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.