(image by George Foster)
A Dog, My Own Country
These are the things that have been on my mind, that I’m sharing with you.
Well I was sitting out the front of the drop-in place, next to a woman with brown skin who told me she was born in the sixties, but her skin told me she was young. “I feel like I’m a hundred” she said. At one point in the night, in between sitting there, saying smiling hellos to the regular men, meeting a dog called Bandit and everything else, a man came up who was coming down on speed and hit her in the face. I stood up. I stood up in front of her like a dog by its dad, but not in time to stop what I didn’t know was going to happen.
“It’s just a flea bite” she said. I touched her arm as I stood there, a little bit dumbly, a little bit useful, like we all are I guess, but mainly dumbly. Her friend, sitting, leaning against the bin, reminded me of you. She was quite quiet, and just using her energy sparingly. She was coming down too.
A little bit later the woman told me “I’m a dog in my own country. I never sleep. I haven’t had a proper sleep in four days. Other people are sleeping in five star beds in my country. I’m a dog sleeping in the street.” “It’s not right,” I said to her. The words going in my mind though were, “What do you want me to do?” But if she asked me to give her my bed, would I? Maybe I even would. We are all the same, but we haven’t all had the same time. Inside the mum even we don’t all have the same time. The trees all give us the same air, but what we give each other is different.
A man was there in his car too, where he sleeps with his dog, Bandit. I met Bandit. He was a big orange dog and let me pat him all over, and let me put my face near his body, and shuffled his hips between my legs, with his face toward the street and his dad and his car. At some time two ladies came up. One with a walker and soft face skin and hard hand skin and piercings in her lip and her cheeks and her nose. And one with the familiar eyes of a blind person. I had a blind friend in paris and I went to her piano concert with all the blind friends. They all swayed when they played. She was from the countryside so she kissed everyone four times each on the cheeks, even a room of many many people. She was delicate, and this blind girl was delicate.
“Don’t let the dog near her”, her pierced friend said. “He’s gentle” the car man said. “She’s got a phobia” the pierced friend said. “I want to pat the dog” the blind girl said.
The man had probably been in prison, from his tattoos and from his car, and from his missing ear and teeth, but he rescued Bandit’s parents from people who were mistreating them. Shooting alcohol into the leg of the dog. He couldn’t stand it. So he took the dog and another dog who was left in a box for days. And together they got together and made Bandit.
The blind girl stood with one hand on her friend’s walker and one hand in the car man’s hand and Bandit came gently up to her, and then she touched him.
Someone inside was playing a guitar. He played many things but the only things I remember are ‘Dueling Banjos’ and ‘The House of the Rising Sun’. It’s not normally like this. Normally people just come and talk. But this night it was dogs galore, guitars, hitting, come downs.
The woman born in the sixties sat next to me after being hit and said again “It’s just a flea bite”, but tears welled up in my eyes. They were tears for her, tears for me, tears for the world, tears for the unfairness of all of this. I don’t pity her, I’m just sad for our world. And I don’t pity the blind girl or bandit, I’m just happy for our world to have dogs in it. I know we are all the same.
When I listened to the news reports of war and rumours of war, I just kept thinking, why not just have dogs and guitars instead of guns. I know it’s naive, but it’s also completely reasonable and would work. Everyone was patting Bandit. Everyone was talking about their pets, and while they did so they had genuine happiness on their faces. And when they were singing inside – happiness. If you have one hand on a puppy, and one hand on the arm of your friend who is playing the guitar, you have no hands left for hitting.
This is a simple thing, how to solve world peace. The harder thing is how to make it so that that woman is not a dog in her own country. That one I need someone else to tell me the answer to.
I also watched some music. Silver Hills was my favourite, Mark’s hair swinging in the wind and me looking at all the shapes of the faces of everyone in his band. When they played a cover of a classic Australian song at first I thought “Just play your songs,” but then when everyone was singing along I completely changed my mind.