In the rare instances where my televisions go quiet, I hear the ticking of clocks.
In those moments, I turn my attention to them. The stately silver one that rests on my mantle. The sleek piece - a bit oblong - that came from Stockholm. The silly one that topples over when improperly placed on its stand. They, along with others placed on walls or perched on tables, tick along.
Until they don't anymore. I stared at one as its batteries died, its rhythm slowing from that of its friends. Eventually the second hand would no longer turn, hovering at the stylized 6 and twitching hopefully until gravity defeated the will of time.
Then it stopped.
"What do you want for your future?" has been a popular question of late. I've marinated in this deep unhappiness long enough that it's penetrated my skin, permeating conversations, lingering in meetings. I try to muffle it in conversations with family and friends, but hear the residual worry and sigh momentarily over my failure.
"How," the craniosacral therapist I no longer see asked, "can you fulfill your purpose if you're not aligned with your body? It's like you're slowly killing yourself."
"I do not want to grow old," I replied before frowning and realizing that was rather morbid. "I fear age and incompetence much, much more than I fear death." So perhaps if I coat my heart in cream cheese and surround myself with dough, I will go quietly.
I grimaced at a cricket when taking out the garbage. He waved his legs in the air, resting on his back and unable to right himself. It seemed best - humane - to kill the wayward creature, but I have not a strong stomach and shied away from hearing the crunch of his skeleton beneath my shoe.
Instead, I dropped the garbage bag - a heavy bag of black plastic filled with items rendered useless - atop him and glanced down after lifting it up. It had somehow flipped him over rather than ceasing his existence and I smiled for a moment as he hopped away. Then Chienne stumbled into a rock and I sighed, momentarily happiness crushed under constant degeneration.
I read somewhere that September is tough - the shifting patterns on sunshine befuddling the brain and making it sad. But this feels chronic. Perhaps a seasonal dip superimposed on a general slide downward.
I recall Smallest One's dismay when she stepped in a puddle on her last visit. Her giggling exploration pausing when she stared down at the muddy glop that enveloped her pretty shoe before she cried out, the wail echoing off the nearby houses and absorbed by the trees of the forest.
We scooped her out, soothed and patted and carried, muddy sneaker thudding against the pajamas we'd worn for our morning walk.
"It's fine, love," I told her, pressing a kiss to the fine strands of hair that insist on escaping her ponytail. "We'll wash your shoe and dry your foot and you'll be all better." And she snuffled away the last of her tears and rested her head on my shoulder until we reached the safety of home.
"I'm not well," I say often. Migraines, back spasms, bouts of anxiety that render me non-functional. And when people offer - sincerely - to help, I can't seem to let them remove my shoe and clean it off. Dry my foot and cuddle me until I'm all better.
I sat on the floor of a doctor's office - for puppies, not people - and held my Chienne while they pulled fluid from the lumps on her neck and belly. "I'd like them to be lipomas," I requested politely, resting my check on her back, reaching to adjust the glasses I'd knocked askew.
"They are," he quickly confirmed, showing my the slides.
"Yay," I offered and kissed her head.
"Of course, she could get more or they could get bigger," he arranged his hands in a shape approximating a listeria-infected cantelope. "We'll remove them before that," he assured me when I made a face at him.
"Falling apart, pretty girl," I noted. But we share take-out and naps and some days that I should spend at work but instead huddle here, alternately angry and anxious and profoundly afraid.
"What's the plan?" I asked myself as I changed the batteries in the clock so the seconds could tick by once again. So I'll go to church - I've not been in months. And we'll see how it goes from there.