To the dead dog suitcase inventor

By Zachary Fischer

To the person who invented the story about the dead dog in a suitcase on a New York City subway,

Life
Life

I first would like to say “Congratulations” on crafting a piece so perfectly on the fence that it changes its listener’s ideas about what is possible and impossible. There are currently thousands of English undergrads around the country playing painfully with the idea of “creative non-fiction” and all of the silliness that entails as an art form, and you blew all of them out of the water with your tact and anonymity.

Everybody’s heard about the girl house sitting for a friend in Brooklyn, usually visiting the city for the first time from the Midwest. She has the time of her life, romping through Williamsburg, having enticing coffee shop flings and the like. Then, inevitably, the scariest and most-expected tragedy occurs. The family’s golden retriever dies suddenly (whether from illness, choking on an oversized bone, or getting into the girl’s chocolate is never really asked) and she’s left with the unfortunate responsibility of telling the family and bringing the corpse to the vet/incineration chamber.

 The family takes the news well, but she still has to find some way of bringing an 80-pound dog to Manhattan. Since she’s visiting, she has no other real option than to put the dog in her suitcase and take the subway – which she does with hesitant disdain but resolve. After dragging the dog three blocks to the nearest subway, she gets on the J-train with no little amount of anxiety.

A few stops in, she is asked by a young man about the contents of her suitcase. Not about to give away her awkward secret, she tells him she is just moving into the city and has in the suitcase everything she owns. Any New Yorker knows this is a bad idea, but she’s from out of town and isn’t as familiar with the enterprising nature of New Yorkers.

She is therefore surprised when the train stops and the man punches her in the face, stealing the bag and all of its contents in a rush to run from the subway car. The girl, after her head stops spinning, is relieved and confused.

One can imagine she was planning on buying a new suitcase anyway.

Not many people can admit to being underwhelmed by sharing their clothing space with a dead dog.

This story was first told to me by an ex-girlfriend on New Years, about a friend of a friend from Madison, Wis. I tend to be a skeptic, but the detail and just-ludicrous-enough aspects of the story suspended my disbelief. I am the kind of person who lacks all tact and is energized by conversation, so I told the story at every opportunity I had.

It was always met with the same enthusiastic incredulity. Everyone was charmed by it, and whether they believed it or not, were at least interested. This went on for some months (maybe years?) until the story was told back to me for the first time.

Maybe your story was a real story once, but unlike James Frey, you can’t be looked up, and your story only ever seems to be spread by rational people. Maybe that means, at its very base, the story is true.

But I cannot express the heartbreak I felt that faithful day I told your story and had a friend (who has never even visited New York City) from Massachusetts tell me his brother had told him the same story months before. We had no names to compare or even landmarks in common. I think his brother had told him she’d been coming from the Bronx. This was amazingly disappointing for me.

I had internalized your story as a hopeful piece of reality, a kernel of absurdity, among the thousands of impossibly boring kernels that already exist in the realm of real thinking. Like others of my generation, I spend most of my time on the Internet, reading, or in a dream world, where I can conceive of everything society’s left my imagination. The world of pretend is great place to hang out, but it gets immensely lonely and removed. Its existence almost proves that reality cannot be as pretty and free, and therefore – unless you’re locked in emotionally with another person – you cannot escape to the fields of impossibility with a guest.

So, your story was a way for perfect strangers and I to embark on a journey through the absurd, a tale of justice and cosmic meaning that so often is forgotten in the average, skeptical and angrily post-miraculous existence of the Peter Pan generation. To learn that, in fact, your story is just another piece of fiction that lets us escape our own realities, is immensely disappointing and serves only to remind me how grey, jobless, and structured my own reality is. Thanks.

 If, however, you happen to be the girl this happened to, please write me back. You will have reinvigorated my faith in the absurd – or at least temporarily suspended my disbelief in the inane.

Sincerely,

Zach

 Zachary Fischer is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]