Lost things are important because they cause us to become anxious. They might be vital or inconsequential, maybe somewhere in-between; regardless, all carry a level of anxiety when we can’t find them. Our hearts and lungs are the red flags of anxiety while a stomach pit can be a descending elevator that lightens our heads and carries us away from balance. People who are anxious are often depressed. They have a hard time seeing the light when it filters through the drawn shades of dark bedrooms and their voices are sad upon the electromagnetic waves of identity. Spaces become smaller. Love no longer abides. Cancer and AIDs have nothing on anxiety and depression.
Where is the dog brush? I am drowning in dog hair. The stuff is in my mouth and my eyes, inside my ears, balling up against the ear drum, muffling the outside world. On the television there is a dander alert and the possibility of medical emergencies among the old and infirmed. I must do my part and then the anxiety begins to build. I can’t find the dog brush. In the process, I notice a black widow’s nest underneath the old wicker chair where I sit every afternoon in the shade admiring my dogs and feeling the breeze upon my face.
When I turn the chair over, a pair of black widows tiptoe across the loose weave of the wicker. Looks like a male and female. I recall how the males like to sacrifice themselves upon the fangs of the female because it extends everybody’s sexual pleasure. The line between pain and pleasure is something that most people laugh about, but I understand it in a secret way.
I clean out the chair and kill the black widows. What sort of sexual pleasure can a spider derive? I don’t know and I will ask someone later, if I can find anyone to talk to.
Still looking for the dog brush, I come upon a small grass basket filled with my past: a business card from a Guatemalan military guy, part of a chicken skull, a photo of dead Emma, colored paper from a shaman, a letter from Jerzy Kosinski, a lock of hair, a finger print, red string, and a faded list upon writing paper courtesy of the Meridian Hotel, Jaroslava Cernija 3, Sarajevo. The little grass basket is a gift from Gao Vue, who stepped on a landmine all of those years ago. The list reads: body on beach, goat on leper’s head, tennis player makes Jewish jokes in Paris, H’Mong attack on Pathet Lao, talk to Honduran military, massacre on border, cholera in Goma, night trip to Loki, Motizer killed in Jalalabad, Emma on runway in the heat of the day, lost boys, and Marianne in prison. There are a few dates and splotches on the paper, my Russian nesting doll, and it is the first page I wrote for “Living and Dying with Dogs.”
On the back of the Meridian stationery is a single line: “When you can no longer tell the difference between pain and time, then the moment of arrival is at hand.” I remember composing that on Phuket beach. I was getting over malaria and my feet were badly sunburned. Walking was difficult and I spent long hours in a bar writing poetry, drinking, popping speed, and talking to the Thai girls. My Thai was pretty good.
As to my secret: I am dying by centimeters. One or two centimeters deep into the skin and the scalpel cuts lines four to six inches long. That depth is enough to cause pain and the blood flows easily from broken capillaries. In a hot bath the blood dances around the body like stardust clouds breathing life and death across the universe. The rusty faucet calls water and the alcohol sighs and there is a wish for something unseen. How can this happen? How do smiles disappear so quickly? A completely happy life is impossible and when happiness is upon us, we should grab it as if we will never let it go, even as it lifts us off the ground and takes us toward the sun and the moon. Never be afraid to be happy, even at great heights.
The line between pleasure and pain is cut by time and time is a scalpel. I understand this now. We all have secrets and when we share them, sometimes we pass the burden on. Pay it forward in reverse. Dilute the sadness. I suppose it is a selfish act, a defensive play. It helps us to survive, but it does nothing for the pain, nothing for the cuts, and injures the one we tell.
I finally find the dog brush. It is hiding inside another basket with a long, sad history. I am frantically brushing the hair of my dogs now, trying to avert a disaster, even as it descends upon the world.