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I Heard A Voice And Said, “I Care” And That’s Enough To Let Me Sleep Tonight

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Natalie Allen

I heard him drunk, I hear him drunk most nights. I am often sad for him. He is often drunk and angry. Yelling about life. But tonight I hear the shrieking of his small dog. She cries and cries and cries as if she is maybe dying.

I am sitting by the fire at 11PM, hovering over the hot glow of embers and the shrieks snap me out of it.

I run to the street to see her, swearing a little as it sounded as if he kicked her.

It is dark and I just see her run quickly under the porch.

Then he starts weeping. He cries and cries and cries and cries.

I feel the shame and hurt and anger of his entire life in his cries.

He cries on the street and on the porch, I hear it in different rooms of his house.

I am frozen, listening.

Suddenly a car starts and he drives away, I wonder if he is driving drunk and I get angry.

I used to call the cops on every single person I served at Joey Tomatoes who would leave tipsy or drunk. Running out onto the street, furious, scribbling down their license plates. People who drive drunk are inconsiderate assholes.

I didn’t see anything, but there is a story in my head — he’s miserable, he kicked the dog and then cried because he felt terrible.

What to do?

I woke in the morning and contacted a few people I trust and one said, “If you know him, approach him. But if he’s a drunk he carries a lot of shame, so be careful to do it from a place of concern, rather than blame.”

My Buddhist landlord said, “Helping him will help the dog. Have concern for him, too.”

This fiery part of me went, “Fuck him. He’s a drunk. People save themselves. I’m not concerned for him, but animal abuse is not okay and they don’t have a voice and I’ll be that voice today.”

And then I softened a little and drank a tea with my landlord at my table and decided to just go.

I walked over in brown sneakers and a striped sweater.

I am a little afraid. Afraid the wrath and anger will fall upon me. Afraid I won’t say it right, or with grace and he will hear the story in my head.

He was watching TV, the light flickering in his house. His driveway was dark.

I yell his name up from the bottom of the stairs.

We’ve met once.

He walks out tentatively, “Hello?”

“Hey, John. It’s Janne. I live across the way. Hey, last night I was having a fire on my patio and heard your little dog crying, and then I heard you crying and I was feeling concerned for her and for you. Are you both okay?”

He drops his head a little and says, “She got run over by a car last night. My neighbour was playing with her in the driveway and she ran out. I don’t think the car even noticed she’s so small. I rushed her into the emergency, she’s not doing so great but I don’t think she will croak. She’s just such a wee thing.”

And this struggle in my chest — the story I’ve created, the story that I’m hearing, and a gut and a human I don’t know.

I let out a light, “Oh, fuck, John — I’m so sorry.”

We continue to talk and he thanks me for the concern and says once she’s well he will bring her over to say hi.

And I walk slowly back to my house, relief at having the conversation and confliction on whether his words are true.

I suppose I won’t know.

I’d like to believe that it is true.

I suppose if it isn’t, he knows that I know. And that there are ears, listening. And if it were to happen again, animal abuse would be called in a heart beat.

And then I wonder if I’m mad, for assuming, or if I have the gut of superwoman and it’s my intuitive spider senses on steroids.

I drink a cup of peppermint tea with my landlord and suppose I won’t know, but I do know that I didn’t just shut my doors and ignore him, and that I heard a voice and said, “I care” and that’s enough to let me sleep tonight. TC mark

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