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  • Kim Idol

The Heat

I trundle along in a constantly concerned state. Nothing is exactly as I want it to be and I am always trying to compromise my expectations because life is always, at best, a little bit disappointing. Look, I’m good with the fact that reality mostly blows, but some of the bullshit, the rules and regulations of “civilized” life, for example, piss me off because those are intentionally imposed disappointments. Someone chose to make those rules. I don’t know why stupidity and greed almost always shape those conclusions. Then there’s the bullshit instructions for dealing with life. “You can’t change life, but can you change how you feel about it.” Mottos. I fucking hate mottos.

I do my best. I don’t want to end up some cranky old dame sitting on my back porch sneering at hummingbirds and throwing rocks at stray cats. One of my grandfathers, my grandmother’s fifth husband, used to sit on his porch in a rocking chair cradling a BB gun waiting for squirrels, dogs and cats to shoot at if they wandered into view. He also hung feeders for the squirrels and the birds to draw the animals in. What an ass. If I could just not be like that.

Reading the news doesn’t help. Contact with that free floating anxiety producing machine keeps me feeling upset and helpless and somehow a guilt ridden about things I cannot affect but that affect me. I always feel like I am peering through a very tiny peephole when I read any news source. I gotta read it and then several others about the same subject and then assess bias, and then see if there’s any truth to be had in the end. Goddamn, that’s frustrating too.

My life never runs the way I hope it will.

The everyday big bad and little bad things that shape my path rush me off my feet. I don’t sort the big and the little hiccups I just cope with what’s on my plate as I trudge from goal to goal. And when the terrible losses rain down they make everything else I worry about seem trivial (although everything else still demands the same amount of attention). I feel like a mother tending 3 dozen colicky babies. Sometimes the really shitty stuff makes my life make sense. Sometimes deep ugliness grabs me by the back of the neck and makes me see how good or how bad my life really is.

Sydney, my dog, my lovely girl, had been sick for 9 months. I’d had her for 7 years. This cancer bullshit was not fair to her. She was a sweetheart. When they first diagnosed her, they said that she had two months left at best. They told me over the phone while I was on my way to a German final that instantly didn’t matter. Sydney lived for 9 months more. I slept by her bed. I set an alarm to ring every 4 hours which aligned with the complicated medication schedule. I made charts noting all the symptoms and behaviors I needed to track in order to monitor the disease’s progress and so we would know when to alter her drug regimen. We saw the vet every other week. I loved that dog. Fed her by hand. Addressed every nuance of the ugly effects of dying by making her as comfortable as possible while I dealt with the constant run of bad news that a fatal disease brings into your life. Every day I wondered if I would know when it was time. Every day I wondered if she was enduring more than she should because of me. Every day I wondered about quality of life vs. length of life. Every day I was helpless to save her from being sick or from dying.

The attention I paid to the dog pissed my husband off. Jealous of her needs he remained separate from the drama only stepping in from time to time to remind me that he needed to be taken care of as well. I accepted his resentment. I was sorry he felt that way. I did what I could to address the dog’s needs, and my husband’s needs while keeping my life on track. When I look back, I felt like a humming, hurt machine without much personality. His resentment never flagged. I felt bad about that, but the dog was dying, and I loved the dog too. Finally, on a Friday the moment came that everyone said I would recognize. I’d woke to see her lying on the floor next to a wet lump of blood and vomit and I knew that she was ready to go. I called my ex-husband who had adopted her with me and told my husband and we agreed to euthanize her on Saturday.

The realization hit me just as we were preparing to go to work one morning. We always drove to work together. I saw the truth and told my husband. He nodded and finished loading his backpack. As we stepped outside and I was locking the front door, he zipped up his pack and began to bitch.

“You haven’t wished me happy birthday, yet,” he said. I hadn’t forgotten, but Jesus. I sighed and didn’t reply. What was I going to say? “You didn’t do anything for my birthday last year either,” he said as we got into the car and tossed our books into the back seat. I vaguely remembered that I’d been out of town and had called him.

“My mom has made reservations for 6 tonight for my birthday dinner,” my husband continued. “We can go straight from work.”

“Can I skip that?” I asked careful not to suggest that he skip it too.

“She set this up. She made plans. She drove into town just for this,” he replied.

“You can go. I’ll take a Lyft home and you can take the car.”

“So that you can fail to celebrate my birthday again?”

I stopped talking but he bitched at me all the way to work. I don’t remember the words exactly because I was awash in pain, but I could feel the pelting of hard words while I drove, and while I pulled books out of the car, and during the walk into the office building. I didn’t reply because I didn’t have the will. He was still at it when we stepped into the elevator. And then the elevator doors slid shut and suddenly I knew there wasn’t enough air in the elevator. I dropped to the ground gasping. Not enough air. Not nearly enough. Once the elevator reached our floor I stepped out and somehow made it to a common office area, but I was still gasping for air and on my hands and knees. My husband walked to a desk and started grading papers. Within a few minutes a colleague entered the room and expressed concern with what he saw.

He offered to help. “We can cancel her class,” he suggested, “or I have a video she can use instead of lecturing today.”

“She’s fine.” My husband shook his head and continued to grade papers.

“It’s not as…. dramatic as it ….seems,” I said still fighting for air. “It’ll…. pass,” I said. Five or so minutes in, the attack did pass. “I’m fine,” I assured the man after getting my breath back. I didn’t want the man to think that my husband was an asshole because I didn’t want to think that either. Later on, I would tell others that my husband and I just handled grief differently.

And then I went to work. I had a lecture on “Notes from Underground” to present.

I gave that lecture while worrying about Sydney, while worrying that my husband might have looked selfish and while worrying about doing my job well. But I didn’t worry about myself one bit. I had it all handled.

That day comes back to me now as I’ve just had to euthanize Molly, another beloved pet. It’s such a horrible moment and one that is hard to forgive. You do it in the name of quality of life for all the right reasons but killing is killing and it’s wrong. And a dead pet is a failure to protect. I recognize how irrational that sounds. That’s how it feels.

It was on another bad Saturday. Molly’s death was the last of this week’s bad news. I’d participated in a public demonstration on Friday and it had been full of strife and the newspapers had started publishing lies about it before the sun had set and the world is run by dangerous people and the cost of confronting them is high except the cost of retreat is higher. The husband who’d graded papers instead of comforting me or Sydney had gone. He’d never become a good man and shredded my life for a good long while before he abandoned the marriage completely. And my sprinklers need replacing and I need new tires and the trees in my back yard need trimming before they do more damage to my brick fence and one of my other dogs is ill, not seriously but still and I can’t get an appointment to see the vet for a week. And it’s 105° out today and I feel fat and less than, and it all runs together at the same level of yuck. The day you kill your dog is a terrible day and no matter how many times you do it, it’s unacceptable and the only way out is never to have a pet. The only way to keep the world events from making you nuts is never to log on to the internet. The only way to avoid all the chores that keep your life humming is to own nothing, want nothing, and do nothing.

And the line between not so bad and horrible is always negligible. The dog is skinny but not too skinny. The dog is sick but not so sick. The bill is high, but you can cover it and hopefully nothing else will crop up, for a while, that will also be too expensive. If it does, pay that and hope that the next sudden expense that you have to cover will also not be too expensive. Don’t get sick. Suck it up. Do what you can. It won’t be enough, but you can’t do nothing.

Why not? Because doing nothing doesn’t stop you from thinking about the problems big and small and doing nothing does not free you from the responsibility of doing something even if what you do won’t change much. Could it just be the weather that’s making me feel this way?

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