I pace the house looking for the dog by Tayler Hanxi Bunge

I pace the house looking for the dog, the ghost of the dog, the ghost of someone. The mother and dynasty and mausoleum I carry inside me. Something. It feels here but not, a muted anticipation, a phantom limb, when you brush the wall in the dark to hit the light switch you’ve struck a thousand times but miss it this once, miss it somehow. The clumsy overshoot, the half-lives of half seconds of falling.

An election. A cold slice of pizza. A boyfriend, sometimes. A housemate. 

The animals in the vents, the animals in the floorboards he didn’t believe were there until he heard them. The animals in the vents that I smell and hear. Hairs vacuumed out. My own hairs on the bathroom floor, a crisp white tile collecting bundles of my shedding black hair, vacuumed up. 

A visiting friend, the security monitor. The TV is muted in the background.

“How do I hurt myself?” How do you hurt yourself? “What do I project on him?” What do you project?

A try, a need to love myself. A try, a fear to love myself. That wall is cracking. Did I make that? 

A try to stop wanting so much. A try to stop living so much.

I pace the house looking for a friend or a phone line, stand at the kitchen counter stand at the standing desk stand at the bathroom sink stand on the porch watch the drip dripping down the pipeline gutter drainpipe. 

Leaves overflow where the mosquitos grow but none this time of year.

The confusion I carry inside me, the aching loss of a season I never knew and a language I never spoke. Did I once speak it? The old tongues I carry inside me. 

Was that there yesterday? That dent in the door. 

I plug in screen one and screen two and screen three for the music and screen four for the texts and screen five for the at-home yoga. The at-home yoga that I finish, I finish entire classes, every time. I do. 

The woman dropping the mail in the box, I’d like her to be my friend. I aspirationally would imagine we’d have a relationship over the fence but she’s masked, she’s in glasses, she doesn’t see me and really I don’t try anyway.

“Remember you are someone besides what you do.” What you do? What do I do?

The TV is muted in the background. It’s Christmas music but I’m on a call.

A full fridge, an empty fridge, a sink of dirty dishes.

More orders in. Leave the bag at the door, don’t knock – you knocked. Okay, we’re all adjusting. Remember when we would see each other’s mouths?

No mouths these days. I pace the house looking for my mouth. I haven’t heard myself speaking to another human being in years. Or just days? We talk, but not really talk. And work, of course, we talk, but not really talk.

Don’t you miss the sound of your own ideas? The sound of yourself listening to a stranger?

I miss it. I pace. I’m looking for a signal I exist, all I see is the TV looping the episode of, well, the new one. The new thing. Episode 8? 

The sixth screen, the one for watching myself watching myself watching myselves and you and yours. Hello. Sorry I was running late. Back to back. To the extent by which we can. Take care. Next steps? Have yours, send a recap. Bye for now.

The hole is there again – whose is it? Not mine, not his. Do we have a guest? 

The animals seem louder now. Screechier. Maybe they’re cold. I’d invite them in but he hates cats. What if they weren’t cats?  

The seventh screen, the one to keep the door from the outside to keep the cats from the inside.

I feel it again, occasionally, the yearning hole that ties itself in knots from brain stem to small intestine. It’s the premature regret for a life that I can’t focus on actually being in. Every day feels like nostalgia for a second from now.

“How do you hurt yourself?”

Feeling manic, remembering to text my dad back. Remembering to text my friend back. Remembering to turn on my laptop. Remembering the cradle in the park in the backyard and to probably sweep up the leaves on the porch and hang the lights on the trees, remembering the trees are rooted into the ground, they can’t fall on me. 

Remembering they can’t fall on me.

They can’t fall on me. Remembering. I pace the house remembering.

Tayler Hanxi Bunge is a queer, adopted Chinese-American writer with work that’s appeared in McSweeney’s, Tenderness Lit, CNMN Mag, Ghost City Review, and others. She has an English & Philosophy degree from Regis University in Denver. She lives in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.