This was supposed to be an essay about dogs. About how my dog bit me when I was pregnant. How I felt betrayed and then a cold wash of fear for my baby. I mean I freaked out. We spent a lot of money on dog trainers. Over a thousand dollars. When you’re middle class you can do this. We had spent far more money before, on another dog, keeping her alive through her cancer until she was too weak to hold her bladder. I mean the comfort and safety we can afford, the privilege.
But when I came to write those things—
which Word autocorrects to pity
with pity then)
—the last week planted itself, monumentally, in my path. The last week, during which 31 people were killed by two young white men, at least one a white supremacist, in El Paso and Dayton.
During which, standing on the porch of a friend, I was BB shot in the back by a carful of kids who were out spiderwebbing neighborhood car windows but then shot in at our party. The deep satisfaction of a human target.
And then at the gym today.
A young white man walks the elevated track slowly, shoes off, in black socks, a black t-shirt, black sweatpants, ninja-style, one leg pushed up to reveal a thin band of pale skin above where his sock ends. The way the other pant leg bulges out uniformly around his ankle, it could be covering a cast or a holster. The kid reads as he walks—book open on one hand—through glacier sunglasses that look to me like the Waffen goggles I know from movies about Nazis. Raiders of the Lost Ark. He walks deliberately, as if in prayer. It is a performance. We all watch him. He stands still and stretches out his arms. It is easy to imagine the handguns in his palms. At the way the people on the gym courts below might be picked off. My friend exercises down the track from me. We both see the exit signs. We both note the posters that line the track railings and think how we might crouch behind them and scramble to the stairwell once the shooting starts.
Later, we will marvel at him, at our own fear. We will joke about it and try not to think about the way our hearts flooded our ears as if to remind us of the physical sound our living makes.
I wanted to write about how we spent all that money to keep ourselves and our daughter safe from the dog we had invited in, who sleeps in our bed. Whose bite, when it comes, will not be a surprise so much as a promise fulfilled.
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