Let me explain.
My wife and I had decided to take a stab at living in the country right before Thanksgiving of 2019. We’d been living in a pocket-sized one-bedroom apartment in the fiery pits of Hell’s Kitchen for the past couple of years; had it been just the two of us, we probably would have ridden it out a bit longer.
But naturally, our bleeding lesbian hearts led us to a dog — a good-looking mini Aussie named Luka Blue Moon who bore giant, sad eyes and a soprano-pitched bark.
And then, when we heard that a three-week-old Siamese kitten was tossed out of a moving car on a scalding hot highway in South Florida and needed a home ASAP, we of course had to rescue her. Wild Kat and her sparkly blue eyes joined the coven.
And then one Sunday, we were walking around Union Square and noticed there was a Pet Adoption Festival.
“We shouldn’t go,” I said staunchly. “We’ll end up with another dog. We can’t handle two dogs. We live in a shoebox and money is tight.”
“I know,” Meghan (my wife) said. “Let’s just look.”
“Okay. Let’s just look.”
But we all know that lesbians never just look. Lesbians have a visceral need to save things — furry things, in particular.
Within ten minutes we were taking a “test walk” with a champagne-colored chihuahua.
“We just rescued him from a kill shelter in Tennessee,” chirped the raven-haired bombshell who worked for a pet rescue called “pup starz.”
“We’ll fill out the application right now,” we both belted in perfect unison.
24 hours later, we picked the seven-year-old chihuahua up from his foster home in Bed-Stuy.
We named him Bowie because he had the same color hair as David — champagne hair.
Bowie was our troubled little angel, our fierce, sweet obsession from the moment he waltzed into our apartment and peed on Meghan’s members-only jacket.
We loved him so intensely that our sex life came to a halt. We never wanted to kick him out of bed, and having sex in front of our vulnerable son just didn’t feel right.
We were sex-starved and it was getting a bit tight in the shoebox apartment.
“THESE ANIMALS ARE RUNNING OUR APARTMENT!” Meghan would shout as she cleaned up yet another shit off the marble floor of our bedroom.
“WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE!” I would shout, trying to justify our pets’ collective desire to tear up our furniture. “THEY’RE STIR CRAZY.” I’d plop into my favorite chair only to find it covered in thick, itchy strays of hair. “WE NEED TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HELL’S KITCHEN.”
And that’s when we stumbled upon a very large house in Northern New Jersey that was a whopping $1,000 cheaper than our shoe-box apartment.
“Let’s break the lease on our apartment,” Meghan declared. “Try out the country.” (New Yorker’s think New Jersey is “the country” because Fox News is right about one thing: We are indeed “out of touch” with mainstream America.).
“I’m down,” I purred, dreaming of a real-life house to live in. Never in my adult life had I lived in a house. That night I fell asleep to my imagination hosting images of glamorous house parties. I saw myself cooking luscious, healthy meals with complex recipes. And I hadn’t cooked anything more sophisticated than hard-boiled eggs in my lifetime!
But mostly, I dreamed about my beloved pets having space to roam freely.
A couple of months later, we were all settled into the big house in northern New Jersey. Meghan and I still worked in the city, so we still bore a lot of city girl habits. Dog walkers were hired. We came home depleted from our demanding jobs, so we kept ordering takeout in lieu of cooking in our first-ever kitchen that wasn’t inside a living room. We still spent a small fortune on Ubers. The responsibilities of running a house didn’t even feel real because we still spent most of our days running around Manhattan, ordering shit we didn’t need as we clanked away at our computers working at the rapid-fire pace of New York.
And then COVID-19 happened and the world turned upside down. Up was down. Gay was straight. Strange was normal. Normal was strange. City girls had to learn how to hack it in the country.
“THE F*CKING FAT F*CK FOX KEEPS TEARING THROUGH OUR GARBAGE AND IS TRASHING THE WHOLE STREET!” Meghan would scream into the ether so loudly that birds would skitter away.
“THE DOGS KEEP PISSING ON THE F*CKING CARPET!” I would shout, fear rushing through my veins at the thought of having to replace the custom-fit white carpet that had come with the house. A natural-born softie, I’m not one to get irritated with animals for having trouble figuring out the nuances of bathroom etiquette. But Bowie just couldn’t seem to stop peeing all over the damn carpet. The whole room smelled like pee, enzyme cleaner, and the three thousand incense I lit per day in hopes to soften the rancid stench. I was getting a little…overwhelmed.
“WE BLEW ANOTHER FUSE AND THE ELECTRICIAN CAN’T COME FOR TWO WEEKS.”
“The bathtub flooded again.”
“The toilet flooded again.”
We didn’t admit that we were in over our heads because Meghan and I are both Tauruses, thus bullheaded and self-righteous to a fault. But it was clear: Domestic life was proving to be hard — for us at least.
Not only that, but we were lonely. We hadn’t seen a single face besides our own in months. New Yorkers are very social creatures. We gather and worship at the church of the crowded bar. We rub elbows with hundreds of people on packed subway cars. We breathe in the air of a million strangers every time we walk a block.
We were in a state of social withdrawal, and like any withdrawal, it wasn’t pretty.
“Blake is coming home from LA. He’s going to stay with us in Sarasota for a few months since he’s working from home anyway. Poor thing has been alone in his studio for months,” my mother told me over the phone one night. I swigged my champagne around my glass and stared into the pee-stained carpet.
“Why is he allowed to do that?” I asked, doing my best Margot Tenenbaum.
“You can come home, too, darling.” My mom said, doing her best Etheline Tenenbaum.
After two consecutively negative COVID tests each, Meg and I packed up the pets and hit the road. Within forty-eight hours, we were sitting at the dining room table in my parent’s house in Sarasota, FL sipping heaping pours of my dad’s Kim Crawford wine.
“Have any clothes that need washing?” my mom asked, excited to settle back into her role as The Mother™.
Our eyes glistened with tears of joy. The simplest gesture rendered us emotional. Suddenly, it became very apparent to me that we both might be trapped in adolescence. Who else besides bitchy teens with acne and raging hormones finds very easy, normal, household duties to be so difficult?
A couple of days later, my brother Blake arrived with a beard so thick and luscious it probably served as a secret bird’s nest to a family of Los Angeles chickadees. My mom trimmed his beard and cut his hair with tiny little eyebrow scissors. We all gathered around him to watch.
“Why do I feel like I’m in ‘A Clockwork Orange?'” my brother asked.
“Because you are,” I said, cackling.
And suddenly, we were all living under one roof for the first time in two decades. (Only this time, we couldn’t flee the roof.)
One evening, I was filming myself read aloud an essay I’d written for my freshly developed YouTube channel (a COVID project). Meghan and I were both using my teenage bedroom as both a workspace and a sleep space. The room no longer had Nine Inch Nails posters plastered to the walls, but it still burned with 16-year-old rage.
Bowie and Luka were cuddled up next to me, but for some reason, every time I pressed “record” they would start viciously barking. I don’t know why. Maybe they didn’t want me to embarrass myself. Having a YouTube in your 30s is embarrassing.
“Come on babies, you’re going into uncle Blake’s room,” I said picking them up and placing them neatly on my brother’s bed. I was immediately wracked with guilt. They were only one room away, in a beautiful air-conditioned bedroom, but we’d all grown very codependent whilst quarantined. We hadn’t left one another’s sides in four months.
15 minutes later, the video was done. My heart yearned for my dogs. I felt like I hadn’t seen them in a week! I longed to kiss Luka right on the top of his tiny, sharp skull. I was ravenous to breathe in Bowie’s pungent, salty scent.
The second I entered the room Luka leaped off the bed and spun circles of joy around me. “I’ll never leave you again,” I whispered into his ear.
But wait, something was off. Why hadn’t Bowie leaped off the bed like Luka? Why wasn’t Bowie on the bed? Why was he sunken into the hardwood chair that belonged to my brother’s desk?
“Bow,” I said, softly. He looked at me with big, empty eyes. “Bow?” I asked again, louder. His eyes were vacant. He was clearly alive, but something wasn’t right. My heart raced faster than the cars speeding down the west side highway on a summer Friday.
“MEGHAN!” I screamed. “MEGHAN, SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH BOWIE.”
The next thing I knew, Meghan was going 90 miles per hour down sleepy suburban streets of Sarasota. Bowie was in my arms, breathing but far away somewhere. His body was healthy and warm in my lap, but his personality had drifted off to Mars.
The moment we rushed into the vet’s office I broke into heavy, hysterical sobs. “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MY BABY!” I screeched. The wallpaper curled. The vet gasped. Bowie looked at all of us with red, heavy-lidded eyes.
“I think there is something wrong,” the vet affirmed. She knew Bowie as the bubbly champagne-colored, ever-peeing chihuahua with a heart of gold that we all know and love.
She put a tiny little flashlight into his faraway eyes and dutifully took his pulse and his temperature.
“I think I know what this is,” she said confidently, as she removed a thermometer from his ass. (Why do they do it like that? In 2020? Haven’t we graduated from demoralizing anal temperature readings?)
I was in full panic-attack, grief-stricken mode. “WHAT?” I asked so aggressively spit flew out of my mouth. I was feeling very primal.
“Any chance he could’ve ingested, uh, marijuana?” the vet asked kindly. “That’s exactly what this looks like.”
“We don’t smoke weed,” Meghan and I said in perfect unison. (I know, I too, think it’s creepy AF when lesbian couples do that.)
We looked at each other. That’s when it clicked. Lightbulbs hung over our terrified heads and shined right on the glaring truth. There *was* weed in the house. Of course there was. My mom’s a certified insomniac and my brother’s been in California for over a decade. Actually, come to think of it, I’d smoked a giant joint with my brother the night before. I don’t smoke weed. I don’t lie either. HA.
“He could have definitely ingested marijuana,” I answered, shamefully. I had kicked Bowie out of my room for 15 minutes and he managed to get high? What kind of son was I raising? Mom guilt — that’s what my friends with kids call it.
“I’m going to run some tests, but I’m pretty that’s what it is,” the vet said. “Don’t worry. That’s the best-case scenario.”
Meghan called my brother and put him on speaker as my stoned dog was carted away into a backroom to be drug tested like an out of control teen on juvie probation.
“Well, I KEEP THE DOOR TO MY ROOM CLOSED FOR A REASON!” my brother said defensively. (Brothers are always defensive).
“It’s my fault; I put him in your room,” I confessed. (Sisters are perfect).
“I’m going to check upstairs and see if anything is missing.” He put us on hold for a solid minute. Meghan and I anxiously awaited his return. “Yeah, all the roaches that were on my desk are gone.”
Not only did I have a marijuana-seeking dog, he chose to eat roaches. Did he not deem himself worthy of the plump buds next to the sad, sorry, limp joint remnants? Did he need counseling? Did he not feel good enough for the real deal because he was wracked with some kind of shelter-dog imposter syndrome? I sighed, heavily.
“We gave him an IV of liquids. He should be fine by tomorrow. Just keep the marijuana hidden, please.”
Meghan and I both quickly launched into melodramatic lezsplaining. “WE WOULD NEV-”
“It’s okay,” The vet said, letting us off the hook. I silently wondered if she played for our team. “Put some Pink Floyd on and let him chill.” We all laughed nervously. Meghan left the room to pay our bill (a memoir). The vet’s eyes lingered on her long legs and she walked through the door. I didn’t even care. My dog wasn’t sick. He was stoned. I thanked my higher power Lana Del Rey and left with my high dog who was passionately sniffing the air like he could smell cookies or something. “Do you have the munchies?” I cooed into his red, far away eyes.
I swear he smiled at me.