Whether it is kept, or whether it is false, a promise must be made. It is so important to say something to the one who seeks comfort. So, say that you will stay forever, even if you plan to depart tomorrow. Say that you will love them for all eternity, even when another’s scent lingers on your skin. Love makes starving infants out of us. It is enough that we are naked; must we also be made to hold our aching bellies?
This is it, kids. Grab hold of the dog, and listen up. Know that I am still queen of the underworld. Ignore that I have climbed to the top of the mountain several times, only to be told it was a hill. What is important, is that I made the attempt under the impression I was conquering dangerous terrain. Ignore that I killed Hades, only to be told it was the doorman. I struck with determination and conviction.
The hellhound is not coming back. He has told me this in dreams, in that same language I know so well. He says it is time to be well-formed, and fill my height to the top. My cursive is bad, and my confidence is worse. I have fallen off the highest wall, so I know the pain of breaking every bone. It is not fair to say I fear pain, only that I seek to avoid it. Running and hiding are not crimes, but it is not wise to make a job out of this. I soak in what I think I must, flatten out my feet, and speak with authority. I take the sticky children‘s hands, tell the new dog he is a good boy, and I march forward.
If I am to swim in the waters of emotion, let me be like a shark, tearing the flesh of feeling apart. Time will pass, and all will forget the oceans were ever blue. I cannot predict much, but I can still prepare for the best and the worst. Sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.
I do not have a child in my womb, growing fast and strong. I do not have a burden on my back, growing roots through me, down to the ground below. I do not have the taste of blood in my mouth, and a man seeking an apology. I do not have so many other awful things, so I sigh. Just one. Just a little release.
Ruey is with me, once again. There his urn sits, just a few feet away from me. His final home is an altar. A good king is always remembered as a god. My prayer is in the mourning that leaves me feeling connected to him. It is in the tears that will not cease. Don’t ever leave me, I so often said. Not a one can promise they will not.
Tomorrow would have been my king’s seventh birthday. There is nothing to be done. As they say in Al-Anon, let go and let god. Let god take the breath out of your lungs. Let him strangle you, as you take your vitamins in the morning. Let him bruise your arms, as he holds you still.
My very survival has always depended on the ability to identify my vulnerabilities. It isn’t hard to stay soft these days, because it is all I am. I cry as I drive to work. I cry on the drive home. And if I close my eyes, I see my boy sitting on the hill with the gnarled tree. I try not to create castles and fantastic things out of cigarette smoke. I do not want to smile, fearful this will move me away from his ghost.
I have adopted another dog. I do not want him, reject him when he begs for attention, ignore him when I can. I have named the thing Diego. Once he is house trained, I will gift him to my father. It seems he is having a difficult time dealing with my hellhound’s passing. They did, after all, spend most weekends together.
This act of kindness, it draws out my patience. Diego is nothing like my beast. He is a needy creature, disgusting and loud. There is no beauty to him, no grace. Though it has only been a day, I long to be rid of him.
My Christ in disguise, my now slaughtered lamb. I stood as your disciple, as the one fated to betray you. I know less than I ever did. It was always that, even in your silence, you were louder than me. Forgive me. Someone has to, and it will not be me.
I will never again be so many things, and from this day forward, so much more than I ever was. Time will tell whether it is for good, or directly on the other side of anything than can be considered that.
I am calling to you. Can you hear me over there, my hellhound? Tell Hades I said, “fuck you.” He had the last laugh.
Days before Ruey’s death, I had a strange dream. This is not uncommon. In the dream, I sat among friends, eating dead flesh. A hamburger, or something equally boring and American. Someone remarked on how strange they found the sight of me eating meat. I responded that since I killed my king, it no longer mattered to me if ten million animals died.
I should have paid more attention. To the dream. To my thoughts. To when my heart spoke.
I have punished myself until my eyes felt as though they were bleeding out what I could not speak. It is impossible for me to process the horror of this solitude. Ruey was the only thing that was mine alone. Everything had been taken away from me by sister, the children, mistakes I could not forgive myself for. But, there stood my hellhound, ready to offer me peace, time and time again.
Thirty-six hours without sleep. I am not yet ready to fully accept his death, though I have taken his body to be cremated. To no one at all, I ask for the privilege of kissing his forehead one final time. There is only the sound of my own voice.
When the two of us first moved here, no one walked the streets at night. This city is filled with violence, and trust just isn’t there. People would stare at us from their windows. We must have been such a strange sight to them. The fools that brave the perilous darkness. Slowly, some began to join us. Now, it is not uncommon to see people taking walks at most hours. And I think, how many of them know this is owed to the courage of my king?
Every thing I have ever written, everything I will ever write, is a love letter to my watchword and protector.