Past Tense

May 11, 2017
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Her fingers fumbled for the metallic heart-shaped tag that dangled from my worn collar. The address listed was ingrained in her memory the same way it was engraved in the metal, but she stared at it anyway. My jaded body lay sprawled on its side, paws extended distally. Her figure mirrored mine. We watched our ribs rise as our lungs expanded, consequently collapsing with the time. The distance between the is and the was dwindled with each motion.

I laid awake, bounded by darkness, with my head thrown back and my nose pointed toward the unfamiliar ceiling above, allowing a boisterous howl to escape my mouth. My oversized ears dangled behind me, shuddering in harmony with the rest of my undersized body. Despite my disconcerted behavior, this story wasn’t about me. It was about the plush blanket she placed under my too-big paws and the gentle hum she emitted from her soft, rounded lips that filled the vacant space between us.

My wavy, golden coat soared behind me as my figure hurled against the flow of the wind. Eyes squinting, the pads of my paws pushed off the ground again and again, back feet trailing the front despite their best efforts. The world ceased around me as I forfeited the stability of the ground in favor of launching through the open air so my teeth could meet the grip of my drifting target. I dropped the ball into her waiting hand, revelling in the routine. Despite my athletic feat, the story wasn’t about me. It was about the way her lively eyes locked into mine, reassuring me, as her arm restored its original position, again catapulting the toy into the endless sky.

My beady brown eyes followed her every movement, illuminated by the sun shining through the window. The graying hair circling them expressed a stark contrast against their drifting line of vision. I settled my heavy, tired head on my legs which lay outstretched in front of me. She bounced up the steps toward the second floor. I laboriously propped myself onto all fours and forced my bulging frame to the base of the stairs. The moment she noticed my efforts, the story wasn’t about me. It was about the way her arms tucked themselves under each one of my limbs and managed to carry the weight of my aging body to her destination, just so my eyes could trace the daily routine of hers that they had come to memorize.

Now, each time her ribs fall I am uncertain they will return to their intended position. I watch anyway. Just like I watched her constantly parted, cracked lips overcome the softness. Just like I watched her lively eyes gloss over and struggle to maintain connections. Just like I watched the bounce in her step taper into a strained trudge, until it was no more. Her gentle hum succumbed to the monotonous drip of an IV bag. She fell somewhere between the happening and the happened, becoming consumed by the latter. Everything was falling victim to the past tense. She desperately scanned my tag once more, begging for familiarity. My certainty depleted. Our memories could never exist in the present. As her hand released my tag, I understood that she never would again either.

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