As a little girl I always found it so fascinating that one’s body could create air so hot that it would produce water vapor. I would spend countless hours in the winter months exploring this and breathing out deeply onto every window in my home and drawing pictures in the steam. How does it do that? I would always pester my nanny to answer me, but she would shrug her shoulders, mutter something in Vietnamese and usher me off to work on my studies. It made me quite sad to ask her and know that she really did not know the answer to my question; she never paid attention to the beauty that was her body.
Our human bodies.
We were magnificent.
I knew from the very first day that I discovered the heat in my lungs. Later I discovered the power in my legs that could carry me anywhere my heart desired. The strength in my arms to push and pull myself to my goals and to extend helping hands to those who need an extra nudge towards their own goals. My magnificent body could do anything that my heart wished, or my brain thought up.
So, why did I never leave this shit town? Why did I get stuck here?
The steam from the topless cup of coffee swirled in loops and curls as it drifted through the cold air between the Styrofoam cup and my nose. I inhaled the bittersweet smell, years of memories lingering just behind my eyelids as I enveloped myself in the moment. There was not much of a moment, really, but I had a habit of finding comfort in my daily routines like they had significance in the way I lived my life. The only true memory I had lingering on that bitter scent was the beautiful glow of my mother in the morning, towel wrapped around her head and robe tied elegantly around her slender frame. As I got ready in the morning, she would sit on the corner of my bed sipping on her coffee and making sure my plans were set for the day and I was aware of her plans, as well. It was only the two of us and we worked almost constantly to make ends meet. So, naturally, mornings were our only time to spend together and we always made sure to share them. They were sacred between us. We were sacred to each other. We were all each other had in the world.
It was not always like that. It was not always just the two of us. I had a father and she a husband, but he left us. We were a picture perfect family in a two story, four bedroom house with a dog and the goldfish on the breakfast bar that we don’t remember buying and the countless hamsters rotating in and out of the wire cage in the office by the garage. It could not have gotten more perfect.
I woke up each morning to a bowl of oatmeal and my mother’s delicious cinnamon toast. She would dress me and we would meet the bus. I had a babysitter in the afternoons from 2 until 5 when my mom would get home from work. I would help her cook dinner and by 6:30 my dad was home and dinner was ready and we would eat, enjoy an evening show together, I would play in my room as they sat in the office. I would take my bath with my mother sitting on the toilet in her robe next to me reading a book and watching me carefully, not really concentrated on the literature in her hands. She would then read to me and then I would go to bed and we would start over the next day.
It was perfect until he left. I was ten years old and sitting on my dresser watching from above the garage as he loaded his suitcase into the trunk of our white escalade, our golden retriever leaped in after him, barking excitedly. He shooed him away and he sat at my mother’s feet. I will never forget that sight. Her arms hung limp at her sides and her eyes were red, streaming with tears as she shouted. I could not make out her words, just the angry, hurt shouts from her gentle voice. Tears welled up in my own eyes as I watched them, my hands gripping the sides of my dresser as my chest heaved in my own sobs. She began throwing her arms up and pointed at my window and I heard my name.
“Damn it, James! How could you leave Ava?” Those words echoed through my ears and I watched him pull away, Rocket, the dog chasing him to the end of the driveway, his tail wagging pathetically. He never understood. I never understood. My mom never told me why. Maybe she never understood.
The memories swirling behind my eyelids came to an abrupt stop as two heavy paws pushed against my stomach. I cried out in surprise and looked down at the happiest dog I had ever laid eyes on. Tail going a hundred miles an hour, tongue lolling out to the side, eyes wide and crazy, whimpers screeching out of an open mouth. I laughed a little and grabbed hold of the leash dangling freely from the denim collar and set my coffee down by my feet.
“Well, hello.” I laughed and rested a hand on the dog’s head, to which it responded with a happy nudge and a bark. I kneeled down next to him, “Sit.” I said confidently, it obeyed. I took a quick glance down, gathering gender and name, “Good boy, Tank.” I smiled at the happy eyes that could not leave my face and gripped his leash tightly, “Where is your owner?” I glanced around, trying to avoid a wild tongue as it lashed out at me. Rising to my feet I looked up and down the empty street. “Hello? Did anyone lose a dog?” Tank whimpered at my feet as I yelled, but nobody answered. A few people walked out of the bakery a few doors down, but nobody seemed interested in the dog or myself. I took a deep breath and picked my coffee back up, “Lucky you I have the day off. How about we sit for a minute while I finish my coffee? Maybe your owner will come back for you.”
I fortunately had a copy of The Alchemist in my purse and began pecking away at the words on the pages as I sipped on my coffee at the bus stop, Tank lying lazily at my feet. Before I even noticed, several hours had passed and I had read almost half of the book. I looked down at the dog at my feet, unable to really decipher his breed, maybe a pit and a boxer? “Well, Tank. Looks like you’re coming home with me today. We will put up some posters and find your home. It looks like somebody loved you quite a bit with how healthy you look.”
Tucking my book back into my purse, I wrapped the leash around my hand a couple times, tossed my empty coffee mug away and clicked my tongue. Tank shot to his feet in a split second, his tail thumping loudly against the leg of the bench. I laughed and nodded towards the sidewalk, “Let’s go home, buddy. I have to make you some fliers and then we can come back and post them, okay?” I smiled, walking up the street, Tank trotting happily by my side.
That was our first connection. He gave me Tank, my best friend.
To be continued…