Had I known but yesterday what I know today, I’d have taken out your two grey eyes and put in eyes of clay. And had I known but yesterday you’d be no more my own, I’d have taken out your heart of flesh and put in one of stone.
The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.
I have heard that sometimes when a person has an operation to transplant someone else’s heart or liver or kidney into his body, his tastes in foods change, or his favorite colors, as if the organ has brought with it some memory of its life before, as if it holds within it a whole past that must find a place within its new host. This is the way I carry Lexy inside me. Since the moment she took up residency within me, she has lent her own color to the way I see and hear and taste, so that by now I can barely distinguish between the world as it seemed before and the way it seems now. I cannot say what air tasted like before I knew her or how the city smelled as I walked its streets at night. I have only one tongue in my head and one pair of eyes, and I stopped being able to trust them a long time ago.
And sitting here now, with all of Lexy’s dreams in my lap, I realize there are things about her I will never know. It’s not the content of our dreams that gives our second heart its dark color; it’s the thoughts that go through our heads in those wakeful moments when sleep won’t come. And those are the things we never tell anyone at all.
All this to say: I am forty-three years old. I may yet live another forty. What do I do with those years? How do I fill them without Lexy? When I come to tell the story of my life, there will be a line, creased and blurred and soft with age, where she stops. If I win the lottery, if I father a child, if I lose the use of my legs, it will be after she has finished knowing me. “When I get to Heaven”, my grandmother used to say, widowed at thirty-nine, “your grandfather won’t even recognize me.
Suicide is just a moment, Lexy told me. This is how she described it to me. For just a moment, it doesn’t matter that you’ve got people who love you and the sun is shining and there’s a movie coming out this weekend that you’ve been dying to see. It hits you all of a sudden that nothing is ever going to be okay, ever, and you kind of dare yourself. You pick up a knife and press it gently to your skin, you look out a nineteenth-story window and you think, I could just do it. I could just do it. And most of the time, you look at the height and you get scared, or you think about the poor people on the sidewalk below – what if there are kids coming home from school and they have to spend the rest of their lives trying to forget this terrible thing you’re going to make them see? And the moment’s over. You think about how sad it would’ve been if you never got to see that movie, and you look at your dog and wonder who would’ve taken care of her if you had gone. And you go back to normal. But you keep it there in your mind. Even if you never take yourself up on it, it gives you a kind of comfort to know that the day is yours to choose. You tuck it away in your brain like sour candy tucked in your cheek, and the puckering memory it leaves behind, the rough pleasure of running your tongue over its strange terrain, is exactly the same…. The day was hers to choose, and perhaps in that treetop moment when she looked down and saw the yard, the world, her life, spread out below her, perhaps she chose to plunge toward it headlong. Perhaps she saw before her a lifetime of walking on the ruined earth and chose instead a single moment in the air