– well,

it’s a strange year. You have to be planned and positive and take every advantage and every chance you have to see each other if you want long distance relationships to work. Neither my ex and I were very good at it. I put my hand up for being far less than positive – what a drag, who can put up with it? The other hand, well, I’m kind of sitting on that, because if we had a bit more planning, a bit more longterm faith, footsteps and foresight, I think I would have had a cheerier outlook, but maybe not. Once you make it through Hades, if you can make it through Hades, I think you can make it through anything, but you’ve got to have the faith you’ll make it through, and if your partner does not know you, or maybe, knows you too well, you won’t make it. Especially if your partner feels the flames a lot closer, and more urgently, than you do.

2012 is a good, strong year, and I know I am ready to fortify things and believe there is truth and possibility in hope.  Shame that there is nobody to fortify  with ;-), and that, going back to the first paragraph, is due to my lack of positivity, probably an equal lack of faith in the projected future or non-future by either ‘partner’ (in our own ways), and both of us guilty of not seeing the other when we should have and could have. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, but this is actually a post more about Elroy, the Boston Terrier-Pug mix star of this blog, than anything else, so bear with me. It’s not a confess-mess – I think.

Anyway – I kind of got kicked out of the place that I shared in Seattle. Well, there’s no kind of to it. It’s just I wasn’t there, and it was quite a shock, even though I was, we were, split up, and it was bound to happen. Somehow, even though I wasn’t there, I thought that I would have had a chance to say goodbye to everyone, and everything, maybe even a chance to not have to say goodbye,  and to have at least had some input in making sure that all my possessions, which were shipped from both Japan and Perth as gestures of good faith, were shipped back. I was here. I didn’t go there. What did I expect? Even so. Well, my goods got shipped to Perth. I had little say in it. I paid. I don’t begrudge that. I didn’t have to. Far more was spent on the cost of getting them to Seattle by my ex (I think there was more then). It was the process. The exile. The powerlessness and power of distance, of ownership, residence that was cold, maybe necessary, but I don’t know. I was messy. Would I do the same? I don’t know.

I read an article in the New Yorker the other day. It is from 2010, when I was still in the States – October 11. I would have been in Seattle. I can’t recall reading the article then, though I remember flicking through that particular edition.

A colleague here from 2010 returned to her home country recently (Minnesota, U.S.A.) in March this year. She had a big collection of New Yorkers from her time here (shipped over), mostly, entirely, covering the time I was in the U.S.A.. 2010, a watershed year of change, of confusion, of regression and return. Of hope, of optimism, of possibility, of new beginnings.  I find it interesting that I have broken with 2010, or never got a chance to finish laying down the paving stones of that year, and here I am again with a box-load of 2010. My ex (Dave) subscribed to the New Yorker – so they were always toilet, car, interim reading, though the articles are so long, they are now perfect for Toyohashi-Nagoya reading, in a way that I didn’t have time to read them in the States.

The article I read from October 11 is “Dealing with the Dead“,  by Jennifer Egan in the “Something Borrowed” section.

In it she details how she has worn  items belonging to some members of her family who have passed, as a means of remembering them. Initially, if it is a piece of clothing, the smell imbued brings the loved ones sharply to mind, until, of course, the first wash or two. Speaking of wearing a vest of her deceased father-in-law’s, she writes

the garment smelled so much like him – coffee, pepper, burning wood – that when I held it under my children’s noses and asked, “Who does this smell like?” they both cried, startled, “Grandpa!”(2010, p.68)

Not my photo. The original can be found here.

Another colleague here, and his wife, a Canadian and a Japanese, always exchange a piece of clothing when they need to leave each other for a period of time, say, a flight, or a trip home, which might see them separated for more than 24 hours. Smell is evocative.

Our dog, at the time, my ex’s dog now (always, really) knew that. He has featured a lot in this blog. Elroy. If Dave had gone on a trip to Chicago, and I had stayed behind (just the once out of three possible joint visits in 2010), to do the books, or look after the dog, and so on, Elroy would curl up in any of his shirts that might be left out.

On another occasion, we had a road trip to Chicago in 2010, and we took in Minneapolis on our way back. The Walker Art Center, which is wonderful – I saw it in 94, well before I knew Dave, and was happy to see it again – was open late on Thursdays, and also free. Elroy was travelling with us. We left him in our hotel room, and he knew we’d return soon.

It was a beautiful summer evening. The exhibitions were great, and with this recurring theme of the past catching up with the present or the future, I saw one of the same exhibitions at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle when I visited Dave for summer, 2011. It will probably be in Perth when I return this summer/winter.

So, we crossed over the large walkway, enjoyed the last of the sun, and wandered back to the hotel. I was first in the door, and there was Elroy curled up in Dave’s canvas yellow bag on wheels (a modern suitcase). Dave had left it unzipped, and his shirts were folded inside. Elroy was pitter-pattering around so fast once we entered the room, that Dave didn’t catch sight of it, but it was cute and touching. His whole being wanting to be close enough to the thing that reminded him most of his people, who had seemingly deserted him, and then of course, the anthropomorphizing, where it seemed he really wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t leave him behind. I tried to have my camera ready the next time we went out and came back, but, “Hey, I’m not a performing seal, Sue!”, our stubby-tailed performing seal barked out, refusing to bed down in the suitcase again.

I am not your performing seal, Sue! And any moron can see that the suitcase is upright.

Elroy’s seal face – photo taken by Dave.

We took him for a walk along a park (concrete with trees), that cut through the city near us. He was so pleased, as always, when we came back, when we walked together, he did his crazy mad fast figure of eights, lassoing us in a lemniscate of eternity, which maybe existed only in his mind. Dogs remember, though. They have different value systems, and are far less judging and judgemental, but they remember people.

Well, we (Dave and I) had visa issues. It was the main reason I did not stay in the States. At the same time, I could have found work (maybe), but I didn’t want to be the only one putting the effort into exploring and nurturing the possibilities of me staying in America. I’d already given up two countries, a job, or development of a job, and my possessions to go there. I wasn’t the only one who had given things up, that’s for sure, but I wanted to be sure that we both wanted me to be there, and that it was sustainable for both of us for me to be so. Sometimes it seemed it was a joint project; I feel it should have been working towards, or at least supported by a joint, a lot of joints, but in many ways, probably too many, it was jointless. What do I mean? You mean like, Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine? No, no, no. Our relationship was often like a table without  legs.

We had the beginnings, the starts, the motions, the appearance of laying things down, but once it came to actually talk about developing, and actual developing, creating, forming, hammering in the nails of the table legs to make sure the table top didn’t fall, we just didn’t do it. But, and I’m on a movie quote roll here, as Judd Nelson (Breakfast Club) said – Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place, except we didn’t even really bother to screw anything together, except for the obvious, and that was fun. Ah well, we weren’t on the same the page, or if we were, the language we were reading and writing with was so vast in its difference as to be incomprehensible to one another.

We never made any plans for any kind of future beyond the next time we would see each other. Maybe I should have been happy with that. There was a maybe intention that in the future sometime we might possibly be the right people for one another. It was said, and agreed upon, by the both of us, that we were the right person for the other, but there were no plans for the future. I found it hard to deal with, and I destroyed anything in the present in pursuit of a more tangible future. Strange creatures, aren’t we?

Anyway, this Something Borrowed, this article of 2010, this wearing of dead people’s clothes. The last time I was in Seattle was summer of 2011. I left September 10. I took Elroy for a walk as I usually did, the day before. We would walk most mornings to St Edward Park, and we’d take steep walks up and down the paths to Lake Washington. Beautiful walks that kept both of us very fit and healthy and social. You should have seen him when he met the Great Dane. I don’t think he even noticed as he walked under its belly. When I was walking him there regularly in 2010, the photos show a strong little bundle of muscle and energy (see above).

Often I would walk him later in the day as well, and this day I walked him on a path which ran off from the house. Dave and I had only discovered it that trip. When I first arrived in 2010, we cut through the brush (or rather, bramble) to get to the small creek that ran behind the property. Images of us sitting on the verandah and looking out to the babbling brook had been written as an ideal in letters sent and read before we met, and some mornings we did sit out there, though, in the summer, the best time for sitting, the greenery blocked the views of the water, though you could hear it.

I hadn’t gone down there since, as there was no easy path, but in the interim, it seemed that the county, or maybe the housing development above, had put a nice path running alongside the house and up to the new development. It was a good quick walk, a little steep, about 20-30 minutes. Probably a lot less. 15 minutes?

Anyway, usually if Elroy and I took it, he’d either be running ahead, or behind, or catching up, or sniffing around, or doing all the things that dogs off leashes love doing. This day, however, for the whole walk, he kept stopping, and he wouldn’t budge again until I had leashed him. Then he would walk patiently and happily by my side. Strange for a dog, huh? Well, there are coyotes in that area sometimes, so I thought that maybe he could smell them, and wanted to be close.

As he hadn’t had much of a run, I hopped in the car, and drove to Rhododendron Park. This was a park near our, or rather, the/Dave’s house, which I had discovered in 2010, and it was the mainstay for Dave and me when we wanted to give Elroy some quick exercise. Rhopa was its Dave-coined nickname. Again, this was Elroy’s tramping ground. He usually ran into the bushes, ran around, sometimes did his crazy figures of eights. Often I needed to call him to come back. I thought he could really stretch his little legs – but unhuh – No Siree Bob! He wasn’t going to move until I leashed him and walked with him. He didn’t like me leaving. He was keeping an eye on me.

When we got home, I went upstairs to do some work on the computer. In addition to me leaving, Dave was going to be visiting family in Chicago the next day, so Elroy knew we would both be gone for a while, but I think he knew I’d be gone for much longer. After all, I left November 2010 after arriving in March 2010, returned for just three weeks in Feb/Mar 2011 (starting my new job here) – had six weeks in Seattle the summer of 2011. Too, counting the times that Dave and I had been in Chicago (twice for me, more for him), and Australia (twice for me, once for Dave), Elroy had been separated from the two of us for long periods. And then, of course, I made the mistake of not returning for Christmas and Spring break, 2011-2012, though if something is built to last, as friends have said, it can weather a few separations, though probably not so early in the game. Just seemed the axles on this wobbly bicycle were never going to be tightened, but I think all that either one of us had to do was tighten it. The intention has to be there. The wrench ready in somebody’s hand; ideally, both partners able to maintain, in one form or another, a well-functioning kind of relationship.

Elroy about to tuck into a piece of rawhide. He’s sitting on my legs here, his preferred buffer for chewing rawhide.

As I was sitting on the bed, typing, wasting time, looking things up, Elroy wedged himself in my folded legs and he wouldn’t shift. I had to lean over and type around him. Luckily, he’s a small dog. He had forgiven our imminent departure by the next day, but he was ferocious in his determination to get me to stay that night. He did as much as he psychologically and bodily could. Ah. How did he know? Even at the time I thought he knew. I should have had faith in his little dog wisdom. Listened. Let’s return to the opening paragraph about the lack of same. Mine, of course.

When Dave returned from Chicago, I was back at work in Japan, he wrote me the following email:

I woke at 9, Elroy wasn’t in bed. Strange. Probably in [the spare] room, I thought. Go brush my teeth. Look at the empty bed, go check [the spare room], not there. Go downstairs, check the round pillow, not there either. Make coffee, look under the coffee table. Not there. Check office couch. Empty. Go back upstairs, set my cup on the table, feel around on the bed to see if he has flattened himself into an Elroy-shaped indent in the mattress. No. Check the wardrobe closet. Not there. Start thinking about the rapture-like event in “The Leftovers.” I am genuinely confused, and starting to worry. I call his name. Nothing. Then, recalling a maneuver employed by someone I know, I clapped my hands together loudly a couple of times [the only way to get Elroy moving! Our early morning pre-walk ritual] — and I see your pillow move. I check it, and sure enough, there he is, completely covered by a single pillow on your side of the bed. I guess that he misses your scent. I tell him it’s time to go potty. He scrambles to his feet, bleary-eyed, s-t-r-e-t-c-h… Yawn…. Unfurl that Tongue… Then stutter trot down the stairs out the door into the wet foliage of the Kenmore jungle.

(Private correspondence, 2011, September 19).

So, there were many times that Elroy wanted to curl into pieces of clothing that I had left behind, or out, but I was always reluctant to have my black t-shirt covered in fawn coloured dog hair – right? Everything, I am assuming, or it is what we both think, to the best of our separated abilities, is everything, got packed, bundled, and sent. Except for clothes. Donate them, I said. I don’t think there were many left, though there is a pair of Dave’s jeans I used to wear, a black pair, usually too heavy except for the cooler days of autumn, to wear, and an embroidered Indian silk top, that I bought in Oman, which I only thought about later, which I would have liked. There was also a wicked, red, fluffy jacket, which we called the “pimp jacket”, but it was so big that packing would not be worth it, considering how often I wore it (not much). I brought a lot of my clothes when I moved here (for work – in my mind, not a permanent thing, or something we hopefully could have incorporated somehow), and Dave brought about another suitcase over when he visited October 2011.

Tulips blooming in the Seattle garden. Despite planting them, have never seen them. Photo by Dave.

Now someone else’s clothes are hanging in the wardrobe, so I know my items won’t be there, especially if everything else is gone, though I do hope that my tulips bloomed this year. The slugs are unforgiving, so maybe not. Squirrels steal bulbs too. Even so, I hope that maybe there was a scrap or two of cloth left, something big enough for a small dog to curl up into and to maybe remember. Though the beauty of that little dog, of course, is that he loves the one he’s with.

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