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Writing Fiction - Chapter 10
I walked several blocks and finally encountered a familiar street name.
Why is it when you’re walking you never realize how far you’ve gone until you have to start the journey back home again?
I ignored the voice of my husband inside my head telling me, “Go get that dog. It needs help.”
I walked some more.
I switched off the nagging voice of my daughter inside my head telling me, “Go get that dog. It needs help.”
I remember arguing inside my head with them both, “I have enough problems, I don’t need another one so shut up and leave me alone!” Perhaps I wasn’t actually arguing with them inside my head, though, because the two people I passed on the sidewalk on my long walk back gave me a funny look and totally avoided eye contact.
Finally, both my husband’s and daughter’s voices quieted, though, and I reached home, mentally and physically exhausted.
I stepped inside; the house felt too warm after the brisk night air. My jacket fell from the hook when I tried to hang it up, but I was too done in to even bother picking it up.
Trudging up the stairs, I realized I hated two-story houses. Everything was always on the other floor. If I was upstairs and needed a cup of tea, I had to go downstairs. If I was downstairs and needed a sweater, I had to go upstairs. I remember thinking it might be time to sell the house. Sure those books about grief said not to make any major changes in your life right after your … ummm…. loved one’s …. ummm… ‘demise’ … but so far those books had been no help. What did they know about grief? And how did they get someone to publish those worthless piles of paper anyway?
As I prepared for bed, I started thinking about that little dog. Gosh, it was an ugly little thing. Why would anybody even want that dog? Why was that dog outside, loose, making weird noises to strangers on park benches anyway? Why was I even thinking about the ratty, little thing?
I washed my face.
And I thought about that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog.
My ‘absent’ husbands voice reverberated inside my head, “It’s gonna get cold tonight, Pearl. That little fella is gonna be cold.” “Shut up!” I told him, “If you cared so much about stupid dogs being out in the stupid cold, you should have stuck around to rescue them yourself!”
He was silent.
And there it was. That see-sawing between grief and the odd desire to laugh like an insane woman; the contrast between the anger I felt because he’d left me and the sorrow I felt because he was gone. Sometimes swinging between those emotions quite literally made me dizzy. In one of the grief support group meetings I’d attended, a woman had told the group she’d purchased a punching bag to help her deal with her raw emotions. Several attendees at that particular meeting had spoken up and asked her how she managed to find the energy to even hit it.
I patted on my moisturizer, listening carefully for my husbands voice again, but, of course, since I was trying to hear him now, he was silent.
That man was always difficult. If I said, “Let’s go,” he’d say, “Let’s stay!” If I said, “I don’t want to cook tonight,” he’d say, “Gee, we haven’t had meatloaf in a long time.” Okay, that’s just not true. The thing I just wrote about? It was a lie. My husband had always been really easy going. I think it was me that had always been ‘testing’ him to see if he actually loved me enough to say, “You don’t want to cook tonight? Let’s go out to dinner,” and the weird thing is, that’s what would almost always happen.
I took a seat on the toilet to mull this revelation over and realized I was a horrible person. No wonder he wanted to ‘take a forever dirt nap. I was a horrible, terrible person. I started to cry. It was handy, crying on the toilet like that. The tp was right at hand to blow my nose with and the sink was close by to splash cold water on my face. If you’re going to have a ‘tear fest’ I highly recommend you try that particular venue.
And when I was all done crying, I realized I wasn’t a horrible person; I was just me. And he had loved me, warts and all. I just couldn’t fathom why this grief, this aloneness, was so hard, though. I was an intelligent woman. I had friends, could articulate my pain and knew how to get help. Why did I end up feeling rotten every single day, no matter how determined I was not to? How could my good intentions to get my act together each morning disintegrate before the sun was even up over the horizon?
It was hard to summon hope and promise and possibility when I felt about as low as that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog.
I wondered briefly if dogs felt sorrow. Wasn’t there a movie about a dog that died of a broken heart? Old Yeller, or something like that?
Maybe that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog’s owner had … ummm… ‘bought a pine condo’ and left the little dog felt hopeless and lost like me.
“Pearl, get a grip,” I had told myself, “It’s a dog. Dogs don’t feel thing like humans.” And then I had a little argument with myself over that. “How do you know, Pearl? What about that movie, Old Yeller? Maybe that’s all true.” During the argument I thought I heard my husband’s voice in the background, talking softly, so I shut up for a minute and here’s what he told me, “Pearl, go get that dog. Do the right thing.”
After I heaved a deep sigh or two, I grabbed a few old towels from the bathroom closet and a cardboard box out of the spare bedroom. I threw my jacket back on and snatched up the car keys.
It took me a little while to find the bench on the street, beside the park I’d never heard of before, and when I finally found it, the dog wasn’t there.
I got out of the car and went over to the bench to see if maybe he was just afraid and hiding. Sitting in the shivery night air, I waited a long time. Finally, I’d figured he wasn’t going to show. I turned to go back to the car, realizing I’d need to make a donation to a Humane Society to offset my guilt, when I saw what looked to be some old rags lying on the ground beside the overgrown bushes. I took a step closer. It was him. The mangiest, scroungiest, dirtiest, ugliest, smelly little dog I had ever seen was lying there, perfectly still.
“Uh oh, Pearl,” I had told myself, “It’s gonna take more than a donation to help with this guilt.”
To be continued, Tuesday, November 16th.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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