2:30 in the morning, and I'm walking dogs. Isabella, of course, and Brody, who's staying here temporarily. A beagle and a rat terrier. She's spayed, he's neutered, but if they weren't they'd have the most adorable offspring.
Not that I'd have the energy to deal with puppies. Sometimes I even wonder if I'll always be able to deal with the dog I've got. The fact is, Bella's only two years old. Beagles have an average life span of fifteen years. She'll still be around when I'm sixty.
Which seems not as old as it once did, really. And not as far away. There was a time when I couldn't imagine being in my forties. For that matter, I could never have imagined a lot of things that have happened in my life.
Brody pulls hard on his leash, Bella yanks in the opposite direction. I try to assert my balance, and in the process stomp my foot. Hard. Pain shoots through me, I moan in agony. The dogs stop and look at me with "You okay, man?" expressions. Even when they're annoying, they mean well.
I stomped too hard on my bad foot, the one with a steel plate instead of a heel, the one that I broke in a suicide attempt when I realized my marriage was irrevocably broken. That would be another thing that I would never have been able to imagine happening to me.
Not the suicide attempt or the divorce, but the marriage itself. I drifted through my twenties filled with profound self-loathing, and the notion that anybody would want to be with me seemed...well, inconceivable. I literally couldn't imagine such a thing happening.
Somehow, it did. That it didn't last almost doesn't matter. (Except for, you know, the physical and emotional scars that took forever to heal.) Because eventually, having discovered that someone could stand to live with me, that maybe I wasn't so terrible (and despite the divorce, Sue Ellen and I remained friends), I somehow had the courage to wade out into the world again, to actually live.
Then things got weird, and good and bad. A life was lived, almost without me realizing it. I discovered that I could be a good guy, or an asshole, or sometimes utterly indifferent. And I fell in love again, and got my heart broken again, but that's how it goes, I guess.
Still. Things get better. Janie's in my life, and everything's different. She's my age, and we've both had eventful lives. We've both lost our parents, for one thing, so we've had that defining moment of it-can't-get-any-worse. Things still hurt, but not as deeply. But we can still feel, and still love.
Brody's ears pop up and down as he looks around, all his sense firing. Bella is onto some scent, her nose low to the ground. I gently tug their leashes and they turn, following my lead. "Come on, guys," I say. "Let's go home."