As I walked toward the library today, I saw a black bird sitting on the sidewalk, quivering gently. It didn’t move as I approached, which surprised me. So I stopped to look down at it. It became clear that it was dying. Death was coming gently, as it stared at me, unable to move or fly away. It saddened me. An omen perhaps. Strange.
Earlier, as I lay and thought about things, the strangest memories came to life. I thought about my dog, Tootsie, when I was a teenage boy. For the longest time, for years, and as long as I can remember, I could never remember the name of my dog. Today, it came to me, almost magically. It just popped into my head for some bizarre reason today.
We had many stray dogs on our farm growing up. But we had two small dogs that weren’t strays. One was a very tiny dachshund weenie dog, named Rocky, with short, deep auburn color hair. I always remembered his name. The second one, which we got later after Rocky, was about twice the size, but still small. I think Tootsie was some kind of mix between a Beagle and Dachshund, and her color pattern reminded me of a Beagle. I loved all our dogs, but these two I loved especially.
Whenever I would go out into the fields to work on the farm, the two invariably followed me on foot. Their short little legs moved about ten times faster than mine. Working on the farm was hard, and it often was a solitary job. So I would often get lonely. I would play with the dogs and talk to them occasionally, playfully.
Tootsie didn’t like my adopted father. She was afraid of him. My dad had a severe temper and anger problem. He had many good and noble qualities but anger management wasn’t one of them. One time, she scurried to her little dog house after he had yelled at her. When he went to reach his hand inside the house to grab her, she bit him. She was a small dog so the bit wasn’t too harmful. But it further made my dad angry, and hateful of Tootsie.
One day, my parents decided to give away Tootsie to one of our farm laborers. She worked in our packing shed every summer, and had done so for years. She was a wonderful lady, but she spoke no English. So, at the end of the work day, Tootsie was put inside her car and driven away. Miles away. They lived about 10-15 country minutes from our house, in a neighboring town at least 10-15 miles away, across major roads that was always full of high speed traffic.
A few days after Tootsie left me, she miraculously showed up at our house, hair messed up and looking very scruffy, as if she had been through hell, limping slightly as she came up to me. She always had perfect fur previously. Somehow, Tootsie managed to find her way back home, even though she had never been to their house before, nor traveled the long distance she was moved to. She braved fast on-coming traffic, endured miles of travel to find us again. I was so happy, thinking we could now keep Tootsie, since clearly she didn’t belong there or want to be there at the strange house. But my parents insisted we had to give Tootsie back to the new owners. It broke my young heart.
Isn’t it interesting the memories that greet us sometimes? Out of the blue? Of all the things I could be contemplating today, Tootsie came to mind. I found it intriguing.
These past few months I’ve had some incredibly vivid dreams. I used to always think to myself, why can’t I see color or vividness in my dreams as others say they do? I could sometimes recall dreams, but they were never in high def or vivid. Lately they’ve been like UHD movies. So vivid, it seemed impossible they could be a dream. Random people and random created scenes my subconscious brought to the forefront for some reason. Most times, they were people I never think about or knew long ago, or not well at all. Sometimes they were more recent people in my life. I recall thinking to myself inside one of my dreams, “I can’t believe how vivid this dream is!”
Dreams are puzzling. Why do they come up as they do? And the people who come into our dreams? I recall one dream, where my ex-wife appeared, she had been burned badly on parts of her body, and she asked me, “Do you still love me, even though I’m not so beautiful anymore?” I replied, “Of course baby, I will always love you. I don’t care what you look like.” It was such a strange thing. I never dream of my ex’s. But I always worried that I was too superficial, only able to love beautiful young women with perfect bodies. I worried how I would be able to love them as we got older. Maybe I’m not as superficial as I thought. I hope.
Recently I re-read portions of my book, Iron, Not Wood, and I thought to myself, I am still this person. I haven’t changed. Sometimes we say things in our low moments that aren’t completely true, only to regret them later. I even read Chapter 10 about all the stupid chick stories. I laughed. In truth, I don’t regret writing the book. I regret rushing the book and not making it as good as it should have been. I can do better than that, I know it.
But the past few years have been incredible and interesting. I couldn’t have imagined any of it until it happened. And while I have things I wish I could do differently, for the most part, I don’t really have any huge regrets.
I doubt anybody in this world could possibly understand why I did or do what I do. I’m certainly not like anyone else I know, not even close. Good or bad, I don’t know. My life was never meant to be a typical journey. It didn’t start that way, and it hasn’t ended that way either. I never envisioned or expected I would live to be 50. I would turn 47 in less than a month. It’s been a full life. Complete in my own way. I really think I lived about a hundred years, although I still feel like about 25 inside.
My health is perfect. Maybe the best it’s been since I was in my early twenties. In some ways even better. Even the smallest and minor, and completely unrelated afflictions I used to endure are gone. Why? How? I have no idea. It doesn’t make any sense. I went from needing to constantly be near toilets, visiting about 10-20 times per day, every day, to just once or twice now, normal, for months. No pain. No vomiting anymore. No discomfort. Not even lactose intolerance, magically. I used to even have this annoying minor skin disorder, where small areas of my skin on a handful of areas throughout my body would develop a dry spot that could not be cured by anything except prescription strength steroid cream. So I would apply it maybe once a month as needed and it would disappear, until it came back, in the exact same spots. These are all gone too. No cream needed anymore. Incredible.
I went back to the doctor to have a bunch of tests run in the early summer. And after repeated visits, my final visit, when my doctor was supposed to summarize my situation, I decided to skip it. I never found out the results of my latest medical tests. I don’t know why. I guess I just didn’t want to know the answer, either way. I ran away from Santa Barbara.
I should be dead long ago, over a year ago. I guess, God wasn’t ready yet. I thought I was. The night in Istanbul should have been my last; my Lazareth moment. There is no reason I should have survived that night. None. Except that my condition caused me to throw up more than I normally used to, especially when consuming alcohol. I used to be able to drink virtually unlimited sums of beer or liquor without throwing up, a handful of years ago. But my body changed, and even modest amounts sometimes caused me to puke. I don’t have this anymore either.
While I was traveling I often thought about dying, mixed in between the euphoria of partying and discovering new places, and meeting incredibly beautiful girls. Health wise, some days were bad. Other days, not so bad. I remember one night, my ex -Marina – spent the night with me. It was the worst night of pain I have ever endured. My intestines and bowels decided a major revolt against me, at the worst possible time. I wanted to spend the night next to Marina, just hugging her and absorbing the precious time we had left. Normally, I could just try to ignore it. But I spent all night, literally, in the bathroom, in intense pain, curled up on the cold floor, unable to do a damn thing to make it go away. I had severe diarrhea and intense gastric pain in my intestines – at the same time, somehow. It felt like I was going to explode from within. It caused me to continually vomit all night, despite nothing left to remove. Countless hours. It was the worst of it. And all I could think about was killing myself that night. The pain was simply unbearable, and hope seemed so far away. If Marina wasn’t laying in the bed nearby, I would have surely ended it that very night.
What a crazy life, huh? A good life, most times. Even roses have thorns; the thorns serve a purpose, to protect the rose.
But, through all of it, I know that I’m not such a bad person. I may not be perfect, but I’m someone that God could love, as I am. And I’m content knowing that I’m more beautiful on the inside than the outside, despite the rough image I project sometimes. And that’s enough. I hope that’s not simply a testament to my ugly face. LOL.