Puppyelectric by Cori Bratby-Rudd

Editor Daniel Elder, Editor's Choice, August 21st, 2019

"I couldn’t love you more if I had birthed you."

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Personal Essay by Cori Bratby-Rudd

+++

I want Indian food, urgently, intensely, the cream of the tikka masala, the flaked fluffed naan, and so I order it because I remember desperation and I refuse to feel it again. I don’t just order it, I order it delivered and I feel something like royalty, for wanting something and then for having it. Strange to want and then get, as though desires can actually happen for someone like me.

 

I remember weighing less than I did in middle school. I remember hunger, the kind that aches, the kind where you can’t even remember your stomach hurts because it’s eating itself, the kind where you cannot remember anything at all.

 

When I want food now, I give it to myself. Indulge for the years of not indulging.

 

Three weeks ago, I wanted a dog and so I got one. I wanted a dog and now, as I wait for my food delivery to arrive, I sit and watch as Viva develops this strange mouth twitch, like a coke addict coming down, jaw opening and closing, eyes staring at me without seeing anything at all, drool on her chin. I hold her and think, “This looks like some sort of weird face-only seizure.” Then, twenty minutes later, she shakes again. Then again. Then again.

 

The next day: twenty-eight seizures and counting. One full body. A two-pound little thing in electric shock. I mourn for her focal mouth slant shaking drool. I mourn for her health. My wants change as I change over the day. Over the hour. Today I want my dog to stand without falling, today I want to know she is not in pain. Shit and coccidia on the bed, in my hair. This is being a parent. This: hugging, clutching a little being as their bladder empties and then not moving away—instead squeezing tighter as the piss soaks my pajamas. I want. I want. I want her to live. This week I have learned about the violent ways a body shakes, about the way to put cold water under armpits, about comforting when I feel deeply afraid.

 

Today, I am not hungry. There is leftover Indian food in the fridge and my baby on Valium next to my thigh. I check for breath, my hand on her pink stomach, her movement a small hope: maybe that was the last one.

 

As a baby, I too had a seizure. My mother watched as my baby arms, my baby legs twitch-jerked in an inhuman spasm. My mother held me. My mother froze. Shaking baby in frozen arms. Some stranger took the baby, took me, throwing me in a tub of ice. My mother’s frozen arms still outstretched, from a baby in motion, a mother, a mother terrified.

 

I lived, so maybe Viva will too.

 

If I step outside the moment of the seizure, I watch my body circling, caving this flailing thing, my thing. Examine my other dog licking himself on our gray beanbag chair, unaware, playing with my lost hair tie. Examine my wife, sleeping in the other room, as it is my shift. Zooming out, zooming out there is someone at a Whole Foods stuffing two slices of cheese pizza into the single slice boxes, getting a shoplifted two-for-one deal. Someone somewhere is delivering Sparkletts water, up the third flight of no-elevator stairs. Someone else somewhere else is petting a healthy puppy, a puppy that will grow old. A puppy she will yell at for scratching her.

 

I wish my puppy would scratch me. Please get off the bed and eat something, play, scratch me!

 

Just now Diana came out and put my hand on her boob and asked, “Want to have sex?” and I just felt like tapping tapping tapping my foot. I wonder, how does one have sex with a seizured dog? With a dog who could seizure at any moment? Someone somewhere is having sex with their girlfriend and neither of them even know the definition of epilepsy.

 

Back here, Viva and I on the red couch, rocking, rocking. Isn’t it funny, that we named her Viva? Isn’t it funny that we named her life?

 

If I take a moment to see what is happening, step outside of my cooing voice, my hands begin to shake.

 

Did you know, epilepsy would be a gift at this point? Did you know the definition of a cluster seizure? Did you know my puppy is going to die?

 

I want to know if vets can do autopsies on dogs. I want to know why. I want it to stop. I want something to blame.

 

She is not dead yet. The internet says to give hope and remind her she is loved and so we take her for a walk for the first time. For the first time. As in, she was too young to even go for walks. We try to reframe our thinking: we named her Viva because she is going to live.

 

In the kitchen, Diana grills chicken, wearing only an apron, trying to get Viva to eat something, anything. I am sulking, still in bed, the covers to my neck as Diana reminds me, “She has to know that life is worth living.” I hear the spray of the olive oil on the stovetop and our dog’s head does not lift, but her chest still rises. I get up, slug into the kitchen, I reheat naan and tikka masala, I drink my fifth my sixth glass of wine. I want to throw the bottle at the wall. I want to throw something. I want to squeeze the glass so hard that it shatters, shards in my palm, bits that clatter on the floor, the sweet sound of foreseen disaster.

 

Another seizure.

 

Did you know, today I fed my dog water through a syringe and I felt cruel not because I pried her open as she cried but because I was preventing her from dying. Because I was extending her painful life another day. Another fifteen convulsions.

 

When I sleep, even my dreams are seizures. There is no such thing as distraction.

 

When it is my break, I try to masturbate and just as I am about to cum the vibrator dies and I once again want to throw something, anything. I remind myself, how silly, if there is one thing I have learned thus far it’s that electricity betrays us here.

 

We have taken to alternative healing measures. Specifically, we have placed 17 assorted crystals and a lavender essential oil diffuser around Viva’s bean bag chair. We have also created an altar, complete with a healing candle from the House of Intuition. We are considering taking her to acupuncture.

 

Another seizure. One minute, thirty-four seconds, focal.

 

I have begun to forget what her personality used to be like, before the sleeping and the seizures. I decide to watch old videos of her to jog my memory. I want to remember her as she is, not as in how she is sick. Cuddler, she was the cuddler, remember? She couldn’t get up on the couch by herself so we set up a system of pillows, like a dog ladder. She was the one who I bought a green collar for because I refused to let Diana gender her. She was the one who liked to sleep on top of my head, in the crease of my neck.  She was the one who cried when left alone.

 

I love her the way my mother once told me, “I couldn’t love you more if I had birthed you.” I love her the way a child loves an older sibling. I love her like someone who buys a large-ass portrait of their pet and hangs it confidently, centerfold on the wall. I love her the way you fall for someone who reminded you to love again. I love her the way any non-psychopath loves a thirteen week old puppy.

 

Another seizure. Twenty-three seconds, focal.

 

Does she know who I am? When my grandfather was dying of Alzheimer’s he used to keep little namecards in his pocket. A picture of me with my name on the back. My grandfather forgot who I was. As I hold Viva, I wonder if she has forgotten me too.

 

Another seizure. Forty-seven seconds, full body. Involuntary urination.

 

I have lost hope this seizure will be the last one. Isn’t it strange to think that a little brain damage is the best-case scenario?

 

Another seizure. Twelve seconds, focal.

 

Have you ever heard a puppy scream?

 

Another seizure. Thirty-three seconds, focal. Shot of valium.

 

At what age is death cruel? At what point is living cruel?

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

A call from the vet: unless you want to pay thousands of dollars, we will need to put her down by end of day.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

 

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

Another seizure.

 

A 14-week-old puppy, motionless. No more seizures. No more anything.

+++

Header image courtesy of Aleah Chapin. To view her artist feature, go here.

Cori Bratby-Rudd is a queer LA-based writer and co-founder of Influx Collectiv(e)’s Queer Poetry Reading Series. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts. She has been published in Ms. Magazine, The Gordian Review, Califragile, PANK Magazine, Entropy, Crab Fat Magazine, among others. She won the Editorial Choice Award for her research paper in Audeamus Academic Journal and was nominated as one of Lambda Literary’s 2018 Emerging Writers. Her manuscript Dis/owned is a semi-finalist for YesYes Book’s 2019 Pamet River Prize. You can find her at coribratbyrudd.com.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Daniel Elder

Daniel Elder is a New York City native who now calls Portland home. He is the author of a self-published collection of essays and is currently revising a novella. He lives in an attic with his cat, Terence.