May 18, 2015

What Absence Feels Like.

Old Golden Retriever

I visited my hometown this evening.

It’s not far from where I live now, but it’s also a million miles away.

I saw good friends and people who have known me a long time. It was nice. I don’t mean nice in the way that you say when you’re not paying attention; I mean it was nice to feel comforted by my roots again.

But I keep the line of distinction between my life now and my life then drawn firmly.

I deeply love everyone I have known in my previous life.

I think of them fondly and often.

I just didn’t know how to keep the two pieces of myself monogamous.

Maybe they didn’t have to be. Maybe I didn’t try.

I sit here now, at the kitchen table where I was raised. Many serious talks have happened here—many belly laughs and secrets told.

I listen to the frog songs that used to put me to sleep. Instead of anticipating what tomorrow brings, I think about all the yesterdays.

As much as I love and miss all these wonderful people, and recall so many memories, I find myself detached.

I’m not here anymore. I am not present in this space. My passions have drifted and I have created a new sense of belonging.

They say you can’t go home again. I’ve never really felt that before. I felt it tonight.

As I walked out of my childhood best friend’s house, I saw my absence in an old dog’s eyes.

Where I grew up, neighbors meant family. They meant a bond that was created by proximity and virtually unbreakable. These bonds were as stable as the land that dictated them.

I remember when this dog was a puppy. He was wiggly, full of kisses and greetings of all kinds.

The dog knew me. I knew him.

As I walked past him, I remembered where he liked to be scratched. I remember taking him home when he had wandered. I cared for this being.

Tonight, I cannot remember his name.

I walked by him, gave him a scratch and smiled the smile I remembered as a child.

In his eyes that looked at me through cataracts, I saw his surprise. I can’t read animal thoughts, but you could see that there was recognition, but he did not remember my name.

My hand fell. I stood up to walk away. I saw the eyes of an animal who had lived a long life, one who had known many chases, many people.

In this old dog’s eyes, I saw what I had become: a memory of a time and place long ago; a time when joints were limber and rabbits seemed much closer. I felt a pang of regret for the friendships and bonds I was no longer an intimate part of.

He did not know my name, and I did not know his.



Relationship Is Home.


Author: Jennifer Quinlan

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Alex Hartley/Flickr

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