Her puke hits the ground and splatters my shoes. As it does, I look to the sky and exhale. There are many things in this life that I can’t abide, and puke is right at the top of the list. Spiders are on there, and wasps, not to mention my fear of deep water and fungal infections. Dirty nappies—they’re on there as well—along with the fear of being beheaded followed by the sight of my insides. Not that I’ve ever seen my insides, but I’ve seen enough disembowelling videos on the internet to know I don’t ever want to. I prefer to think of myself as hollow—like a white chocolate bunny, or a cheap plastic toy you find on a dreary market in the underbelly of your hometown. I haven’t been to a market in years, but when I was a kid, such toys could be found there in abundance. I’m sure the world has moved on since then, and yet in my mind, I can see such a place almost as if it were still a real and tangible thing.
“I feel much better now,” she groans while wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
Tugging on me as I grimace at the sight of my shoes, she wipes her hand on my shirt before wrapping her arms around my waist and burying her head into my belly. She often tells me one of her favourite things about me is my belly. It’s soft and squishy, she says, and perfect to rest her head upon.
“I’m sorry about your shoes.”
Looking down at her, and then at my feet, I lift my gaze to the abandoned hairdressers across the road from us. In one of the boarded-up windows, someone is watching me through a gap between two rotten planks of wood. I can’t see their features, although I can make out the outlines of their body, and how it moves back and forth like a pendulum.
“Do you hate me?” she asks, uneasy at my silence.
Her voice is muffled. Sleepy. Groggy. Behind us, Hachikō is watching me for my reaction. He’s seen the puke, and although I know he’s desperate to give it a sniff and a lick, he knows such a thing would bring about a disastrous reaction from Meeko. He’s only known her a few hours, but already he’s got her mood swings sussed out. Has it really only been a matter of hours since I coaxed him into our apartment? Feels much longer. Like a week, at least. Time playing tricks on my mind again. Looking at the shadowy outline observing me from across the road, it continues to steadily sway with the uncanny precision of a clock. Reminds me of the old antique clock in my grandmother’s house, and how whenever I visited as a child, I would spend hour after hour gazing at it as it moved on the wall above my fair head. It hypnotised me in a way nothing else did or has ever done since.
“Is it because I got sick on your shoes?”
Running my fingers through the curls of her hair, she looks at me all bleary-eyed like she’s hungover.
“No, I don’t hate you. Do you hate Hachikō?” I ask.
“No, never. Even if his shit did make me puke.”
Turning to the dog, I kiss my teeth at him.
“You see, she doesn’t hate you, not really.”
Wagging his tail, he takes it as a sign to approach, but when he moves to the pile of glistening vomit, I frown and shake my head.
“Let’s get something to eat.”
“Ooh,” she croaks, “I want donuts!”
“Then donuts it shall be,” I say with a smile.
When I glance at the boarded-up window, the figure has gone, although time continues to tick-tock along, and the more I try not to think about it, the louder I hear the crashing of every second as they shatter against the jagged rocks of nonexistence.