Thursday, July 4, 2013
A Bosom Friend
“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--a cosy, loving pair.”
David has a stress fracture in his foot, or at least something we call a stress fracture for convenience’s sake—he hurt his foot, but then it was all right, but then it wasn’t, and it hurts to walk on it, but the X-ray didn’t show a fracture per se—and at night he takes a Vicodin before bed, and falls fast asleep. Also, we’re in a new house, and we have only one bedside table, on his side of the bed, and one small light, on the floor on my side. So the room is dark. The dog is unnerved by her new surroundings, and wants to come, every night, up from the first floor into our bed. Tonight I let her, and she lay her head against my leg. As I stroked her face her eyelids flickered, her side rose and fell rapidly, and we stared at each other: I said Shhh, Daphne, it’s all right. Once when Henry was a tiny baby, I took him to a meeting of our childbirth group, the only one we held after everyone’s babies had been born. It was at the house of a couple who lived outside the city, and I had Henry—we were in Brussels, and no one worried about whether this was dangerous—in his car seat in the front passenger seat next to me, facing backwards. I looked over at him and he looked at me so meaningfully that I said, What, Henry, what is it? He stared deep into my eyes and I said, What is it darling, what do you want to tell me? Then he was asleep. But that’s not really what I think about when I stroke the dog’s face and she passes, fretfully, into a dream. I think about the time, three summers ago, when my parents’ dog, Ollie, lay down on the grass outside their house on Nantucket, and we all gathered around him, stroked him and soothed him, until someone went inside and called the vet. My father and my sister took him in together and then left him with the vet to be euthanized. You can stay with him, the vet offered, and my father, who had been moved to tears by the end of the dog’s life, declined. I don’t like pain, but I like feeling something that can’t be separated from pain. Two days ago I heard a story on the radio about a man who died. After he died he was lonely, so he packed up his things and went home, and, when he got home, slid into bed with his wife and said, Darling, it’s me. In the morning he took his children to school. The author didn’t know how to end the story. Of course not. How do you end a story about flickering, inconstant connection?