I try to do what the dog trainer tells me. Consistency, boundaries, focus. Tin foil to keep him off the couch, frozen cottage cheese to keep him occupied, a special t-shirt to keep him relaxed. All the right things. You have to follow all the rules when you’re a terrier’s mom.
It’s the goodbye rule I haven’t learned.
You’re supposed to just walk out the door. A quick careless wave. A “hey, see you later.” No monologues about how much you’ll miss him. No long glances back behind you. But you’ve given him his favorite toy, made it to the door, and you, just quickly, look back. There he is, the toy left unattended, staring at you.
You just walk out the door. This is what you’re supposed to do.
On YouTube, there is a video someone sent me. A camera set up to capture a hummingbird nest. It was set there from the moment the mother built it, so if you’re patient enough to watch from the beginning, you can see the whole thing. Sitting on the eggs. Sitting some more. Then, at 8:22, you watch them being born.
In Finian’s head, there is not the fantasy about the car going too fast that hits you on your way to work. That rare burst of lightning that strikes you on your lunch break. Or the workplace shooting in your tiny office. If you walk out the door, all you’re really doing is walking out the door.
It is exhausting to think of the future.
Person, bark. Ow. Shoot. Totally got sprayed with water by mom.
Hey, look, Person! Bark. Owww. Man. Wet again.
Person. Ouch! Hey… wait…
Person, bark – yep. That’s right. I’m thinking…
Person. Bar- Wait. Nope, not gonna do it.
Person. Pause. (Keep pausing.)
Oh, man. It makes my head spin.
Can we go HOME now? I’m tired. I can’t walk anymore. I can’t.
I think I’m just going to lay down by this extremely loud lawn mower. Is that a squirrel there, a foot away from me? Oh well, so it is. That’s all right. Just going to close my eyes here for a minute…
I have left already, grabbed my suitcases, done the correct goodbye. But it eats away at me, the images. Finian sitting there in the dark, lost, alone. The week apart in which so much could happen (planes falling, poisonous bug bites, ice cream from spoiled milk). I need a real goodbye.
We drive all the way back across town. He sits at the top of the stairs, blinking at me from half-closed eyes. I pick him up, hold onto him tight. He sits there like someone doing a yoga pose for the first time. When can I get out of this? Uhh. So uncomfortable.I tell him all about how long I will be gone, who will be with him when I’m away, what we’ll do when I get back. He looks over at his bed. Actually, he stretches his whole body towards it. I push him gently down onto my lap. He pops right back up.
I let him go. He trots over to his bed, curls up, his head on his arm. One last look over at me, before he drifts into sleep.
I pick up my bag, close the door behind me.
It was a live feed once on the hummingbird nest. You can watch the clock running at the bottom of the screen. It’s fuzzy, not a perfect picture. The mother flies off at 10:18. Comes back at 14:23.
It’s not live anymore. If you scroll down, you can read the comments:
At 20:12, you can watch her feed them!
At 25:50, they go to sleep!
At 1:15:42, a hawk flies in and grabs them!
At 1:15:43, both birds are gone.
But I am only at 1:12:02. The mother has flown off again. The two birds sit there.
You’ve traveled a long way, been with her not long enough. And already it’s time to come home.
You lie down beside her on the bed, feel her body (you can feel the bones now and almost like the organs underneath too, there is so little in there, just these, and all forcing pushing toward the surface as if there were nothing left inside to keep them in).
How do they make sick rooms so quiet? Just the air conditioner, the softest one you’ve ever heard.
What do you say?
I want to come again soon.
If I’m here.
You’ve already said the care, need, love, want too many times over to keep it real. But you say some or all of that again.
The old digital clock turns over another number. Actually it’s turned over more, you’ve missed quite a few. Where were you for all those?
Most times it still feels awkward to you to be so close to her (or anyone’s) breath. This isn’t the time for that.
You’re everywhere, you know that? Like everywhere.
We did so much together, didn’t we.
I’m not ready.
So much fun.
You’re in me. Like in here, inside.
What time do you have to go?
When they call.
Wherever you go, I’ll always be there. Right there.
At home, six o’clock is always dinner time.
Is that my food ball? Yes, that IS what she’s filling up on the counter over there! My favorite too! YES!!!
The hummingbirds aren’t moving. You have to check at the very bottom and see is the time clock still going, or did you accidentally hit pause?
Yes, it is – 1:15:34…1:15:39…
So quiet. The air conditioner.
You wait for the ring.