Tag: suicide

Putting Down Me and the Dog

When my dog died—how many stories start that way?—I put off trying to discover new ways to market my novel. I cried in waves, as I dug the hole, a place where an old orange tree had lived for as many years as my sons are old. I wrapped the old fellow in my favorite Harris Tweed and eased him into his grave.

I thought I would have learned something about dying from him, but it is very hard when you’re not the dog that’s dying. I stroked his head and spoke to him, telling him how much I was going to miss him. I held his head when the vet approached from behind, touching him gently on his upward shoulder, looking for the spot for the needle. My friend’s eyes were warm and full of confidence, even as the needle entered, and for a few seconds afterward.

His gaze stayed on me, even though he had already left.

The man I sit across from, my writing partner, is experimenting with the various sounds his cell phone can make when calls and messages come in. My late friend doesn’t call me. Neither do my mother or father. Age, not the needle, put them down. But I can see the advantage of the pointy thing. Your love caresses you your forehead with a hand that is no longer young, but still as warm and smooth as when you met her when she was thirty-four.

“Are you ready?” she asks.

“No,” I say, with a spoiled, irritated whine, at the idea of being extinguished forever.

Her eyes are wet. I have increased my breathing, tightened my stomach for the exertion that is coming.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” she asks.

“No,” I say, in the same snotty tone. “It’s an impossible decision.”

I sob once, then try to smile. I love her and life equally. I am too smart to not know what’s about to happen.

“Then stay,” she says.

“How long?” I ask.

“As long as you want.”

Her smile is warm, her eyes, brown. As deep as my old dog’s.

“A few days, a week at the most. The point comes eventually,” I say.

She looks at me.

“Both points,” I say.

We have always had our little jokes. A doctor friend has brought the needle and the treacle. He will approach from behind, the upper shoulder. All I have to do is give the signal.

We have reached the point two times already. And each time I have taken the reprieve, unable to leave everything and step into obliteration.

My old friend wagged his tail and trusted me. Perhaps knowing what was happening—perhaps not. He could not tell me how to do it. If acceptance is a kind of intelligence, then I do not have it. I think it was Karl Gustav Jung that said the unconscious cannot imagine its own extinction. He may have been right concerning my dog. Perhaps that is a good reason for waiting until the unconscious—the sea from which we came—has crept closer. Or we have ebbed back toward it.

In writing this, at about where I wrote Perhaps that is a good reason for waiting, the brown-eyed love I have referred to came up the stairs to the second floor of this wreck of a café, where we write—something she has never done in the ten years I’ve been meeting with my writing partner—to whom I will soon read this free write, as per custom.

I am someone that believes—to a certain extent—in synchronicity, the theory that things happen in coordination with each other, i.e. not entirely by chance.

“I need money,” she said.

I reached for my wallet.

“I don’t have a lot,” I said, noting matter-of-factly that neither of us might have enough.

“I need just enough for D,” she said. D is our personal trainer. We say those words with irony each time—aware of their pretentious ring. Instead of shrinking and withering away, my love and I have decided to buff up and work on balance.

“And for the gym,” she said. “Thirty pesos each.”

I hand over my money. My writing partner holds out his hand. He wants in on the dispensation. The mood has changed; the ocean, receded. I don’t have to mourn for my imaginary dog any longer, at least not right now. He has trotted out ahead, through my field of autumn thoughts. And I am glad enough if he does not come back right away. My love is walking toward the gym, a place as rickety as the café I am writing in. I am still here, on my own.

Still not ready.

Sudden Naps

“The blank page is the mirror image of my brain.” My friend said this and then went out in his orchard, looked for buds on his favorite Gravensteins, maybe for meaning in general, then went to the pump house and blew his brains out with the .357 Magnum he’d kept hidden there, wrapped in an oily rag. Next to the well, open like a man hole.

His wife had gone for a walk. When she got back, she ran the washing machine so she’d have some nice things to wear that evening for him—for them both. She couldn’t account for his absence till she drew hot water before starting the dishwasher. If you got the water hot, then the dishwasher didn’t have to run its electrical element to heat the water, thereby saving energy and money.

She noticed the reddish hew of rust in the water, then went through the house looking for him. He would be able to fix it. “Are you in here?” she asked, knocking once on his door, stepping into his room, expecting to see him bent over his computer, typing furiously with two fingers, focused intensely on some plot, some story that would make people laugh or cry or gasp. But he wasn’t there. She went to the stairs, said fairly softly, “Dear?”—then ascended, crossed the Delft blue wooden floor to the far end, bent to look through the finger hole in the simple door, looked through to see if he was sleeping.

This was a man who took sudden naps after asking, “Where will you be for the next half hour? Are you going to be telephoning? If so, could you do it away from the bedroom window?” He always said this with a wry smile, a look of incredulity, a look that said “I know it’s going to be hard for you to remember but I would sure love it if you’d try.”

But he wasn’t there either. The tractor was standing with its mower in the field, with no husband near it. She went around to the shop, looked in, chirped “Jim?” and kept going toward the pond. He wasn’t on the granit bench beside the pond, thinking, watching for the big bass.

She kept going up the hill. He wasn’t in the upper garden, wasn’t weeding his onions and garlic there. She went along the Cypress, checking the aluminum chaise-longue, but it was empty. She came down the hill through the field of North Coast Dry Pasture Mix he would mow again later in the summer when the grass was dry and the thistles were getting ready to give up their seeds to the wind.

He wasn’t in the orchard. She checked his car to see if he was lying with the seat back, listening to a book on tape. She crossed the road, picked her way down the path through the Eucalyptus, edging by strands of poison oak, to his writing cabin. The aluminum and green cloth cot was propped against the wall. He wasn’t there.

He must have gone for a walk—a walk that could last no longer than an hour. Back in the house, she checked the bikes. All three of them were in place. She drew drinking water from the swinging glass carboy, put the kettle on the gas flame, and looked out the kitchen window to see if she could see the blue birds—see whether they had decided to use the birdhouse Jim had put up.

She marveled at the places she had been to find him. He was a hard man to keep track of, so many interests, so many projects: writing, gardening, language learning, cabinet-making, dreaming, thinking, boats, musical instruments, and endless short stories.

She remembered the dishwasher and ran the water to get it hot. It grew warmer and warmer and, at the same time, redder and redder. Then she remembered why she had looked for him in the first place. She felt the warmth on her hands. She thought about the color. And as the water got hotter, a thought came to her and she turned the faucet to stop it, and watched until the last of the water swirled and disappeared clockwise into the drain—leaving the sink white again.