overhaul / undertow

Monday, November 11, 2002

writing late at night, feeling depressed...

I think of when I brought the puppy home. I bought it out of shocked sympathy, for ten dollars, from a junkie on the corner of Santa Monica and Vermont in the parking lot of a burrito stand at two in the morning. And my friend and I walked to the car, hoisting the little thing up into the passenger seat, and I stared down suddenly horrified—what had I DONE?!?

Was I insane? My apartment building didn’t even allow dogs. I didn’t even have the time to walk it or care for it—and I had no yard for it to play in. But I couldn’t leave it there, at two in the morning, its hopeful little tail wagging as it stared up at me. Such a little tiny dog. I had nothing for it. I left it in the car in the supermarket parking lot (it was three a.m.), overcareful to crack a window, worried I might have it open too far so inched the glass back up again—bought a dozen things the puppy didn’t really need and three it probably did; brought the little thing home, it was so silent in the passengers’ seat, its huge eyes fixed on me. So small. Brought it inside, where it trotted gamely onto my pile of dirty laundry, turned in a circle three times, and flopped down, its exhausted eyes closing.

I’d saved it. It was safe. But was it? Did I know what to do? The survival ratio of my plants thus far was about 45-55---55% deaths. How could I take care of a dog? Inside, I panicked. I was terrified by this limp little furry thing. Had I bought all the right accoutrements?

It began to snore.

My heart melted. I felt fierce. I wouldn’t let anyone hurt my little puppy. I would take care of its every need. I even felt an extension of this protective urge spreading outward to myself—I had to sleep well, eat well, stay healthy to make sure that I could be in good condition to care for this little thing, this dependent creature. It would be the most pampered pup in the western hemisphere. I woke in the middle of the night no less than six times to stare intently at it—was it ok? Was it breathing? Yes, and loudly. Snozzzzzz. At five a.m. I woke abruptly to name it Wally. It was like a visitation, an intuition--I had no doubts. Neither did Wally—he snuzzled himself into a tighter ball, thin whiplike tail near his ginger-colored muzzle, and sighed in his sleep.

I think of what it must be to be a parent. I taught for ten years so I know about discipline, and I know when to be tender; when to be firm and when to give hugs. How to explain the unexplainable to a five-year-old. When to listen closely and what can be tuned out. When they are manipulating me and when they are really being candid. I also know when to call their parents if I am at a loss.

What will happen to me? Will I ever have kids? Will I ever WANT children? And if I don’t, what will become of me? Every woman’s fear, the demon of meaning she must battle—who am I if not, in the end, a mother? Surely still valuable, and still of equal worth (right?), but what am I even called?

The future is so blank and inscrutable, sometimes I think I’d pay a crackpot psychic just to put my heart at ease.

As for the dog, I gifted it to my parents the next day. I called my mom at work. I told her I had to see her—something important, but I tried to keep it breezy, so she wouldn’t worry or ask too many questions. I met her at her office at the end of her workday. The puppy curled up in the front seat of my car.

As I got out of my car, she got out of hers, where she’d been waiting. She came over to me with an intense look of concern and some curious sternness to her features.

“Michele…are you…pregnant?!?” she whispered.

I gawped and stared, and then cracked up right there. “No, no, no!...but, ah, I have a dog.”

I told her the story; she looked into the car and saw the puppy. If it had been human it would have smiled hopefully. It sat up straight and eager.

“Oooohhhh no, dear, honey, he IS cute, but we can’t take him, we have Gunther.”

Gunther was my parents’ black lab.

“Well, I can’t keep him, I don’t have a yard and he can’t stay in my apartment—I’m gone all day long.”

“Well, honey, you’ll just have to find an agency to take him in. We can’t keep him.”

I panicked quietly for the second time in 24 hours. I couldn’t give my dog away to some…agency! My parents were supposed to keep him! This wasn’t going as planned.

I had a flash of inspiration. “Okay, I’ll find a place to take him. Okay. But can I just have you guys look after him for a day or two? I have to find a place.”

Mom looked concerned but her expression softened a bit when she looked at Wally. He cocked his head perkily to the side; one soft fuzzy ginger ear flopped, the other stood gaily erect. He was a damn Puppy Chow commercial.

“Well, ok. Your father’s just gonna love this one,” she said, dryly, her voice acid but her expression slightly amused. She looked sideways at the little dog.

Wally stayed at their house for the next two nights. I did not look for a place. No agencies. I simply waited.

Two days later I went over to see them. The dog was curled up on my mom’s lap, watching tv with them. As I stood there she leaned over and fed him a bit of chicken off her plate. Oh dear.

They still have him, a year and a half later; he and Gunther play together all day long.

Having established, unnecessarily, that my parents can indeed care for and keep alive a sentient being, I'd also like to submit that the lemon tree I bought four years ago is still alive. Sadly, drooping, dropsied and cockeyed, but alive.

Yay. Is this progress?


...four hours later I wrote this; I'd been reading a book on travel, and it took me back to my time in Italy, and somehow, for some reason,
it only deepened the way I'd been feeling earlier, that flitting of melancholy around the edges of your thoughts suddenly diving in to the center, invading.

Some nights I wish I had had a brother or sister.

Those are the nights I feel so fucking lonely. The earth could swallow me up—would anybody know?

I want the whole world to know, to care if I suddenly drop, the earth beneath my feet falling away. It doesn’t feel good—doesn’t feel just—to think that three, maybe five people would know. Maybe a few more would hear about it within a week. They’d be stunned, three or four would be very unhappy for a while, but they would all go on with their lives.

This seems unfair.

Not that I want people to be miserable, but simply I am upset—it seems unfair--that I am not more. I am not bigger. None of us are. We’re little motes of dust. Poof—one is gone, and the others shift about and we go on.

I am usually one to downplay my needs or go second best or think less of myself. But I can’t here: I live every moment in myself. How can I be myself, and no one else feel that? No one else see just a glimpse of this intensity, this rushing feeling in my heart as the days go by, the ten million words my mind speaks, as I pass each day, each scene seen from within my eyes, describing it and thinking about it—the Greek chorus in my head, that ocean of feeling held so tightly in my chest, in my stomach?

I see the silhouettes of the leaves outside my window, moving in a light breeze. It is midnight. I can’t stop crying. And I sound tiny and young like I’m crying the way I did when I was a little girl. I don’t understand how I am not still a little girl. Twenty-five now, but so few years have passed. An equal number more could pass in an instant and leave me on the threshold of being an old woman.

And of those three or five people right now, who would still be there, when I am fifty? My parents will not be. And they are all I have; so far, they’re the only thing that’s stuck around. Everyone else feels so temporally bound, so changeable, so untrustable, I could take off round the world—I might as well, there is nothing here for me. I do not want that to be true—I want things in my life that are permanent—but I cannot trust. Everything has changed, these last ten years. My life is not safe. Daddy is not down the hall if I need him, mom isn’t right there if I get sick. And I think I am sick now. The doctor says my blood count and hemoglobin are half what they should be. That sounds scary. I am always pale, but tonight I look in the mirror and I am white as a sheet. I look ill. I feel nauseated. When I saw the doctor last he looked sharply at me and asked for contact information for my other doctors, the specialists.

I am scared. I think I am always scared.

If I had a sister, or a brother, I might feel less alone, but I have no one, no one, no one. No one permanent. I have several very good friends, many acquaintances. I have a boyfriend. I love him very much. But I’ve seen time take every single one of these things from me in the past, over and over again.

We are up against the awful truth, I guess it is, that nothing lasts. And I am raging against this as though it ought to be different, as though it were even possible to be different.

I want to move home. I want my parents to take care of me—that would make them happy--, and I can take care of them too, and save up my extra money that I won’t be spending on rent—save it to give to them and buy them the trips and houses and things I’ve always wanted to give them, a way of saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

I snort and wipe sloppy tears all over my face. They fall on the fitted sheet and disappear into the bed. Now they’re on the keyboard. And I re-read this and as always feel impossibly stupid. And as always, I feel narcissistic, tiny, childish and dumb. Even if I could make that gigantic yawp into the wilderness, to scream that I’m here, no one would care—not the way I care--but me. It doesn’t matter.

Blog away, silly girl, blog away.


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