Bitter, bitter cold.
It is hard not to dream forward to spring, then lazy summer days. I remind myself that time spent longing for enigmatic futures is paid for by time lost from actual present moments.
This cold is delicious! It pings like delicate crystal, everything frozen to the point of extreme fragility!
I imagine a tiny flick of my finger shattering the world into a million pieces, that I possess a weapon of mass destruction.
It occurs to me that I can luxuriate in this sensation of bitter cold because I am dressed to endure it, my heated house waits paternally nearby to rescue me when I no longer want to endure it, and I have a few dollars in my pocket to pay for warmth and a cup of coffee in the interim.
I am only a little disturbed by the number of times I have fantasized about putting a gun to our dog's head and pulling the trigger. There, done, goodbye!
The dog in question is Calvin, our sixteen and a half year old Petit Basset Griffon Vendee. In human years that is one hundred and fifteen. At this stage of his life all he does is poop, pee, sleep, drink and eat, all of it within the confines of our house. Our paper towel consumption has become a deforestation threat. He is feeble, as any centenarian has the right to be, and needs a ton of help just to continue to exist, as any centenarian does. At odd times of the day he circumambulates from living room, to dining room, to front hall, to living room, with no apparent agenda. Sometimes he stops and stares at the floor as if trying to remember what he got up for in the first place. That adds senility to his list of infirmities. I am acutely aware of his restlessness, even when upstairs in my studio. I hear the clickety-clack of his claws on our hardwood floors. It irritates me. I think he wants or needs something, but don't know what, and I don't want to stop what I am doing to find out. Please! I scream in my mind, just lie down and go to sleep! I have begun to understand the attraction of medicating old people into submission.
My wife, a nurse, is much more charitable. She coos softly to him, telling him what a wonderful dog he is and how much momma loves him while changing his diaper or cleaning up after him. I understand in those moments what a beautiful human being she is. My wife is not happy about the difficulty I have dealing with it. She reminds me that I could find myself in a similar condition some day. That, I think to myself, is the point around which my irritation pivots. Calvin emphatically reminds me that all beings die and that those fortunate(?) enough to have long lives can look forward to an extended period of diminishment before death finally overtakes them.
In my worst moments I swear to my wife that we will never have another dog after the dogs we have are gone. We had three, but lost one last winter to kidney failure. She died on Valentine’s day. It was very sad to watch, but a relief when the moment of her passing came. So now there are two, soon to be one. Not soon enough! I catch that horrible part of myself thinking.
I wonder what is better, dropping dead suddenly or gradually fading into oblivion? It's a choice between quick, but too soon or slow and not soon enough. I don't even want to think about the middle ground of an extended terminal illness.
This is an opportunity to practice acceptance of the universal ebbs and flows, I tell myself. We are one with the universe, we are stardust.
Down the street ahead of me a man in blue hooded sweatshirt, blue sweatpants and red knit cap walks with a Pit Bull dog in my direction. The man is short, weathered and scrawny, no, scrappy would be a better descriptor. His thin upper lip curls down at the corners of his mouth, accented by a closely trimmed mustache. He walks haltingly. Weakness in his left leg causes him to list, resulting in compensatory bodily gyrations. The left leg of his sweat pants is pulled up to the knee. It is bitter cold. How is it comfortable to expose a leg that way? I ask myself.
As we pass, I notice a long scar on his bare calf and wonder if it is the reason for the exposure. I briefly consider how coincidental relationships in space and time are often mistaken as proximate causes.
Mr. Scrappy clutches the waistband of his sweatpants in his left hand to keep them from falling down. His right hand holds the dog’s leash. The arrangement seems precarious.
The dog is a veritable Brad Pitt of Pit Bull dogdom, young, confident and handsome. He moves with muscular grace, following his nose along the sidewalk, in stark contrast to Mr. Scrappy who has clearly seen a dog fight or two. If it weren’t for his junkyard dog appearance, it would be hard to imagine Mr. Scrappy managing the dog if it decided to lunge. Even so, it is not clear which creature is setting the agenda. We pass without incident.
I am seated at my usual table in the back of the cafe. A woman with cropped blond hair shuffles hurriedly down the aisle towards me, work bag strapped across her shoulder, clutched tightly to her body. The shuffling, a childish affectation, is incongruous with her otherwise professional appearance. She shuffles her way to the table across the aisle from me, sets her bag down, pulls a laptop out and sits. Her attractively chiseled face is framed by black, thick-rimmed glasses, an effective counterpoint to her short blond hair.
From the front of the cafe a male voice calls out,
K, do you want something?
Mmmmm, I don't know what I want, I am good for now, thanks.
The man who calls out wears a green knit cap. Dark thick-rimmed glasses frame his face too. He picks up his order and walks down the aisle to join Cathy. They give the appearance of being here for a meeting. K is starting to concentrate on her computer screen as the man sips his beverage and dismembers his scone. They exchange a few words, then sink into their separate reveries. Maybe they are just here together and not conducting a meeting, I think to myself. Good, I will not be distracted. They are both attired in New York City uniform black. Rock music that reminds me of Arcade Fire, but isn’t, spills out from the cafe sound system.
A woman in down coat and hand-rendered knit cap arrives and sits next to K. They begin to discuss the contents of her computer screen. Maybe this is a meeting after all, just not between the man who called out and Cathy. I speculate on the relationships.
Now all three are discussing computer screen contents. It becomes clear that they are discussing a website design. I struggle to overhear what is said, but the background music is enough to make it mostly unintelligible. "I mean, why force their hand?" suddenly jumps out. "Whereas a, like a, ... some of them are ... I just don’t." "How many of them..." I am getting fragments only. I am distracted. I pack up and go.