On Friday, I heard my neighbor's dog get hit by a car. We took a walk a while later and Aspen pointed to the fence and asked, "dogga?" There was blood on the sidewalk shaped like South America.
On Saturday morning, I cooked oats with cardamom and almond milk and told the baby not to spill. We put on shirts and pants and socks and shoes. Ken folded the red blanket on the couch and tucked it beneath his arm. "I'm ready," he said. And so we were.
We left Aspen with Michelle and the girls. They were making pancakes in the kitchen and they took her by both hands and told her to come and watch. It was the first time in fourteen months that her little body hadn't been breathing beside mine, or in the other room. Ken started the car and I watched her wave at us from inside the living room window.
The woman that brought Bjorn out to us was holding him in a towel like a newborn fawn. "She's awful happy to see you," the woman said. I wanted to tell her that Bjorn was a boy, but I decided that it didn't matter. She shifted the dog from her arms to Ken's like a something made of glass. Bjorn's hind legs hung limp and knocked against one another as we took him back to the car. I sat with him in the passenger seat and pet the space between his ears with one finger.
"I'm sorry I've been so terrible to you," I told him, and I started to cry. Ken reached across the center console and felt for my hand.
"We've done our best," Ken said. I nodded, though I didn't believe him.
I'm learning that when you lose hold of something you love, you wonder why you bothered loving at all, if in the end, everything is bound to melt and spill through desperate fingers. I understand why people allow themselves to frost over like something left outside in the snow. it's easier, somehow, not to feel. I don't want to feel this. Grief is like sand on the back of your eyes. Something that can't be rubbed or washed away.
They led us into a back room, one with a private door that dumped you directly into the parking lot. Ken held Bjorn in his red blanket and whispered that he was good, that we would miss him, that we loved him very much. The veterinarian pushed something clear into Bjorn's vein. His little rabbit's heart beat quickly for a moment, and then fell quiet.
"He's gone," the veterinarian said. She was sorry, and we were, too. We held his little body until it grew cold, and they we closed the heavy door behind us.
I don't want to feel this. But here it is: grief.
And yet - there is sweetness in tragedy and a sure warmth in love and I will allow it to thaw my brittle bones now, and tomorrow, and the next day, too. On Friday, before we said goodbye to Bjorn, we walked back up the street and the sidewalk had been hosed clean and was starting to dry.
Now, it's Sunday. I saw my neighbor outside clipping the bushes, trying to rub the sand from the backs of her eyes. Maybe I'll make her a pie tomorrow, or bring her flowers from the market on the corner. Maybe I'll say, "I know, me too, it hurts, but here, we don't have to do this alone."
To the ones you love: tonight may you kiss their hands (or paws) and say, my sweet, are you warm? Are you loved? How can I be better to you?