Year of the Dog
by Ben Stoviak
The year I spent away from Pittsburgh living in Northern Kentucky, newly single and mostly occupied by rewatching pressure cooker infomercials on Antenna TV, I met Bobby. He looked a lot like me — which wasn’t really my thing — especially since I was trying to build a fresh and different life. But he persisted on Grindr until I agreed to meet him for a date on New Year’s Eve.
I drove the 90 minutes to Lexington, Ky. after work on Friday night. I arrived at his house and knocked on the door. “Hey! I’m sorry. I’m just fixing my hair and letting the dog out! I’ll be right out!” His accent was cute.
He opened the door again. He was very handsome: slim, well-dressed, with thick black hair and pretty tattoos. But panicked. “I CAN’T FIND MY DOG!” He closed the door again. Behind me, I spotted the shadow passing through the street, car lights coming upon that shadow, and then heard the sound of impact. The car screeched. So did the dog.
I knocked again. “Um. I think your dog just got hit by that car.” I pointed to the car, and Bobby started running after it. His dog had gotten stuck in the tire well of the car. We scooped her out and carried her into the house. She was bloody and scared, and I wasn’t either of those things, but I did think, “Oh, well, what kind of ancient omen against love is this?”
Bobby’s roommate and I cleaned the dog’s fur. Bobby was audibly throwing up in the bathroom. When he came out, he looked at me and said, “We’re taking her to the vet. You can come with us.”
For some reason, I agreed. For three hours, we sat in mostly silence in the waiting room of the vet clinic. Bobby and his roommate fought with the receptionist about the payment. I stared at my phone and tried to make conversation, still on a first date in a vet’s office with a strange Kentucky hairstylist from Grindr and his lesbian roommate on a major holiday.
Eventually, we drove back to the house. The clock struck midnight during the drive, and nobody spoke or acknowledged the changeover into the New Year. In the driveway, where this had all begun, Bobby asked me if I still wanted to go out to a bar. “Um.” I hesitated so that I could check to make sure I couldn’t leave, right then, and drive home to make last call. I couldn’t. “Yep! Sure do!” I laughed.
We did kiss that night. And I spent the night. After a few weeks of traveling to and from Lexington, I started becoming used to the dynamics of sleeping in bed next to an injured dog. And the long drives there. And dating someone who looked kind of like me. It was the worst date I’ve ever been on in my life. But I guess nobody reads stories expecting a happy beginning.