Our apartment building was similar to the Punjab house in the sense that there was a courtyard—for more than a hundred residents to share; there was also a balcony, a three to four feet wide walking area for the people who lived in the upstairs apartments; and there were stretches of grass and plants bordered by cement walkways—so many children played here, but nobody spoke my language. Our living room faced the complex’s swimming pool. It was summer, so a lot of families spent the day by the poolside. I watched them— most of them blonde and fair — play with each other, have water fights, squirting each other with water guns, make loud splashes as they jumped into the water.
Our next door neighbors were two women who stayed inside most of the time, watching television which could be heard when you walked past their front door. Their apartment smelled like the beedi smoke I remembered from the run-down parts of cities and villages in India. The women also had cats—too many to keep track of. One particular cat, sand-colored with black and brown stripes liked to sit on the other side of the glass and watch the children playing with sparkling blue water.
When we bought our house, our backyard was off limits to us because of really violent pit bulls residing in the yard next to ours. It would take just a moment for those dogs to realize we were trying to enjoy our garden before they would begin biting through the fence, barking like gunfire, and pushing against the wooden boards. Those two pit bulls succeeded in breaking through the barrier between the yards and even managed to bite holes into the fence on the other side of our house. I was skating in the front yard when I was about thirteen years old; suddenly, the male pit bull came loose and tried to pounce on me, growling mercilessly. I don’t know what miracle saved me, but the dog ran back to its owner as my younger sister and I stood on the grass, screaming and crying. That same dog bit the wrist of a neighbor’s guest. We later found out that the dogs had been trained to warn their owners when police officers were too close to the area—they were drug dealers.
A family friend’s dog once tried to bite my leg; another neighbor’s dog—even though he was toothless—actually did bite my leg; I kicked and howled until she came and took her dog away.
More recently, when my family came back from vacation, we found our backyard full of stray cats and their little kittens. They had made a home near our storage and have continued to leave unpleasant gifts on our lawn in the front and back. We no longer picnic on the grass like we used to every now and then, we don’t play tag or use it as hose storage while washing our cars, we don’t tread pathways to the rose bushes anymore—I’d rather balance myself on the bricks that line the flower beds than step into something stinky-smelly-ewwy.
And those are my reason for not being fond of cats and dogs. I'm sorry, but I'm forced to lie sometimes and say I'm allergic so I won't have to be cowardly.