Scout and Leila
The day after day, divine love of a first pet, like when channeling a god, can be so brutally terrific as to fixate the totality of a child's heart. Leila, my sweet, amber skinned sister, found Scout rough and soaked on the cold neighborhood drive in the early morning one fall. Red leaves were stuck to her skin. These Leila gently pulled from her as I stroked her exhausted shoulders. Warm rain fell for hours on the patio as our spirits coalesced.
A great transfixion and years of photographs are what followed. Leila quietly twisting in the red airplane swing, nudged by Scout's nose, a drop of rain becoming visible in the horizon. I in a denim coat, Scout covered in ice, paws up, an exposed root behind our feet. A lovely mix of Collie and Shepherd, even as she grew old she seemed to be young, even as she grew thin she seemed to be full; it is the wishful thinking of a child in love, that this first and uttermost affection of a thing engenders a permanence, not in spirit, but in tangible actuality: a mind which says 'this cannot die.'
Then one night as we slept the dog which never strayed moved off into the dark. On awakening, she was not at our feet, nor at her water bowl, nor somehow clutching an animal in the yard. And you know this dreadful imminence: fast and frenetically rounding corners and in attics and anywhere at all in search of peace restored. The energy and will of the hunt grew as quickly as the disheartening swell of our chests beating. 'Mother,' we were crying, 'Father,' we were crying, find her, our baby, our soul! And as the minutes dropped so did strikes of lightning, and a thousand wretched visions traced in us every conceivable tale of our sweet thing injured by the very earth she had freely worshipped.
We cried out, hit pans, fired gunshots in the dark. In riotous howls we heard her moving through a corridor of willows. Leila would run, and I after her. Down the hours and amid the twilight we would burn through thorns and threaded branches, suspended in her sorrowed wails. Now and then they came from so close by that we would glance at one another in magic disbelief, and rush toward it through the trees only to find another empty clearing, a few bare bushes and the murmuring grass.
This happened for years: we would hear her barking madly through the wood while the stovetop kettle whistled and Leila cried. It would carry on for hours, and unmercifully it moved us to shattering. How long can one hear a lost love alive before going mad? The answer is as vivid and strange as when, in the days after a terrible dream, its constituent symbols come to bear in the everyday movement of your living. It has chased you. In a few brief moments you feel the self waver into and out of connection with being. That is how it went. In a singular, chattering instant, she lost her mind. It may have been after only a few days. We would find her facing walls, counting beads, bitterly tearing through rosaries. We would awake in the middle of the night to a screaming kettle, and come to find her with her hand placed upon it, wide-eyed and unwavering. Even in those forlorn episodes we could hear Scout faintly, as if across an ocean, a universe, an epoch. There was nothing we could do. But out we would go each morning, savage and weeping, ripping apart more and more of the forest until we vowed we'd leave nothing left. We would kill that thing which swallowed our heart, and so with blades and pellet guns we imprisoned every dreadful leaf of our growling misery.
On this particularly tragic day of which I'm thinking, Leila crouched on all fours, shaking, yelling the sleepless name, as unremittingly Scout sent back the song of unendurable heartache. Leila screamed, and raised the warped, ragged blade to her wrists. My mind so terribly remote, I didn't know what to say. I thought perhaps that after all these years we were no longer hearing her voice, but the abject hunger for our savior, at last unreachable, and to die would bring us closer to her than anything. Mother was back home drunk in a rocking chair. Father was back home drunk in a shed. We were deep in the wood and could not turn back. I whispered to her 'Go, sweet sister,' and watched her grind through skin and vein until, becoming white, she kissed the soil and slept. Once and for all my heart dissolved, and laying beside her, I performed an equal dramaturgy.
We were, perhaps, buried there someday. But somewhere off in time I became aware of a broad, wet body next to mine. I was surely not alive. Surely not alive, for, there beside me was the myth of all my youth, that sacred, marbled wolf and keeper of my memory. I watched my white wrist raise to her head. She was silent. I was surely not alive. She whined, paws up, an exposed root visible behind her, and behind that my sweet Leila, motionless, deaf, and consumed. Scout could not bear it, she writhed beside her love and in crashing howls began to beg for death. Oh, how I pushed and pulled to bring my sister forth from nothing. It was useless. I was alive, and there is no more tragic a thing. With its red, mad eyes my soul stared into Leila's, and Scout's into mine, and to the most undeserving of all things breathing, a drove a blade through the arch of her frame, before into mine. There the deranged architecture of our legend tumbled among the flowers, and at last we knew silence.
Thereafter though has come to us a world of texture, the sounds of a crimson furnace, and an eternal dread of nothing. But we have come to find no thing which truly ends, for in this moment we lie safe in the keep of leaves, somewhere in the offing, surrounded by lilacs and wind, whispering promises that one day we might return.