We’ve got most of the stuff moved out. The TV and the couch. And the mattresses on the floor. And the curtains and the clothes and the pans and the plates and all the shit in the garage. It’s all gone and d’Artagnan doesn’t know why. Why is everything gone? And then I leave. I’m gone. Somewhere. He doesn’t know where. And I’m gone all night long. And then, the next day, here I come again. And I’m removing the boxes from the basement. All the belongings the boys left behind when they moved to New York. Their clothes. Their antiquated stereo equipment that we don’t have the authority to toss out. So we move it to the new place and throw it in the spare room. “Someplace dry,” says Deb. “Not the basement or the attic.” Because we remember the time the basement flooded and we lost all those family photographs and books. And we remember the mice in the attic. Nibbling away at all our shit. As though it didn’t mean anything.
Deb says we can’t bring the dog to the vineyard until he gets groomed. Because he “smells like a dog.” And the vineyard isn’t really our place. We’re just the caretakers. But the dog doesn’t know any of this. He’s left to wait. And he grows anxious. And he grows desperate. Remember that time we left him at my brother’s place for two months? D'Artagnan does. The landlord in Boston said no dogs. But the dog didn't know anything about that. He was left. And then, when we came to visit, only for a day, and were driving away on the highway, there was d’Art running faster than the wind right out on the highway. Chasing us down. And we had to slow up. And we had to let him in. And take him back again. Regardless of what the landlord might say. How could we leave him that way? Couldn’t we see how rapidly he could run? He came for us in a burst of speed. Nothing would stop him. How could we leave him again?
He remembers this. In his little dog brain. In his loyal dog brain. In his brain where he only wants to lie down with us when it’s time to sleep. And then wake up and eat some crunchy food. And then run outside and take a shit somewhere along the edges of the field. Where the grass grows longer. He wants these things to go on and on. He never wants them to end. In this world of springs and summers and falls and winters, he wants something that will never change. Not ever. Never. And the idea that his seasons with us might be over is too much for him. He’s in a ferrule state when I return the third day to bring him to the dog groomers. But he doesn’t understand my new words. They don’t sound like, “Are you hungry?” Or, “Do you want to go for a walk?” Or, “Come here, boy.” They sound like, “Don’t worry! Don’t worry, boy! We’re only going to the dog groomers!” I might have been saying, “You’re going to die! You’ll die today, boy! I’m driving you to the doggie slaughterhouse right now!”
And I need to address something. I hate to say it because I’m sure it means something about me I don’t want to acknowledge. But when the dog’s on the rear porch, begging to get in, with every motion of his body (mouth pulled back in a grimace, ears pressed down low in an overly-friendly Labradorian way), when he’s begging me to let him in. To not leave again. To not go away. When he’s whimpering and drooling; shaking with an emotion that might be called “love,” or maybe “desperation;” when he’s at his most vulnerable moment, that moment of absolute weakness, a wave of nausea washes over me.
Brian gave me a motorcycle. It’s black. I post a picture of it on Facebook. “This is my new bike,” I write. Someone writes, “Cool.” And I write, “It’ll be cooler when I get it running.”
But I can’t get it running. Which shouldn’t bother me. Because it wasn’t a worry before Brian gave it to me. So why should it be a worry now?
But it is. It’s a worry. And the two-pound burrito from Ponchero’s doesn’t taste so good because I’m thinking about how that injection module I ordered on Ebay for 1/15th the price of a new one didn’t do the trick. And I wonder whether or not the part I got off Ebay might be no good. Or whether I’ve misdiagnosed the problem. And it gets me to wondering what I do know, exactly, about anything mechanical. And who do I think I am? Why should I be able to fix a BMW? All that German engineering. What gives me authority over all that German engineering? And then I wonder if maybe it’s the hall effect sensors, which send a signal to the ignition module. And the ignition module sends a signal to the injector module. And what signal would cause my injectors to lose their signal? Could the airflow sensor do that? And then I look it up online. Starter problems with the K100RS. Step by step. And I determine, according to the website, that the airflow sensor is, indeed, no good. And I order a used one, again on Ebay. And I install it.
I bring the dog to the groomers. He’s whimpering and drooling the whole way to West Branch. He's thinking, where are we going? Why is Joe acting so strangely? Do I disgust him? Why do I disgust him? Why, he thinks, does Joe keep saying, “Calm down, boy! Jesus fucking Christ!” What does it mean?
All the boxes are at the vineyard. Either in the barn or the old farmhouse. All the tools from my garage. All the clothes and mattresses. And pans and plates. Everything except the stuff we’ll take to the dump. And the K100RS. Which still doesn’t run. Because I may have replaced a bad airflow sensor with a bad airflow sensor. But how do I know? Can I trust the website? Can I trust the idea that a potentiometer should change resistance when the wiper arm is stroked first one way and then the other? That a thermistor should change resistance with a change in temperature? But what if I’m wrong on these counts? And if I’m wrong on these counts, what have I ever been right about? And what possible purpose might I serve on this planet?
The move is incomplete. And we are consumed with completing it. We have the idea that when it’s over, when the old house is sold or rented, things will be easier. Things will even out. And the sameness of things will be like a long drink of cool water. And things will remain constant for the foreseeable future.
We’ve changed residences five times within five years.
(Why is that?)
And each time, we’ve lost or discarded more of what we considered “our belongings.”
Socrates would argue we’re practicing for the final move. When the time will come for us to lose everything.
Epictetus would chime in, cleverly, “Say not that I have lost it. Say only that I have given it back.”
But of course what did he know about it? He was alive when he was purported to have delivered his clever line about death. And giving back everything he ever owned. And anyone he might have loved.
The dog ceases his shaking when I open the door to the old farmhouse because he knows he’s home now. Here’s all the shit that was in the other place. It’s our shit. It must be our house. And he hasn’t been discarded. He’s still with us. And we feed him some more crunchy food. And he takes a shit in the field near the fence line. And he sleeps, once again, at my feet.
Deb worries about Mike’s medication.
I worry about the move.
“I worry,” I told Ethan.
“That’s why I like you,” he said.
Lucy is going to a new school.
Mike is going to a new school.
Imagine the bravery. To change schools at the start of your junior year.
When you’re a sixteen year old girl. And uncertain.
When you’re a sixteen year old boy. And severely autistic.
“Do you think he knows it?” said Scott.
“Yes,” I said. “He knows it. He knows he’s not like us. He knows it.”
And this should break my heart.
But it wouldn’t do anyone any good.
Besides, I’m too busy worrying about the fuel injector module. And the airflow sensor. And if I get the motorcycle going, I’ll take a trip to Colorado. And I’ll buy a whole shitload of weed for my son, Michael. Because it’s the only drug that helps him. And the trip will begin. And I’ll worry. And it’ll be over. And I’ll still worry.
I had a dream that there were angels on earth. They were very tall. And they wore dark robes. They didn’t really do much. They just stood around mostly watching us do whatever it is we do. But every now and then one of them would open his robe and I’d be filled, in the dream, with nothing but absolute happiness and absolute peace. With no reason to worry. Because I was in the presence of the absolute. The neverchanging. And all the rest was a trembling and drooling. A grimace. A whimper.
At the end, my mother bent over my father’s bed and she said, “I love you.”
And he said, “Do you?”
And she said, “You doubt me? You’ve never doubted me before.”
And he said, “Nothing seems real.”