All night she sat in her chair across the room as we watched television. Finally, she muted the show, looked over at me and asked, “Do you still miss her?”
I thought it was a silly question. How could I not? But I answered, “Of course I do. She was such an important piece of my life.”
“Well, what do you miss most?” she said, in that hard-wired interrogative way women have in trying to mine men’s emotions. “Playing with her, petting her, feeling her unconditional love?”
See what I mean?
I played along because she was so damned earnest and I understood she wanted to show she cared. I’m an evolved kinda guy like that anyway.
“Well all those things. Sure.” I said.
She aimed those never-miss, sapphire laser-guided eyes into me and said, “But what most?”
“Give me a minute and I promise I’ll let you know.”
So she went to the kitchen, busying herself with fetching me another beer. After all, I was digging way down to bring forth the Hope Diamond of her hope to connect at a deeper level with me. I began running the home movies of my beloved old dog and me on the tacked up sheet of my heart.
She came back into the room and quietly set a glass of beer on a coaster on the side table. She then curled herself up next to me on the sofa in that way girls do—legs and feet beneath their bottoms like nesting cranes—and smiled a softly expectant smile at me. Its message was plain: “Well?”
Women would love it if the whole other half of the planet’s population could just pull out some emotion or feeling (the coin of the female realm) just as easily as they can. In an oddly effective bit of incentive, she played the cuddle card, which signified to me she expected something not necessarily weepy, but at least eye-blinking.
The funny thing is, I had her answer after my first sip of suds.
“It’s kinda a selfish thing” I said.
“Oh? Well what is it?”
“Just standing around,” I said.
Her expression turned a bit rigid and then fell like a sheet of melting ice off the church roof.
“Oh,” she said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “My life no longer has those periods of…how can say this? Momentary stasis, thought, acceptance of now, that it did when my pup was alive.”
I could actually hear her blink, I think. But not the “Could you give me a Kleenex?” sort of blink.
“Every morning around dawn we’d go out the door and were greeted by a waking world. Pink clouds, tangerine windows of other early risers, hoo-hooing of mourning doves, songs of the other birds. Sometimes, I’d whistle back, just to see if they’d answer. And they DID! At night, we’d hang out and watch the stars look like they were doing the moving, instead of the clouds in front of ’em. And all because, for that moment in my life, I could just stand there.”
Her expression appeared to be taking on a little CPR, color and warmth returning to what a minute ago had all the life of a drowning victim.
“So that’s it?” she said, still on the verge of disappointment.
“I didn’t think you’d understand,” I said. “Look, Old Fluffybutt and I would go out there day and night. She’d do her in-the-moment thing and taught me I’d better learn to do mine, because she was in no hurry. I’d feel the air surround me, winter or summer, full of snowflakes, leaves or skeeters, and I could hear it talk to me, telling me to take it easy, don’t freak, life’s pretty good. Ya know what I mean?”
“M-m-maybe,” she said.
“All the while, I would watch her and then the sky, the trees, the clouds, airplanes’ scratching the sky with their contrails, critters and birds, and her shitty loads I forgot to pick up and the shitty grass I wish I didn’t have to. And I haven’t done that since she’s gone. And it’s a double loss to me, maybe a triple.”
“What do you mean?” she said, perking up a bit.
“I mean I don’t have her to share it with me the way we did anymore. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a guy and his dog thing.”
“No, dear,” she said. “It’s a very, very human thing.”
She hugged me, kissed me warmly and went into full cuddle mode, making these little happy noises as if she’d just enjoyed a fine meal. I’m sure she thought she’d made that brass-ring connection with me. Or a gold one.
I still really don’t think she understood ol’ Fluff’s and my deal, because she’s a woman, ya know?
Not a dog.