at me as if I have lost my mind. I notice the sweet musk again. It is reeking off of her friend. I should have known. How many times have I made fun of her for her taste in men’s cologne? I feel abashed. My wife’s startled face turns from fear to anger in five seconds flat.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she thunders.

“Sorry, bad day,” I say lamely.

Morgan speaks up, “Jeez, man. You scared the crap out of us. What the hell is your problem? First you come home and don’t say anything. Then you leave, and when do come back, you kick open the door like mister commando. What the hell?”

                I apologize grudgingly. I was wrong about my wife. There is an old saying that goes “oh what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive” and boy am I tangled. I know now that I need to leave Tonya. I know it is the guilt of my affair that has led me to this. Tonight I will tell her. Tonight I will face my wife, and either she will leave or I will. Someone always leaves in the end.  

 

One Response to “It Takes a Dog to Track a Dog”

  1. Excellent work, Angel. It’s very clear that you’ve worked hard on this story, and this revision really strengthens it. The narrator is more likable (despite his wretched behavior) and more convincing, and the ending works much better.