(Stealth Site No.1, 2011)
We lost him. Never been sure enough about anything. I sat there watching the road move in reserve, the yellow dotted stripes slowly passing like star trails during warp speed. The rain came rolling down the window, my eyes were dry but I felt like I was crying, watching the darkness of the world creep into my very soul. Every now and then headlights would shine through the darkness, coming close to hitting us, and veer just in time, just in the nick of time, and pass by. Darkness returns until the next car, or truck. Jesus Christ, what is wrong with this bus driver.
Jimmy Page was a chocolate lab, I took him everywhere I went, not that I did a whole lot of traveling, he was just always there, with me, waiting for me to return from work, waiting for me to finish my shower before finding his favorite spot to sleep, at the end of bed. I never married, not that it is too late for that, nor did I have children, which was too late for that. And I was fine with all that, as I walked Jimmy Page through the park, throwing him a tennis ball with my catch/toss stick. Sometimes I'd imagine myself deaf, blind, and mute, and when I really let myself go into that idea I imagined Jimmy Page being able to guide me through my world, he would save me from a burning building, a vandal on the street biting him in the boys. Perhaps I would never know my life was being saved, the world would be lined with fur and sharp things, all darkness, just that fur keeping me there, safe, never alone. I started to cry, thinking of what that dog would have to go through if I had lost all those senses, walking aimlessly, and depending completely on him. He would carry the weight of two on his shoulders.
The snow hasn't fallen, it is actually quite warm for November, the sun is out, and on a day everyone was expecting rain it is quite lovely weather. I can't help but feel miserable, like a part of me has been removed, and perhaps that is more true than anything. Something is missing.
There is a moment just after I wake up that I feel free of this feeling, like it was a bad dream and I escaped. There is no mercy from my feelings, my dog, my Jimmy Page died. I feel caged in a small box just large enough to fit my bent over body, the walls are cold and the tips of my fingers stick to its surface. Everyday this box oscillates from bigger to smaller, on the days it is smaller I can't help but feel absolutely lost. On the days it is bigger I can appear to be happy, content with life, which is far from the truth, what if I went blind, lose my hearing, and worst, I can't talk, what then, who will be there for me. Not Jimmy Page, as much as his spirit was with me, he was very much not here anymore.
One day, wearing my shirt that has Jimmy Page's portrait on it with the numbers, 1999 - 2011, a coworker of mine asked me if I believed in reincarnation. I never gave it any thought, thinking it was some Buddhist stuff about watching where you step, not to eat animals, and to believe life never ends -it just takes on another form. She told me that she once had a rabbit when she was a girl, and that one day it stopped moving. She had carried it around for hours before her parents realized that her rabbit was dead. She was seven when this happened and instead of her parents telling her that her rabbit, Fluffles, had gone to rabbit heaven, they told her that it went on to become another animal. Sofia, my coworker telling me this story, tells me she didn't believe her parent's words, that she was too sad at the loss of her dear Fluffles that she didn't want to imagine him anywhere but here in her arms. It wasn't until she went on a camping trip with her parents when she came across a frog by a small pond. The frog stood there, watching young Sofia slowly approach him, and when her small little fingers came climbing over his head he didn't move, he let her take him into her hands. Sofia looked long and hard into the frog's eyes, she saw something in them. After about a minute of this staring contest she let him down, the frog stood there for a moment before jumping away into the bush somewhere. Sofia, the one which has turned into adult, tells me she believes Fluffles, her rabbit, found new life in the form of that frog. And that she was happy, knowing that he was free now, beyond any kind of Heaven, he was to roam the earth in all walks of life. Something in her words struck me, gave me peace, and that night I found sleep that wasn't followed by tears. I prayed to Buddha, I asked him where my Jimmy Page was, what was he now, if I could see him again, to have a moment like Sofia's, to say goodbye, I really needed to say goodbye.
Every minute of free time I had I spent on looking for Jimmy Page. In those days I was neither happy nor sad, but anything was better then how I was feeling prior to Sofia's words. I read everything on the subject of Reincarnation, with a focus on pets being reincarnated. I came across personal accounts of owners finding their pets in new forms, they all talked like they had been abducted by aliens, no one believed them, only the ones who knew their pain and didn't give up on their pets even after they passed away in whatever form they were would understand these stories, these pet owners. I wondered what Jimmy Page was before he was a dog I owned, I imagined him as a wolf, where he was free in an endless desert, I imagined him as an owl flying high above looking over the forest late at night. I imagined him as a human, a small boy, with parents, did they know he would be a dog some day? I wanted to meet these people, I wanted to live in the forest he was an owl in, the desert he was a wolf in, I wanted to be reincarnated as well, I wanted to be whatever he was, I wanted to be happy with him again.
Every weekday I worked, I can't remember the last time I took off, my days all blend into each other. Eventually all the material I could gather stopped bringing anything new to me, and that was when I decided to leave, to take my search out from the books and into the world. I started by spending my Sundays feeding the pigeons and squirrels in the park. I took the bus to Montauk, to Mashomack, to Rocky Point, no sign, no frog, no cat, no such thing sitting there, waiting, looking at me, not running away as I approach it, no staring contest, no soul that matched my Jimmy Page. I was sad again. I wanted to roll up and die, as pathetic as that was, an middle-aged woman wanted to just die-die-die. For the first time in my life I had no purpose. Sofia, save me, tell me something new, something that would give my spirits some energy, I was down, I needed something to keep me going, I couldn't do it alone, I need some guidance.
And something did happen. I swear to God, I swear to Buddha, something very much happened. In all my doubts, after letting go of everything, everything being everything but my will to find Jimmy Page again is when it happened. It was a day like any other, I was looking down to my feet, I felt strange, not having any hope, little will to live, and just kept on going on in whatever this life I had when I stepped on a dog. Rather than it barking out in pain, or even moving, it just continued to lay there. This was in the middle of the city, coming from work. I stepped on its tail, not all the way, I realized halfway into it and pulled back. He looked up at me, it was a white lab, he had a smile on his face, he looked to be still a pup, no more than seven months old. It had been seven months since Jimmy Page had passed away. Things were making sense. I kneel down and pet him on the head, he gets excited. I scratch his neck, focusing my efforts behind his collar, he loves it. At first I was afraid to look him in the eyes, I didn't want to look into them only to realize he wasn't Jimmy in there, golden boy, a miracle, but miracles happen everyday, I needed to know, I needed to be strong and so I took a leap of faith. Into his eyes, they were the same eyes as Jimmy Page's, and in a vortex of black we made a connection. I thought of Sofia's story, and something was complete now, I was no longer a bystander to it, I was experiencing exactly what she had, I was staring at a life which was thought to have ended but had transformed, finding its way into another vessel, and what a beautiful vessel it was. Soft to my hands, I heard a voice calling out.
"Roberta. Roberta Plant."
Roberta looked over to her, then back to me, he was a she. I can't tell you what I thought about him changing sexes and how that would feel, and how I never thought about sex change during reincarnation ever. Her master came up to the two of us, she looked over and apologized. I didn't know what she was apologizing about, I was the one who had stepped on her dog's tail, and started petting it. I asked Roberta's master how old she was, the dog that is, and I was right, she was seven months old. I told her how beautiful her dog was. She thanked me. I told her I had a chocolate lab just like it, and when she asked how old it was I started to cry. I wasn't sad, nor happy, but in something bittersweet, I had found Jimmy Page, after all was almost lost, I found him, her. Her master, Patricia, asked if I was ok, and when I didn't respond she came over and padded my back then started making small circles. Her face said, I'm really confused but something inside of me feels pity for you, you look like you've gone through a lot, a lot of what, I don't know. I stopped crying, and showed signs that I was returning back to my normal self, Patricia had been with me the whole time, and it was getting dark. Patricia excused herself, said it was really nice meeting me, we didn't exchange names so we introduced each other while shaking hands.
-Nice to meet you.
-We honestly must be on our way. I hope you feel better, I am sorry about your dog.
-Jimmy, Jimmy Page.
-Yes, Jimmy Page...(linger)
As they were walking away my thoughts were all over the place. By the time I cleared them up enough to talk they were far away, faint representations in the setting sun. I ran after them like a crazy lady, and when they stopped I came up to them in a pant.
-Could I. Could I see Roberta again someday. Your dog reminds me of my dog so much, and like no other dog, it is the only thing that makes my heart stop hurting so much?
Patricia's choices were to run away, say yes and give me a business card with a false number on it, no, or yes, and actually yes, I will let you see my dog every once in a while you crazy lady.
She said yes.
Now every Sunday, instead of going alone to the park I see Jimmy, I see Roberta, I see him, I see her, growing up again, growing old again. I know I must sound crazy, I know I must be ridiculous, but there are things in life that are as simple as a dog's love, as easy as petting its fur, as loving as you know you two were meant to be, in this life and the next. Some things are strange, some things are stranger, where one life ends another begins, and this keeps on going on, over and over, until my mind starts to swirl, and I fall asleep, but this time without the tears. I know how to smile again. The bus continues to move backwards, I forgot where we are going, Patricia lost Roberta, and we're going to find her, and somehow I feel like it won't be hard at all. Not this time...(again with the linger)