This was our third straight day of waiting on hold from Expedia. I was coughing in bed with the phone propped on a pillow and Elaine had gone off to feed the dog. At least that’s what I thought she was doing. She disappeared from the window on my laptop and the only thing I could hear—beside the ambulances rushing past my building—was the sound of her cooing at Mister Bumbles. Besides fussing over the dog, all we did to keep ourselves occupied lately were three-way calls to hapless travel consultants and screen-freezing attempts at Zoom sex.
It had seemed like a good idea to make this call together and get it over with while we were still quarantined in our separate apartments. Unfortunately, we’d been on hold for so long that it was difficult to remember exactly what trip we were cancelling.
I was pretty sure we had reservations for Paris, but on midnight of the first day Elaine insisted we’d booked Tahiti instead. I countered that it was probably Maui and by eleven o’clock the following morning, Elaine was convinced that it had been Morocco all along. Through fitful bursts of sleep—each of us alternating with the other—we’d considered canceling flights to Newfoundland, Barcelona and the Seychelles before finally returning to Paris.
“Disneyland,” I said a recorded voice assured me that I was a valued customer. “We should’ve gone to Euro Disney.”
The Eiffel Tower would have been great but nothing could be compared to a pretentious French mouse, complete with a trim tailored mustache and an attitude to match. Slip an N95 mask over the tip of a protuberant snout and you’d have the perfect Instagram moment.
“Do you think Mister Bumbles could catch it from me?” Elaine said as she slipped back in front of the computer and coughed into the crook of her elbow. The dog clambered beside her on the sofa—a panting blob of pale fur—as Elaine dabbed her pajama sleeve with hand sanitizer.
“You can only give it to tigers,” I said. “That’s what I read on Twitter.”
“We should’ve gone to Thailand,” Elaine said. “They have tiger sanctuaries there.”
“I hear they have some wild parties on the beaches,” I said. “Everyone high on E, dancing naked under the full moon.”
“Is that what you’re in the mood for, right now?”
“Someday,” I said.
Elaine reclined into a pile of pillows and blew a kiss through chapped lips.
“Do you want me to dance naked when they finally pick up the phone?”
I coughed as another ambulance rushed past my window and I reached for some water. I knew I should refill the glass when I finished, but at the moment, the kitchen seemed as far away as one of those food stalls in Bangkok, where they served sweetened milk in husks of rotten coconuts.
“Do they allow dogs in Thailand?” Elaine said, cradling Mister Bumbles on her lap. “Or do we have to leave him home?”
I’d never considered bringing the dog with us and making a go of it in a new country. It was like when Elaine floated the idea of us moving in together last month and, before I could say yes or no, the doctors had put each of us in isolation. With Elaine, you had to be ready for anything.
“I don’t know,” I said as a recorded voice apologized for the wait time. “But I guess it’s a good idea for us to find out.”
Craig Fishbane is the author of the short fiction collection, “On the Proper Role of Desire.” Their work also appears in New World Writing, the MacGuffin, Hobart, the New York Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, The Nervous Breakdown, the Manhattanville Review and The Good Men Project.