Arriving in a Thick Fog

I was in a top-floor unit of a fifteen-storey apartment building with a view of nothing but identical apartment buildings, sitting on a living-room sofa with a Maltese puppy on my lap, folding and unfolding its left ear repeatedly, the dog gazing up at me expressionlessly as I gazed back at it. Before being on my lap, the dog had been lying on its stomach on the living room floor. The dog had not ended up on my lap of its own volition, because it was still too young to get up on the sofa without someone’s help. From the sofa, I had half-heartedly picked up the dog and placed it on my lap, gazed down at it for a moment and, as if I had suddenly thought of origami, I had begun folding and unfolding its ear, like I was doing origami. 

I enjoyed thinking this and that about dogs and, once in a while, when I thought too much of this and that about dogs, it felt as though, in my head, I was raising a bunch of small and large dogs that were fierce, shrill, loud, distracting, or funny, but I did not especially love or hate dogs in reality, and this was true of other kinds of pets, and almost everything else. I have little interest in the things many people take great interest in, such as a dog’s appearance, poise, habits, and temperament, or in anything else that one might find interesting about a dog, but I take every opportunity to fold and unfold a dog’s ears. I have folded and unfolded the ears of many dogs, but I cannot say that I especially like doing so, and it is difficult to say that folding and unfolding dog ears is a kind of hobby for me, because I do not fold and unfold dog ears as a hobby. Still, I know which dog’s ears fold easily and stay folded, and which dog’s ears do not fold easily and unfold as soon as they are folded. Among the dogs whose ears fold easily and stay folded, there are some dogs whose ears stop folding easily or staying folded once they reach maturity. 

A little bit later, the owner of the dog and the apartment walked out of the kitchen as if appearing on stage, carrying tea, apple slices, and dog treats, and sat on the living room floor. I put the puppy down on the floor, and the puppy began eating the treats in the bowl, but it did not appear to be enjoying them very much. Rather, its eyes were fixed covetously on the apple slices. The plate of apple slices was placed equidistantly from the three of us, but it was not clear if the apple slices were to be shared with the dog. I sipped the tea, which had almost no taste. It was the kind of tea that does not acquire complexity with age, and in fact loses its aroma with age. It was some kind of floral tea, but its original taste had all but dissipated, and whatever little taste was left in it was not enough for one to even guess what kind of tea it had been to begin with. I did not seem to be alone in feeling that way. I took a sip and did not drink any more, but she did not even take a sip. I was not in a position to complain about the tastelessness of the tea, because I was the one who had given it to her. Even though I did not complain to her face, I could complain in my head, so I complained freely in my head. It was not like I had given her tea that had already lost its aroma, so she was ultimately at fault for setting out tea that she was not even going to drink herself. 

She gave the dog an apple slice, which it savoured. The moment I thought, Oh, the apple slices are for the dog, she ate a slice too, as she offered a second slice to the dog, as if to prove me wrong. Strangely, even though they were within my reach, I did not dare touch the apple slices. The apple slices on the plate had come from not two, but one apple, cut into six slices, which she and the dog shared equally, three slices each. As a result, I never got any apple slices. Looking at the plate that had been picked clean, I felt as though there had never been any apple slices for me, that I had hallucinated an apple-shaped something on the empty plate, and that the hallucination of six geometric pieces had vanished into thin air. In the end, I was relieved that I had not touched the apple slices that I dared not touch and, feeling slightly embarrassed, I stayed on the couch, placed the Maltese, which had finished off the apple slices, back on my lap, and resumed folding and unfolding its ear. 

She and I sat in awkward silence. but I was unsure whether the awkward-ness stemmed from a story I had told. She had responded coldly, and I could see, having told the story, that the story deserved a cold response, and that even I might have responded coldly to my own story. I wanted to say something, but I could not think of anything appropriate. No words seemed appropriate, and there seemed to be nothing I could say. I had so little to say, and I felt as though I could go on and on about that very topic but did not know how to begin. She had not invited me over to her apartment, but I had come anyway, without knowing why, and even though I had thought I should leave as soon as I arrived, I continued not leaving, the reason for which was also unclear, though I was vaguely thinking that there was nowhere else to go. 


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