Come in from the cold. It’s warm in my living room. If you want to use your laptop, the wireless network is “NemoNet”. Yes, here’s the password and yes, I’m a Bogart fan. Like the couch? Yes, it’s very comfortable; I slept on it for a few nights after Nemo died. I wanted to avoid the bedroom because my lady love was working nights. Of course there’s a story about that.
When his cell rang, he pulled into a parking space before answering. The words “he’s gone” were spoken matter-of-factly, belying the desolation, the numbness, the emptiness following a loss. He paused after the call ended, drinking in the dimness before continuing the drive home.
At home, he approached the small shrine with the serene figurine of the Buddha, paused to secure the buckle of the small black collar, tag attached, then placed it near the candle holder. His gaze fixed on it for what felt like an extended moment before he felt the pull of the night outside his window. Passing headlights, a few lights still on in the houses across the street. Stars, clouds, cold, dark.
He entered his study, the small bed now unoccupied, where Nemo would curl up while his human surfed, wrote, and occasionally smiled, looking to his left and listening to Nemo’s dream-induced near-bark.
The dismal next morning, the sparse conversation during the drive from BART. Through tears, she lamented, “I didn’t get to say goodbye to him.” Her eyes locked on the space on the love seat where he lay every day. Resting after chasing the ball, nails clicking, paws and body sliding on the smooth wooden floors. Raising his head whenever she entered the kitchen, wondering if a treat was forthcoming.
“I want him back.”
The other empty bed, to the left of their own. Shaking off the events of the day each night, head sinking into the pillow, eyes closing, and murmuring, “Good night, Nemo.” The slow drifting off to sleep and in that in-between state, he feels the air thick with memory. The soft pad of paws, the pause as brown eyes turned up to gaze at his humans before the nightly nesting of the cushions, before the curling up, the last sighs of the day, and the closing of the eyelids.
The Arizona sun was warm outside the dorm. He was ten years old, reading Kipling’s story “Red Dog”, feeling the mattress springs on his back. He finished the narrative of Akela’s death and put down the book to look up at the ceiling of the dorm room.
Decades later, he would recall the lines as the physical emptiness of rooms and cushioned furniture weighed on them.
“Howl, dogs! A wolf has died tonight!”
If certain physicists are right, and parallel worlds exist, at times it seems that an intersection presents itself, and that walking the same neighborhood hills and streets, and dog park trails, our paths continue to cross. The waves at the beaches are still there for the retrieval of sticks, Nemo’s strong small legs stroking against the current and bringing him back to the shore to join us. Again and again.
Our lion-hearted boy.
Stay. Stay and wait. We’re here.