I lived with some very bad people for a short while. In a way, they still live with me. In that place I drift to right before I fall asleep.
Last night I had a vivid recollection of a dog named Charlie. Trent and I, sick and depressed, were walking out of our apartment building into the subzero temperatures of what was the worst New Jersey winter in remembrance. It felt like dying. We were dying.
It doesn't matter where we were headed and I can't remember actually. That time is more blurry than anything else. A boy around my age was approaching the building and I felt what I felt everytime I saw a healthy lively looking person my age. I would do anything to be that way again. For a second I would stop and think that maybe this time I'd have the courage to whisper, 'Please help me' or 'Please call the police' or even 'Please call my mom'. But I never did.
A dog came bustling up behind this boy tromping through the snow appearing to have the time of his life. He ran in circles through snow piles formed by the monstrous plows around the circular drive. When called by his master in a pleasant most friendly voice, "Come on boy, come on Charlie, time to go in" Charlie stopped dead in his tracks outside the heavy glass doors as if to say, What are you? Nuts?
He turned his back to his master in a I'm turning a deaf ear to you, dad type way and scampered on over to me. He brushed his snow laden coat of hair across my knees and shins leaving white and shiny powder on my jeans. I bent down to pet his cold, wet fur. "Hello, Charlie. I like you."
I looked up at Trent at that moment and saw color in his usually gray sickly face. He was glowing. And smiling. He then came over and stooped down to be level with Charlie's face and began petting behind his ears and talking to him in a tone he had never directed at me unless he needed money or drugs or motherly comfort. He sounded nice.
Charlie's master came out and probably said something. We probably ignored him other than a quick flash of a smile. That was usually all we could muster those days. I don't know how and I don't know why but we got to talking. I imagine it had to do with something about his not knowing anyone in the building. He gave us his apartment number. I have no idea how I remembered it.
Later that evening Trent was sitting upright against the living room wall looking sad and suicidal and sick as usual.
"I miss Charlie."
"Me too," I responded. "I'm going to go for a walk."
About three minutes later I was standing one floor below mine staring at a door identical to mine except for the number wondering what I would say. It'll come to you, Mouse. I heard Charlie scampering about and then I knocked.
"May I borrow your dog?"
Charlie burst through my door like a dog would burst into a chicken coop. New new new new new new new new new new, he seemed to shout.
After two or three laps around the living room completed in about a second each, he tackled Trent who hadn't even found his feet yet and started lapping at his face. Alex came out to see the commotion and took a place near the other wall to observe and play along with Charlie.
The next twenty minutes with Charlie was the happiest we'd ever be in that apartment. The next twenty minutes with Charlie was the last time we'd ever all smile together again. Once that twenty minutes was all over, we'd all learn soon enough that bottom is much further down than we all thought.
Walking back in after returning Charlie, Trent was sitting in his previous position. Back against the blinding white wall, legs stretched out and crossed directly in front, arms crossed loosely over his lower stomach and waist. He was smiling. And crying.
"Thank you, Mouse. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Trent."