Sly Dog by Madeline Mathys

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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Sly Dog by Madeline Mathys
The story that inspired me to pursue a writing career, written by one of my favorite people in the world.

He used to barge into her apartment to announce some seemingly stupid and frivolous news like “Look! Look! I just won a free liter of Coke!” and he’s waggle a bottle cap in front of her peeved face and dance out, always forgetting to close the door behind him.
Two days would pass before she would see him again, sitting on top of the washing machine at the Laundromat, waiting for his clothes. He would pretend to be meditating, murmuring, “Ohm…Ohm…Ohm” under his breath. His long, colt-like legs would be folded beneath him as he would completely ignore her until she finished pulling her clothes from the dryer. Then, he’d stop ogling at her pile of bras and underwear with half-lidded eyes and ask if she was hungry and wanted to go to the diner next door to get some food.

She didn’t know how he did it, but surely it wasn’t all coincidental when she would begin her trek to work and he would pull up next to her in his beat-up little hatchback and escort her to her job. He wouldn’t do this all the time, but she could count on him during inclement weather. She was also pretty sure he planned it whenever he sprang through her door, inquiring if she needed to go food shopping because that’s what he was going to do, and did she need a ride? After going for groceries with him several times, she knew by his lack of buying any real food and his explicit timing (the second she’d open her fridge to see there was nothing except that lonely box of baking soda) that the trips were all just for her.

Before long, he began inviting himself over. Whether it be for dinner or to see if her TV could also get free cable, he always had an excuse.

“Don’t mind me. I just like your couch better.” He’d say and continue to doze on the other end of the old, lumpy couch as she sorted through her bills, checkbook in lap.

She would sit amazed at his audacity, but amused all the same. Though, at first she had tried to evade him, thinking horny bastard! That pervert’s just trying to get into my pants… and would lock her door. However, it soon became obvious that his harassment had nothing to do with sexual advances.

After all, nobody else nearly kicks down her door to plead “They found out I was leeching cable off of the guy downstairs so I can’t see it anymore! Can I please, please, please watch it on yours? Please! This is a life or death situation!” And upon opening the door, she’d nearly gotten barreled to the floor as he leapt over the couch and became ruler of the television for the night.

He was like some stray dog that followed her home, except he lived down the hall and only had the demeanor of an exuberant puppy. It became apparent that he planned on taking over her apartment as well. As she walked through her tiny living space, she would find traces of him everywhere, half-empty bags of chips, and a picture he tacked up on the wall of them laughing at the bar he had dragged her to. And not to mention his soft, leather jacket from when he placed it around her shoulders during the short walk from the parking lot to the building.

Her friends approved of him because they were full of romantic notions and chick-flick movie endings and thought the “guy down the hall” scenario was not cliche at all, despite the fact that she insisted they were just friends. She thought that they never really paid attention to his easy, confident gait and his adorable grins and instead focused more on his charming yet goofy group of friends. It was mainly his crowd that had warned her he was a “scheming, sly dog.” She had laughed and agreed, wondering whom else would follow her up and down the aisles in the grocery store, hinting that she should buy this or that because he would really enjoy if she made him that delicious pasta dish.

She liked their 2am talks, when the world around them because quiet and mellow. They’d sit on her couch and talk about everything. 

“I’m sorry.” He’d say genuinely, complete with a little smile. “I really shouldn’t be keeping you up.”

And she’d just shake her head. 

“No, it’s okay. I have crazy insomnia anyway.”

He would grin and say that he also had insomnia, yawn, and start up an inane conversation about sheep and syphilis. Somehow, they’d get serious and she would bare her soul to him and tell him about her insecurities and past failures. He’d poke jokes at her to make her see the lighter side of things. Sometimes, she’d get lucky and he would also get serious and murmur quietly about the little things that meant a lot to him. 

He would sometimes surprise her with things to brighten her day. It was his way of making up for the time he used her TV, ate her food, stole her silverware, and that one time he accidentally broke the hinges on her door. Because of him, shot glasses with funny feminist slogans on them appeared in her cupboard, cute stuffed animals from those arcade games with the claw lined her bed, and old books bought off the street for a couple bucks filled her bookshelves.

Sometimes, he would disappear for days, but to her if felt like forever. She’d impatiently go about with her daily schedule, feeling anxious and unable to sit still. She would wait for him to burst through her door. Her insomnia seemed to worsen when he wasn’t around. She needed him there to listen to her worries and tell a funny story to lighten up the atmosphere. She would sit and try to figure out just how he’d become such a constant factor in her life and how her day would not be complete without seeing his lanky form.

She would never admit this, though, and when he’d come noisily kicking her door open and rolling in like a SWAT team member, she’d roll her eyes.

“Damn,” she’d sigh, “thought you were gone for good.”

He’d get up with a grin, raid her fridge, and settle on his side of the couch.

“You’ll never get rid of me! HA HA HA!” He would boisterously laugh in an evil-villain sort of way. 

Laughing, she would playfully swat at his head and berate him for not closing the door, again.

She realized during these many months, that she had no idea where he stood in their relationship. She liked how it was now and felt completely comfortable with his presence. even long spans of silence felt natural, which is a feat in itself.

It was when she started fantasizing about curling up next to his dozing form and feeling his arms wrap around her that she realized she wasn’t fine with what he thought of him and her, even though she was not exactly sure what that even was. She assumed it was nothing because though he instigated their friendship, he had done nothing to push it past that stage.

She’d get her hopes up whenever he became affectionate and would spontaneously grab her by the waist and pretend to push her into the fountain in front of the bank building. He would flirt with her too, usually trying out horrible pick up lines that made her laugh.

She could never bring herself to approach him, afraid that this was nothing more than a quirky friendship to him. Many times, she would almost bring it up, but would find her voice stuck in her throat and the thought of rejection bobbing in her mind. She would look up into his eyes whenever he would get up from the couch, waking her. He would gently smile at her and mess up her hair by ruffling it. He would leave with a grin, telling her to get some real sleep and would steal away quietly, but always forgetting to close the door behind him.

It was after one night of getting reacquainted with old friends and “painting the town red” as he had archaically named it, and both were still slightly tipsy and exhilarated, that he came with her into her apartment to get a glass of water. She watched him leave, still sipping her glass of water. Whether it was the alcohol or just a need to be reckless, she ran out of her apartment after him. Leaving her door open, she caught up with him as he was searching for his keys outside his own door.

“Why,” she had asked, “do you always forget to close my door?” 

And suddenly he was laughing, sounding as giddy as she was when she sprinted out of her door. She, however, began to get slightly nervous as he collapsed into a chuckling pile at her feet. The nervousness increased as he got back up, drank the rest of the water in a large gulp, and placed the cup down in front of his still unopened door.

He looked at her and smiled. 

“Took you long enough.” He said with a triumphant smile on his face.

She gave him a confused look.

“I leave it open so it’s easier for you to chase after me. A guy can’t do all the work around here, you know.” He gave her a sloppy, hopeful grin.

However, after several moments of silence, his smile began to fade.

She stared at him until he looked away and began to mumble something and went back to fumbling through his pockets for his keys. AT that moment, she couldn’t take it anymore and burst out laughing. The realization swept through her, releasing a feeling of euphoria that left her nearly in tears. 

“You are a sly dog…” She finally gasped.

His eyes lit up and a smile grew wide on his face. Still giggling hysterically she felt his hands on her hips as she was pulled into his arms. But before he could make another move, she took the initiative and stood on her toes to lock her arms around his neck. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. 

He had been hers all along. She just hadn’t known it.

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