Saturday, 11 November 2017
There was a fly in the room. I snuggled under the covers, hiding from the afternoon light and the buzz. Momo Cat curled up against the back of my legs. Against the wall of my chest my heart ached.
Voices floated up through the floorboards from the room below. Paddy crooning to the dog in his lap. Kim washing up the lunchtime dishes. Kim in the house, fetched down from Foncebadon, a long morning’s drive up the mountain and back down again for just a couple of days. But these are special circumstances. Dire days.
The dog in Paddy’s lap is Rosie Dog, our little chihuahua terrier mutt. The veterinary specialists in Leon say Rosie’s spleen and liver are dotted with what is probably cancer. She will probably die soon. Seven years ago, right about this time of year, Kim found Rosie limping along the Camino de Santiago in a eucalyptus forest outside O Pedrouzo. She brought Rosie home to us.
Kim has come and gone a few times in the years since. Rosie became a lap dog, a house pet, a fixture at Peaceable Kingdom. Kim remains Rosie’s favorite person. It was only right that Kim should come to see the dog again, to say goodbye.
It’s very right, having Kim in the house. Kim belongs here, just like Rosie belongs here. Some creatures are just like that.
I lay there in my bed, my own bed in my own house, probably my favorite place in all the Earth. I let myself feel the pain in my heart, the keen loss of a beloved friend. Yeah, she’s just a dog. But she’s an integral part of my life, a little spark that’s lighted up my days for seven years. When I lose her, I’ll lose a piece of my heart, a bit of my home.
I heard a tear thump onto the pillow by my ear.
I thought of the heaviness of the past few weeks, the months of dull depression, the sparks of hope that I’m pulling out of it, the desperation at oncoming projects that ought to make me happy, but only overwhelm me with details and expenses. I thought of Paddy’s aging body and low spirits, the wonderful book no agent can be bothered to look at, my son’s struggles, the friend in North Carolina with cancer, the neighbor caring for her husband with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, Donald Trump as president of the United States, and the ongoing Republican dismantling of that beautiful Democracy. Catalonia. The future, or the lack thereof.
A motorbike zoomed past on the road outside. The fly buzzed past my ear.
I am at home, I thought. Kim's here. Paddy is here. Rosie is still here, and me. We are all here today, all of us still alive, looking forward to a nice dinner in a warm kitchen.
My heart aches, but I could not ask for more than this.
Momo purred against my knees. I opened my eyes all the way. The soft yellow kitchen light shone up through the cracks between the floorboards. Down there someone fired-up the new pellet stove and put on a classical guitar album, Barrios. Softly, music I know by heart. I was time to get up, to close up the cold frame in the back garden before the sun went down. Lettuces out there, ready to pick for salad. Dinner was already set in motion.
The patio dogs shouted the alarm. A pilgrim at the gate, someone coming in off the trail, and out the bedroom window I saw Paddy bring in a blonde lady. Clearly exhausted, probably did the 31 kilometers from Carrion de los Condes and found the Moratinos albergue and hostel both closed. We’d have to revisit the dinner plan. Have to feed the animals early, have to change the sheets on that second bed in the salon…
I combed my hair, splashed water on my face, went downstairs. Her name was Ingrid. She sat at the kitchen table while the music played and the kettle boiled, the cats chased one another. Rosie dozed. Patrick peeled potatoes. Kim took the lady’s pack to the salon.
I gave Ingrid a cup of tea.. She put her hand on mine. She was crying.
“This is a home,” she said. “A family. I feel like I am at home.”
And she was right, by God.