To his credit, Julian noticed that I was depressed in the days following the war, and he got me a pug to make me feel better. I found it sitting on our kitchen counter, dressed in a little coat and hat, staring at me with its bulging eyes. I shuffled towards it, uneasy.
“I know, I know, those eyes!” Julian crowed. “I took the liberty of naming him. He totally needs to be called Buggin.”
“Do you think it’s a good idea for us to get a dog right now?”
He hesitated. “We kind of have to, Blue. I mean, think about it, we don’t have any kids. I don’t have anyone to carry on my family name.”
“Dogs don’t outlive people…”
“In this case, I’m not so sure. I’m so fragile…”
I put the dog in my lap. My political ideals were all but dead, my dreams were never going to happen. My relationship wasn’t working. Would this be my only legacy—a pet animal in costume? What was I giving this world?
Buggin stuck his tongue out and rolled onto his back.
“Oh, he likes you!” Julian said. “Quick, scratch his belly!”
I scratched the upturned belly with difficulty, my fingers stumbling on the many fat folds. Buggin appeared to be pleased.
“Don’t you think when he smiles he looks at least a little like me?” Julian asked.
I figured I would be able to ignore Buggin most of the time. Later that afternoon, I felt a sharp pain in my leg. Buggin was biting into my calf.
“I think he’s trying to suck my blood, Julian,” I said.
“He might just need you to feed him,” Julian advised.
“Oh, right,” I muttered. “Food.” I gave Buggin rice and beans, and watched him from my chair as he ate.
“He is almost like a real child—trying to suck my life essence away,” I thought.
When he was done eating, he stuck his tongue out at me.
“He’s just way too cute! You can’t be mad at that face,” Julian said.
That weekend, I decided it was time to introduce Buggin Williams to the rest of his family. I wrapped him in a blanket and took him on a trip back home with me.
“Look who I brought!” I said. Mother and RedGirl bent their heads over the swaddling clothes. Buggin’s wrinkled face peered out.
“He’s beautiful!” Mother said.
“Well, it’s good that you’ve got *something* to spend your time on,” my sister observed, strolling off to the TV.
I followed her, handing Buggin off to Mother.
“I know I don’t have the kind of traditional family you think I should,” I snarked.
My sister’s eyes were focused on the TV screen, but her face was drawn. “For me, this isn’t just some game. If Paul was still alive, maybe I could have a real baby.”
I sat down on the sofa, not sure what to say to her. The thought of being pregnant had always filled me with terror.
When I got home I gave Buggin an extra long belly rub and let him sleep in bed with me. He curled up on my chest, his body heavy, his claws skidding over my skin and a broad fold of a smile on his face.
“I want custody of Buggin,” Julian told me a few weeks later.
“Why?” I thought things had been going much better. Except for him sleeping in the bed, Buggin and I had fallen into a peaceful routine of indifference to each other.
“You’re not very good at fulfilling your basic responsibilities. Buggin has to bite you to get fed.”
“I’ve never seen you even try to feed him.”
“Isn’t that something the Mama’s supposed to do?”
“I’m not a Mama!” I snarled. “He’s a dog.”
“Still, I bet he likes me better,” Julian said.
“Why would you think that?” I felt weirdly worried.
Julian wiggled his fingers at Buggin. “Buggie Bugs! Tell us, Buggin, who do you love more?”
“Hey there, Buggin,” I called out, a bit shakily. “You like me, don’t you?”
Buggin didn’t react. He sat looking out into space, his eyes impassive and his belly sticking out. He probably wasn’t hungry just then.
“I don’t think he likes either one of us,” I said.
“But you’re our baby! Here, Buggin, come!” Julian knelt down and stretched his arms out to him.
I couldn’t bear to watch this any longer. “I hate to say this, but we might want to think about adopting out.”
It was plain to see that RedGirl was dying to tell me all about the sanctity of motherhood, but she made the wise choice and smiled at Buggin instead. He wagged his tail slightly.
“He’s not very expressive,” I said.
“Of course not,” she chided me. “He’s just a baby.” She picked him up. “It’ll be nice to have something to cuddle with,” she said.
“I’m glad to help.” I was happy for her. And I was happy for myself—I wouldn’t have to feel guilty anymore about not wanting to cuddle.
After she left with Buggin, I found Julian moping in the bedroom.
“We just never managed to win him over…. We couldn’t win a dog over,” he repeated. “What’s wrong with us?”
I flopped down on the bed. “I thought when we got together you agreed that you didn’t want kids. You don’t want to have kids, right?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It doesn’t matter. It’s too late. I don’t think we’re capable of raising children anymore.”
I rolled over and away from him, pressing my face into a pillow. I wanted, more than anything, to go back to sleep.