I am in a park reading when the call comes. I’d forgotten to expect it but once the name shows I know what it is. They’re back. We’re open until seven.
I read for a while longer, 30-something moms chasing their toddlers across the green green grass. When they pass within a hundred feet of me, their strollers intercepting another mom-child(ren) knot, some artifact of late summer stillness, proximity to tennis courts, and who knows what makes their voices carry with alarming clarity. Well, when we first started looking for school we were interested in a music program, because he’s so interested in music. The woman speaking has her dark hair pulled back and her face is inscrutable with distance and sunglasses. She looks like the other moms who aren’t Indian: upscale casual clothes, good skin, the stroller-thing suitable for exploring Mars. I realize what most bothers me subconsciously about upscale suburban moms is they seem more purposeful than happy about their children. They sound like they see them as something to tune up.
I am reading the Carl Sagan book The Demon Haunted World, quoted earlier. The book has sat in my shelves probably untouched since I first read it in the late 90s and is falling apart: brown pages, plastic peeling off the cover. There is no reason why it should be in such bad shape, but it’s not much better than all the old cheap Sixties and Seventies science fiction paperbacks I have. I should throw them out too. A reader would keep the ephemera safe. I finish the chapter and go.
A friend goes with me, the same long trip the same way we had gone to the 24 hour emergency vet, and then twice for the vet in Federal Way. Last Wednesday was the final time. This is just another time after that.
They sent a card earlier, the vets and staff. We lived around the corner in the first house we’d bought, and I brought both my cats here until we moved closer to the city. When my other cat was getting very sick I brought him back. Maybe he got another month or two. The vets took time with their few sentences to say they were sorry, that it was probably the bad cancer they feared, that they would have done the same thing. It was hard to read. You’ll excuse me if I don’t go look at it to pull quotes. It’s a kind card, the front art a dark tortiseshell cat playing with a running faucet. I am glad they sent it.
The receptionist hands me the purple bag. It seems gauche at first: this purple paper like something from a party store, and probably is. The name tied with purple ribbon. I wonder why they picked purple. It’s heavy. We go.
I drive to the modest park near where I used to live, getting a free show of a knot of retired people dressed in truck stop finest chasing small yappy dogs that are loose and attacking one another. We are stopped in the middle of the street and I register the whirl and noise like people getting off a train. At the park we sit at a metal picnic table under the trees. I work the ribbon loose realizing it will just get tied again. Inside is an urn wrapped in bubble wrap, a piece of acrylic in the shape of a heart with her paw print impressed, and a small paper jewel box with some of her fur. The fur is the worst to look at. I am not sure what it is, but it is the worst.
My friend ties the ribbon back. I shouldn’t feel bad about it. I did all I could. It’s like that with animals–very fast. And fast is better, relating the story of a dog who lingered in pathos for over a year. My dog Max was like that, the Max that everyone remembers. I didn’t feel sad for him at all, just relief.
At home it is not as desolate and difficult as I would think. I put the purple bag on the sofa and think a little how she liked to lie on the sofa, but not particularly. I don’t avoid it but don’t look at it either. I am exhausted from yesterday and today, take a shower and go to bed.
The nightmare seems like it goes for an hour before I wake up out of it, clammy and hollow. Standard B-movie stuff, something I can only remember now about some fluid or ether that pools on the ground, no different from water but different, and it taking hold of things and perverting them, hollowing them out. It was much more frightening then, in the wee hours, in the empty house. I get up and check the doors like an old person. I turn the radio on and music comes out. Outside seems incredibly bright with sodium light, and a garbage truck goes by.
I never really go back to sleep, I don’t think. I should get up, walk around, do something, do nothing, but I lie in bed. I am unable to take the true path I know of getting up and living instead of lurking in bed, waiting for nothing.
Some days are better than others. Today isn’t distinct from yesterday, which wasn’t bad, not at all, not really, not all of it. This morning I was afraid of monsters but didn’t turn all the lights on. Nobody was here to look up at me and question what I was doing. In bed I thought about high school. I hadn’t been in that old tape for a long time. It’s cloudy.
I have the map of the hike I planned to do yesterday, but was interrupted by a job interview. I meant to do it today. It will be near 90 there, and sunny. I am going. I am gone.