He waits in the hallway. Around six, when I open the door, he greets me by throwing himself at me, shaking and quivering with happiness. Hello boy, I say, my voice making the involuntary climb up an octave or so. I ask him how his day was. Ask him if he’s been a good boy.
I feel bad for Bono’s separation anxiety. I work, and these days he has to stay in the flat on his own… but what can I do? She didn’t want him. Said he reminded her too much of us.
Well, he reminds me of us too. She used to take his ears and cover his eyes with them. She would ask, where has Bono gone? Not that he ever had an answer. She would remove his ears from his eyes and announce, there he is. I think he grew to like this game, or at the very least has come to expect it as part of his existence, and so I maintain the ritual. Sometimes the memories of her feel too strong, I’ve found myself crying once or twice as I temporarily obstruct a dog’s vision and interrogate it existentially.
Seven is dinner time. He drools as he watches me beat an egg and add it to his bowlful of biscuits. Sometimes his anticipation is so pronounced he performs what she used to call his little tap-dance with his front legs, claws tapping in giddy anticipation against the kitchen floor.
After dinner we retire to the sofa. I put the television on. Sheer dumb habit. Something I expect from my own experience. My own separation anxiety has killed any ability to concentrate; we probably process about as much of these stories, Bono and I. Background monkey-chatter she used to call it when she left the TV on for him.
Bono lays across my lap. I stroke his head and tickle him. He occupies the space where she used to lay. I remember running my hands lovingly through her hair. The memory weirds me out, like suddenly there’s a sexual element between me and the dog. I stop and Bono whines, nudging me with his head, asking to be touched. I ask him if he gets turned on by all this stroking, I tell him that no one has stroked me like this in six months now, enough time, that in all probability, I’d be unable to control myself. I blush as I say this. Bono doesn’t judge, he just wants the stroking to continue. Duly, I oblige. I can’t disappoint such a simple and achievable request.
Sometimes Bono brings me a chew-toy. We take an end each, pulling at it. He is a strong animal. We lock in stalemate until I get bored and let him have it. He takes his spoils across the room and chews on it triumphantly. I got angry with him last week. I told him that I don’t fucking want the filthy, piece of wet rubber. I told him it wasn’t my decision to have him, and that you know what? I actually hate the stupid name she gave you. I fucking hate U2. Bono curled up in his basket and stared at me while I ranted.
Afterwards I calmed down, sat by his basket and apologised profusely. I gave him a handful of dog biscuits. I told him I was under a lot of pressure, I miss your mother more than I thought was possible, but she’s with someone else now and that consumes me, you know… Bono didn’t know. He’s a dog. Still, in his own way, I felt he was listening. It’s complicated being human I told him, depression, jealousy. I’ve not told anyone this mate, but I walked to the top of a motorway bridge last week… I glanced over to see his reaction, a snort, some thin liquid from the nostril. But I couldn’t do it. They trap you in obligations, mate. A lifetime of guilt and resentment, that’s not fair on her, you know. And then there’s you. I mean I can’t afford you, and it’s not fair to coup you up all day… I should give you to someone else really.
I can’t give him away though. We’re all we have now. I told him this and held my hand out for a signature paw-shake. For me, the gesture means peace, companionship, and eternal love. For Bono, it means biscuits.
Jake Kendall is studying a Creative Writing Masters at Edinburgh University. He pollutes the digital atmosphere through his twitter @jakendallox.