Will that incessant barking ever end??? It has been going on for hours. My head is pounding and I can barely think. My big psychology exam is in just two short hours and I am dreadfully unprepared.
Frustrated, I slam my book shut and storm over to the window to investigate.
Yep, he’s still out there.
The culprit is my neighbor Sam’s dog. For some reason, he is tethered to the stairwell. Clearly, the dog is not happy about the situation. The barking is now being replaced by mournful wailing.
I should go knock on Sam’s apartment door and tell him to get that mangy mutt back inside, but I don’t. I cannot afford to get waylaid into an hour long conversation. Sam is one of those neighbors who is just a little too needy. He’s always hanging around outside walking that dog of his. If I give him so much as a “Hey bro,” I’m stuck out there for half the day. I feel bad for him, I really do. I am probably his closest friend in the building. Just the other day he was angling for an invitation to come watch the Superbowl on my big screen. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to invite him. It would have been too awkward. Plus, he would have insisted on bringing the dog. A dog is the last thing I need in my apartment.
Swinging my backpack over my shoulder, I leave for my exam. On the way to my car, I pass Sam’s dog moping by the stairwell. His chin is resting on the edge of his water bowl. He looks up at me with pleading eyes.
“Hey, don’t look at me. I’m not the one who stuck you out here,” I retort. “What did you do anyway to deserve solitary confinement? Pee on the carpet or something?”
Great. Now Sam’s got me talking to the mutt. I wonder what my pscyh. professor would think. He would probably have a field day. I shake my head and walk on to my car, trying to dredge up facts about behavior modification as I go. The dog gives me one last bark for good measure.
My exam goes as well as can be expected. I do not think I failed, but there was definitely room for improvement. This seems to be the story of my academic career. On my way back home, I promise God that I will do better. I will start taking school more seriously and stop putting off my studies until the last minute.
It is not until I turn into the parking lot of my building that I notice the flashing lights. Their red and blue beams sweep in rhythmic circles, casting an eerie glow on my home. Paramedics and police officers move about with grim faces.
A knot has firmly formed in the pit of my stomach by the time I get one of the officer’s attention.
“What’s going on?” I inquire, although I am not sure I really want to know.
The policeman replies, but I notice he does not meet my gaze. “Who are you, son?”
“I live here. In apartment 206.”
“Do you know the gentleman in number 204?”
Guilt begins to cover me like a shroud when I respond, “Yes, sir. We are friends.”
Now the officer looks me straight in the face and slowly shakes his head. “I’m sorry, son. Your friend committed suicide this morning. He hung himself.”
I slink to the ground because I cannot stand under the heavy weight of my regret. The policeman pats me on the shoulder and goes back to his solemn work.
Suicide??? Oh, God. How can this be happening? I feel like I am going to be sick. There were so many times I could have reached out to Sam and just didn’t. I knew he was a misfit, but I had no idea he was so alone. I would give anything to go back and change things. If only there were something I could do that would have made a difference in the end.
I sit there on the curb with my head in my hands for what seems like an eternity. Then, I finally notice Sam’s dog still tied to the stairwell. Slowly, I rise up and walk over to the woeful creature. I carefully unwind the smooth leather leash from the railing.
“Come on, boy. Let’s go home,” I whisper as we make our way to my apartment.
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