I walked outside this morning to a cooling wind. Change comes slowly here in Austin but it comes. There will still be sweltering days as basketball rolls around but fewer and further between. This will be my third season logging entries into something more akin to a journal than NBA binary code. And I wondered why I felt this way and it was my inner clock telling me something - it has been a year since the last time I felt this way.
Otis is still of the world. I took him for his morning shuffle and was fiddling with my phone and looked and my heart jumped. The old dog was lying in the grass. Back when he spent so much time outdoors it wouldn’t have seemed unusual. But he hasn’t done it here, not on his walks. And I went over and was able to coax him up. He is unsteady on his back legs now and walks in sections. In Atwater Village in California when he was a young dog, he was a fearless hunter of skunks.
It was pitch black in the back yard. We had returned from a run in the neighborhood. Otis went scrambling after something and I thought it was a cat and I ran and bent down and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, just as the skunk sprayed. It was so close that it wasn’t even a smell but an overwhelming taste, as if a battery had exploded in my mouth. Otis was perfectly happy about the whole thing. It was the skunk’s last act on earth.
Did Thomas Wolfe essentially have it right? Can we not go home again? Can we return to a building or a place, but not a place in time? It is never quite as we remember and we ourselves are not the same. I am better at tracking old friends through the wonders of the digital age than I am at maintaining relationships in the moment. I have been going through boxes, photos and letters, remembering places and canyons and cars. I listened to an old song while I was typing.
Otis was fast asleep from tonight’s adventure, the nightly walk straight into the mosquitoes no-fly zone. Every evening I return with welting bites on the insides of my wrists and arms, and take Bendryl to relieve the maddening itch. I watched him while he was sleeping. I click links and scroll walls and look at the things from the box.
I’ve had recurring dreams, hanging out with my older brother in the present although he died long ago. Searching for someone or something from my past, visiting an apartment I once lived in. It’s mostly empty but I know it can’t be right, I feel that someone belongs here, that they will return soon. Down in the lobby are the old metal mail cubbies that took an entire wall. I still have a key and the box is overflowing but I know it is not the same, that I can’t return to this place in time. There was a tree outside the window, and traffic from Franklin Avenue.
I believe Thomas Wolfe and I don’t believe Thomas Wolfe. There are tiny cloud icons with lightning bolts on my cell screen, arriving later in the week. You can return to changing seasons of course, and all that comes with them. There is a sound that is missing outside and I realize the cicadas have left and gone away. I go upstairs, feeling my way through boxes in the dark. This is not just for you but it is for you. I looked at your picture while I was typing.