Surrogate Pet by Lauren Gorski
There is a man in my bed.
Usually, there is a dog.
On weekends, there is a little girl
who can’t sleep after The X-Files
Last Wednesday, there was spilled wine,
the glass still balanced in my hand.
But today there is a man. Thirty—something.
A smelly man. A man I don’t know
or remember getting to know. A man
I didn’t notice in the bar or on the subway.
A man who never asked for my number.
A man who didn’t exist
until this morning
when I woke up next to him.
I definitely fell asleep next to a dog.
A german shepherd with a stuffed squirrel.
The man snores. Loudly.
He’s smelly and he snores.
I haven’t seen a man sleep in two years.
I tried online dating for about ten minutes.
Someone asked for a photo,
I couldn’t stop thinking about Edward Snowden
and the NSA
and The Truman Show.
The dog was sick. Last night.
He had thrown up his dinner.
I gave him water and prayed
he wouldn’t die.
The man shifts, pulling the covers over his face.
I nudge him with a pillow. He startles—turns to look at me—
then screams. Screams! He’s the man in my bed!
Why is he screaming?
He accuses me of drugs and kidnapping. I can’t help but laugh.
Why would I kidnap someone and hide them in my bed? Who are you? What are you doing here?
He wets himself.
He wets the bed.
I smell it immediately.
I get a towel for him and offer the shower.
He’s afraid. He locks the door behind him.
I don’t hear the water running.
Are you alright?
He wants to see his mother.
I don’t know your mother.
He wants to call the police.
I’ll call them now.
No, HE wants to call the police.
I’ll get the phone.
I was being hospitable to an intruder.
This was why I got divorced in the first place.
I go looking for the dog. But there’s no squirrel
or dog dish or leash or dog door.
The whole house is a lot cleaner,
emptier. There is no dog.
He wants the phone.
Where are his clothes?
You can borrow mine.
You’re a woman.
You’re a small man.
This was also why I got divorced.
My ex-husband let the dog out
after he left, or maybe
he took the dog to his new apartment.
Awhile ago. I haven’t slept
with a dog in two years.
In the kitchen, I can’t pick up the phone.
I look down.
The glass is still balanced in my hand.
Wednesday, there was spilled wine.
Today is Thursday.
I couldn’t sleep
after The X-Files.
So I took a subway to the bar.
There is usually a man in my bed.
Lauren Gorski is currently the Stage and Screen Editor of the Southern California Review. Her work has appeared in Jersey Devil Press, Underground Voices, and elsewhere.