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It's Nelly's World

Loyalties

alec vanderboom


The moon is strange and stunning tonight: a round body, hanging low, with a directed look on its face, almost as if it positioned itself here in order to look through my window. (Do not think I am not hyperaware of the narcissism inherent in writing this, as well as of my recent passage through the weird halls of . . . of . . . well, I won't name it. Only a little while longer, I pledge. To myself, to you.) Maybe it has something to tell me. Maybe that something is that I will never understand what it has to tell me. I don't speak moon.

Yes, it's another 3 a.m. night. (And why, please tell me, it is always 3:00, and not 4:00 or 5:00?) I tried to get back to sleep--after all, I'd only had three hours--but lay for an hour debating gains and losses of moving to this town, or that. A fabulous elementary school vs. a place I know no one. A safe place for Nelly vs. a 45-minute drive to a decent grocery store. Uh, a fabulous elementary school vs. leaving behind everything we know and love: a library that's like our second home; our activities; the people who have saved our asses over and over and over again in so many ways; our friends, oh, our friends. Versus houses and taxes that will feel like carrying that moon on my shoulders.

I don't know what to do. I don't know what I can do. (Will you tell me, O pudding-face moon?) I don't know where to look, so I look everywhere and find nothing. Nelly sits at my feet, wondering why, since I got out of bed after a period of being in it, I am not moving to give her her yogurt and kibble. Well, not at 4 a.m., old girl. She lies on top of the map of the Catskills I have unfurled, and whines softly. There are some things she can't understand, either.

But maybe she too is trying to tell me something: Just pick a spot, it'll be OK. Is that it? Is that it, Nelly? Well, I myself do prefer the wilds of the deeper mountains--more things to chase, you know. But suit yourself. Do what's best. I'll be with you.

The weight of two dependents leaning against me, counting on me to do what's best for them, has given me a permanent limp. I don't know what's best! And I'm supposed to! Help! Back and forth I go; back and forth. I am dizzy. Turned around. On Thursday I had the actual sensation that my head was going to explode: I tell you, it was the oddest, most fascinating thing I have ever experienced. There was still enough going on in there for me to realize that it was unlikely to literally splatter its contents on the roadway as I walked Nelly to the little patch of woods that we regularly poach walks from. (I stay low behind a silent stone wall so as not to alert the nearby property owners; I practice what I was told was the Indian way of quieting the footsteps in the woods: walking pigeon-toed. Even though I suspect this was specious schoolkid gab. And it doesn't work for me anyway, though I'm no Indian, notwithstanding my childhood desire that I was adopted.)

The real estate broker who's trying to help me find a house thinks I'm bonkers. Well, aren't I? Especially with so little shut-eye. Yes, yes! I'll confess to anything! I transported those illegal aliens across the border. Just let me sleep!

It is time to consult the Magic 8 Ball. Shall I move to Phoenicia? Reply hazy, try again. See? It is always right. Hazy. It is all so hazy.

Even the dawn, breaking now outside the window, is hazy. Trees emerge from the mist like soldiers, steadfast.

Try again. So this is what I do. I become lost in despair and anger, then I remind myself that I have been given a gift, a chance to change myself. Today is election day: vote for the forces of light, or darkness. I have this choice. Sort of like Democrat or Republican. Or Green.

And so I pull myself up. I am ready now to move forward. And then it feels like I've stepped in gum carelessly thrown to a hot sidewalk. My heel is suddenly reluctant. It is the thought of leaving my friends. Everyone I know that I depend on (and who, when the tide turns, I long to have depend on me). Even though the list of people to whom I can turn for help with Nelly has dwindled considerably, what with all the little kitties and big chickens she would love to have at.

A friend reminded me of the fact that if I base my decision on where to go on not leaving my friends, there's nothing to stop them from leaving me. I mean, people move, yes?

If dogs had their way, no one would ever leave anyone. This time we put in together, these walks, these meals, these talks, would form a bond as strong as any chain. Dogs have their loyalties. Deathless ones. But we are people, and we leave. That's what we do.

Will all this turn out OK? Very doubtful. I don't like this answer, so I cup the ball once more and think hard about my question. As I see it, yes.

There. That's better.