It was 9:30 am, and I stood in the hallway next to the breakroom, clutching a paper cup of instant coffee, listening to my coworker tell me about his new pet dog. He told me about how he and his wife had spent weeks discussing it, weighing the pros and cons, and finally decided in a moment of triumph to go and adopt a dog. They needed a small dog, because a large dog would be too cramped in their small apartment, even though it was just him and his wife, no kids. They chose a small breed, that was obedient, and quiet. They were ecstatic. He spent hours over the weekend playing with the new dog, training him, taking him to the dog park. But then he discovered his wife had allergies. This dog was a long haired breed and shed frequently, triggering her insufferable symptoms. So with a shattered heart he had to return to the shelter, and give the dog back. They picked another one out, one that his wife could live with. And that was the highlight of several weeks of his life, outside of work.
I smiled and sipped my shitty coffee.
There was no way he could see that I was reeling with existential horror from listening to his story. He couldn’t see the lines my mind was drawing, between the dog and him. Who was the more domesticated one? Who was neutered? I couldn’t get past how he had created such a fragile world for himself, a paper castle made with the tissue thin walls of comfort. The apartment, the wife, the job, the khakis, just towers in his castle of tissue paper. And this dog, this dog was his message that he accepted it all. He relegated himself to the symphony of silence.
My parents once apologized to me, for not leaving me a lot of money like some of my friends’ parents did. But that’s not a problem. If I had nothing, then I could do anything. But I have just enough in life. I had gotten an education, and worked and saved up a little money. Enough to where it would be stupid to risk it all. It would be stupid to risk getting anything on my rap sheet, it would be stupid to quit a job before getting another one. It would be stupid to not invest in a 401k, and stupid to not invest in property. I have just enough, so that my fate is dictated by it-would-be-stupid-not-to’s.
It’s like drawing a sixteen in a game of blackjack. You know the book. You know the statistics. You know sixteen isn’t likely to beat the dealer, but you also know that asking for another card could very well mean the game ends, and you lose it all.
So what do you do? Do you stay, or do you hit? Do you count it as a loss anyways, give the rest of your chips to the waitress as a tip, and walk out the door?
I slurped my coffee a little too loudly. My coworker was still talking. He said something about the dog. I nodded, and told him it was good to see him again, and walked back to my desk. As I began typing again, my necktie began to feel a lot like a leash.