I know I got out for a walk yesterday but already it feels like I’ve been trapped inside for days, weeks even. It’s all in my head, and it’s all pervasive. This afternoon when the sun peeked through the cloud for a red hot minute and the wind died down from hurricane level to gale force, my husband announced that he was “going outside.” My sons quickly echoed him, the dog, too, jumping up barking his agreement. “You coming?”
I should have said “yup.”
Instead I weighed my need to go outside with my need for five minutes of silence and chose silence. I helped get the kids into coats and kissed smiling faces as they walked out.
I stood for a moment paralyzed by indecision: I have a minimum of five minutes to myself and possibly one hour, what to do? I could paint my nails, something I haven’t done in years but have been jonesing to do for some odd reason (and my nails are wicked short y’all, so this isn’t like a beautification thing, it’s more of a something to do thing). I could continue reading one of the many books I’m in different stages of reading (so many books, so little time). I could journal, something I’ve been desperately needing to do but unable to). I could clean something, our home is a bit of a disaster because no one ever leaves which means it can never get cleaned, and here was an opportunity!
I chose to sit and read.
I definitely should have gone outside. Or gone into my room and done some exercising. Or cleaned something. Anything to get my blood and body moving. Instead I read. And it was lovely. But also, not.
Now I’m restless and feel caged.
I need to hike, despite having done so yesterday. The hike I need is more than yesterdays little mile long jaunt. The hike I need would be two miles one way. A hike with journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. My dog, now dead but very much alive in this vision of my needs, at my side, panting happily. Out to a fallen tree we’re drawn, flopping down against it and marveling at the sky, the clouds, the cold, the birds, the small flowers. I write and write and write, my dog occasionally jumping up to investigate the movements of a squirrel or chipmunk before returning, sneezing his joy at our adventure.
The hike I need exists in my memories. I could re-create the hike. Get the family dog, grab a journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. Ask husband and kids to stay home together for a few hours while mommy has some alone time. This could happen if I ask for it. It might even be a good hike. It might even ease the restless. Still, it would not be the hike of my memories, the hike I need.
My dog is buried under an oak across from the barn. It’s the unofficial cemetery on our property. The previous home owners have a dog out there. We have a goat out there. I suspect the previous home owners have a mountain lion out there, too. It’s as good a place as any to be buried. A beautiful view of a mountain. A cool tree in the summer. People walking past every day on their way to collect eggs from the barn.
I realize this virus has me terrified that everyone I love will die unexpectedly.
My dog was perfectly fine. Fine. Young still, even for a big dog. And then one night he was panting, non-stop panting, and whining. At first I was annoyed, what had he eaten that was disagreeing with him so much and why wouldn’t he just go outside and throw it up, maybe I would have to give him peroxide. After a deep breath to calm my irritation I got out of bed and went to him, pacing. I held his big beautiful head in my hands and put my forehead to his forehead, a gesture of love I also do with my sons but didn’t realize until this moment.
I am trying to communicate telepathically with him: tell me what is wrong.
I begin running my hands along his slender body and suddenly I feel them: masses everywhere. Where did they come from? I had just run my hands along his body the day before, that morning even. Where had all these masses come from? Further inspection reveals that they are not the fatty tissue that sometimes develops on older dogs, the masses that hang off these dogs like golf balls and tennis balls shoved into too tight pockets. These are not fatty tissue. These are cancerous lumps.
The cancer is everywhere.
There is nothing I can do for my dog, not at 10:30 at night with the children asleep and the one needing boob in another hour or so. There are no emergency veterinarians anywhere near us. There is nothing I can do until morning. Only my dog can’t sleep. Can’t sit or lay down. Everything is panting and whining, pain. I ask my husband which of his pain meds is the strongest and he goes to the medicine cabinet and pulls out a bottle that’s been expired for over a year.
A 150 pound man should take one pill. I give my 60 pound dog two.
After an hour he finally lays down and sleeps. The sleep lasts roughly six hours. Then the pacing, panting, and whining begin again. My dog is in pain. My dog who was perfectly fine 24 hours ago is now dying painfully of cancer before my eyes.
And this is why I’m restless and caged today. Because my dog died nearly a year ago after being fine one day and riddled with cancer the next. Because this fucking virus is everywhere and we could already have it and not know it. Because my mom is over 60 and my immunocompromised husband lives with our two kids who are germ farms. Because everyone is fine today but what happens if they start whimpering in pain tonight?
After naming my restless I calm down. After naming my panic and fear I am not quite free, but also not so caged.
~~~That’s one hour~~~