Friday, June 17, 2011
I do not know when the squirrel died, but when I left by bike two hours ago through the same path in the backyard it was not there and now it is, plopped on its side, eyes not quite closed. I locked my bike, and cutting a wide berth around the fallen (What did I think it was going to do? Rise from the dead and bite me?), planted myself in the doorjamb. I leaned inside from the night with wide eyes. "What happened to that squirrel?" Nick regards me, surprised, looking up from his laptop. I must have looked insane, sweaty hair pasted to my temples and forehead, my lips and teeth inky from wine. "What squirrel?" Nick joined me outside and surveyed with quiet sadness its wild little form, lifeless but perfectly intact. He loaded the little buddy onto a spade and we buried him. A grounded flashlight cast a pale circle onto the fence above the gravesite as we piled on the last of the dirt, and I'm not kidding you, I cried. There's a punchline to be found somewhere in our creepy little tableau, effete vegetarian city-dwellers weeping in the dark together for the life of a squirrel. My face still hot with tears, we laugh and name fake metal bands. Squirrel Funeral. Squirrel Dirge. Rodent Tomb.
I am back in my hometown on a Wednesday night, helping my mom after her operation. She's so miserable and frail, she hasn't slept in two days, she can't find a comfortable position. She is watching NCIS on mute to occupy her because the noise of the dialogue is making her queasy. Practicing remarkable restraint, I resist the cheap shot at NCIS's dialogue and her ability to tolerate it under typical circumstances. Finally her nausea subsides and she can keep the pain pills down and she begins to softly snore. I sit on the deck and vacantly stare while scarfing my parents' Chex mix. The weather is so perfect I wish I could grab it and hold it; cool, dry, breezy. I feel suddenly cheated, that Getting Older should happen so gradually, and that Getting Old happens all at once, like a mechanical train schedule board clack-clack-clacking over. This is the new schedule. The old schedule is gone.
Thursday morning and I've returned to Columbus in time for work. I catch my boss at the coffee maker, inspecting the filter basket like it's an exotic fruit. She doesn't know how to use it. Of course she doesn't. I instruct her and she shakes her head, amused at her helplessness. It's the sort of thing that last week I would have blown up into a Lewis Black-style rant over drinks with friends, She doesn't know how to make coffee!, but it doesn't bother me today. I tell her she doesn't have a future as a waitress and we both laugh.