The grip is mute and merciless.
Every night about this time my dog gets this look, and what the look unquestionably says is, "What's going on, fella? What are you up to here?"
Because he knows, he senses, that something is definitely up. We have crossed far into the something-is-definitely-up stage here. "Up," of course, being in this instance something of an ironic usage.
Que sera sera.
Once you have let them cinch you up and put the battery cables on your head, once you allow them to convulse you and then wheel you out lock-jawed and choking and struggling, terrified, to zero in on anything that might qualify as a memory, even a bad one, once you reach that point I guess all bets are off. Who knows what you've lost forever? You can't even be sure who you were before that moment, but eventually you start seeing puzzling shadows on the wall, and weird, out-of-focus snapshots that seem to be projected upside down on the back of your skull and which may or may not be scenes from what used to be your life, and you don't want to talk about those troubling images because they seem like hallucinations and there is no way you could describe them or the cold, terrifying, and hopeless way they make you feel.
Donegal would always say, So, this is the world, is it? And for even a sorry fool like you Christ carried his cross. A far-fetched business all around, but there you have it, lad, and what are you going to do with such a marvelous bit of information as that?
I didn't know. I still don't know.
I did, however, talk with my dog for 45 minutes about Easter and what it purportedly means to the world and how some of the central components of its narrative have crept into our own shared rituals and the things we want to believe. I want very much for my dog to believe in angels, so I have tried to believe in them as well.
The next day I took my dog to the veterinarian to make sure everything was in order. It was a cold, gray morning, very early by my standards, and during the time I was in the office two old dogs were brought in to be euthanized, which shook me greatly. In the first instance an older man came in alone, announced to the woman at the counter, "I have a dog in the car that needs to be put to sleep," retreated for a moment, and returned with a large dog in his arms. The man was alone, and expressionless. He might have been dropping off his car to have his tires rotated.
Surely, I thought, he could not possibly be as cold hearted as he seemed. He and the dog were ushered into a back room, the door was closed, and I never saw either the man or dog again.
A few minutes later a party of four --an elderly couple and a younger couple, perhaps in their thirties-- brought in a dog that looked like it could have been a litter mate of the previous dog. The younger of the two men had this dog in his arms. The dog was alert and appeared perfectly contented. I did not overhear the exchange at the counter, but all four of these people were clearly grief stricken and huddled together the way humans always huddle together whenever something unbearable is happening or about to happen. Unless, of course, they don't have anyone to huddle together with, and then they huddle alone. Only the man with the dog in his arms was not weeping. The older man appeared to be the most distraught of the group, and was trembling so badly that he asked the older woman --his wife, presumably-- to sign some papers. Shortly thereafter they were ushered into a room in the back.
I'll admit it: I found myself reaching for a box of tissue and trying to press tears back into my eyes.
When one of the young attendants finally called out my dog's name I had to resist the urge to flee. The woman gave Wendell a pat and asked his age. "He is almost three," I said.
"Oh!" she said. "Still just a puppy!"
This was an obvious bit of strained optimism on a bleak morning, but I was grateful for it all the same. Surely the woman had looked at my dog's files and seen that he was actually almost nine years old, but --bless her heart-- she never let on.
That's mostly a lie. Pretty much everything was. I mean, seriously, pretty much everything.
Did you ever read that one book when you were a kid? I could never believe that a train was capable of positive thinking.
I used to be like that determined train in the book, though. I used to really be wild about things. All sorts of things. I could barely contain my wildness. Not so much anymore.
Here's the sort of thing I'll find myself thinking these days, God help me: Somebody really has to take some photos of me naked before I'm dead. What sort of man has such thoughts? A lonely man. A man who feels he is dying and wants desperately, once and for all, to stand naked before the world? I put the question mark there because it really is a sort of question, or at least a guess, which is a sort of question impersonating an answer. There is also, of course, the purely corroborative motive: some concrete proof that I have a body, that the man I see in the mirror exists, that I am not, in fact, invisible.
Too late, though.
I carried all those fucking rocks and planted a garden and then I abandoned it.