The alarm rang at 5:46am this morning. JC rolled over and checked his phone. “It’s going to warm up the next couple of days,” he said.
“Are you going to shave?” I asked.
He never closes the bathroom door. I could see his shadow in the stream of the bathroom light and hear the water splashing in the sink. I thought, what the hell am I going to do after he’s gone?
He drove us the hour-plus drive to the airport. I sat in the passenger seat with my hands tucked under my thighs and watched the fog roll across the road in the rising light. Howard Stern was playing prerecorded clips of women from the Bachelor.
“Why do they talk like that?” he asked Robin.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Maybe it’s an age thing.”
“These women are half human half frog!” he said.
I thought, he’s right. And men do it too.
JC and I both enjoy listening to Stern. Stern is the best interviewer, JC and I confirm to one another. The hour drive to the airport passed quickly.
JC and I hug and kiss goodbye and I can barely look him in the eye when I say, I love you. Because I do love him, but he is going away for a very long time, and I worry I will never see him again. No one would be surprised, I think, if I were to lose JC too. It only took me forty-six years to find him, and we’ve barely had two years together, and, well… given everything that has happened over the past four months, not including my patchy lifelong history with relationships, something bad could conceivably happen. But I can’t think about that. Not here. Not now.
I did not cry when he turned and disappeared into the terminal. I inched the car forward and watched him through the glass doors. Our airport is luxuriously small. I watched him check his bag. I watched him fling his dark green canvas backpack (the one I had monogrammed for his birthday) over his shoulder and step onto the escalator. Some guy smoking a cigarette walked back and forth on the sidewalk outside and for a second I lost site of JC. I eased my foot from the brake and inched forward and gave the horn a couple quick beeps. JC did not look my way. The man with the cigarette exhaled. I put the car in drive and slowly pulled away from the curb.
Once home, I locked the car, closed the garage door, dropped the mail and my phone on the table, deposited the coffee cups in the sink, and began to cry. Heaving sobs—released. I was home alone now. No beloved dog, no more school on which to focus, no health insurance, no job, no prospects, no JC. Just the vast quiet of an empty house with one sole occupant—me.
It’s a modest house. It’s remote on six acres in the woods. There are no plans for friends to stop by. It takes thirty minutes to get to the nearest grocery store, bar, or gym. The library is thirty-five, maybe more.
Since losing my job in October, I am utterly and completely, finally, obliterating-ly, alone.
To make myself feel better I call the local German Shepherd adoption agency and ask if the dog, Louie, that we applied over two months ago to adopt was still available. No, she kindly said, Louie has been adopted. We get a lot of applications.
“So what happens next?” I asked, trying not to cry in her ear. “Should we continue to look for another dog on our own?”
“We are getting a new batch of dogs shortly, if the trainer thinks there is a good match for you, we will contact you.”
“Okay. Okay. Thank you.” And then in some attempt to let her know that I am a good person too and deserving of another dog, I offered, “I know it takes time. I adopted my Shepherd when he was two and was blessed to have him for over nine years. I miss him every day.”
“Yes, they are wonderful animals.”
“I attached my dog’s photo to my last email to you.” I doubt she remembered. We bid farewell.
As I write this post I can hear voices on the TV in the other room of marchers in DC. I don’t even like TV. I just opened my second beer. I have not showered since Tuesday. I am paralyzed. I know all the things I should do: go outside for a walk, read a book, put in a movie, make something to eat, call a friend. But it’s as if my heart is mute. I know I have to go forward but I do not know how. Which direction should I go? Over the last few months, as I packed up my home, as I woke up in the pre-dawn hours to finish my thesis work, as I waited in line at the unemployment office—all of these movements together were required action items—I had to put one foot in front of the other in order to get a job done and check the specific required tasks off of my list. But now the list is emptied of the specific and cluttered with the unknown.
You can go anywhere.
You can do anything.
Yes, but how? And with what?
All that I was, is no longer.