For whatever reason, I am nostalgic. The problem is I’m too young to be nostalgic. Nostalgia seems only to be reserved for either the old or the dying. I haven’t lived long enough to be rewarded with it and knowing my mortality hasn’t affected me like it should. I feel like I’m trespassing into an abandoned house exclusively for ghosts and critters.
It’s strange saying you have two houses in your home town. That feels kind of like the thing you should have one of and having more than one does not make me feel extra special but more compartmentalized. I’ve grown into the habit of identifying the first as my childhood home, isolated on the hill, the center piece in a snow globe. It’s far enough away from the two gas stations (in case you miss the first one two blocks away) that it doesn’t impede on the expansive of our yard where I would spend my time racing through its openness, my arms like nets trying to catch butterflies. Then my dad ambitiously built a play area. I’d later call it “the monster” after falling off of it twice, suffering two sprained ankles, a bruised ego, and a third-degree burn from my own bumbling ability to hold a firework sprinkler and swing at the same time.
When my dad built anything into the yard, it turned into the focal point of activity or inactivity as my friends would prop themselves against the yellow poles and chortle at the random stray cat that found one person irresistible and preceded to stalk her. We wouldn’t talk much about school or the people that existed in it. This was even before we had social media sites. It’s hard to conceive we had anything to say to each other then. Conversations manifested organically. I can only remember the time fondly, teeth-filled smiles and episodic montage exaggerations glorifying our youth.
Before the play area, there was the dog cage, a silver squared fence that housed our dog, Dog, one example of my parents’ lack of ingenuity or mental effort to name any of our pets, giving them covert names like D2. It was sad seeing Dog alone. I thought seeing anyone in a cage was sad, but I think as a child, I thought it was more depressing being outside of the cage and having to watch someone locked inside. So I joined Dog in the cage, which made me feel considerably better, nobler than I actually was.
In the small square, Dog’s eyes drooped, heavy and torpid from the languid day. Once I quietly snuck out while Dog was sleeping, the guilt inside me silent. Not a word from my self-conscious. It was only when Dog woke up that I started to feel an adequate amount of guilt, which lead me back to the cage. To repent, I rubbed her stomach.
My dad oddly stared at me one day when he was preparing to mow the lawn. He said, “you don’t have to be in there, you know?”
“I know,” I responded, which I didn’t. I knew my chest hurts whenever I saw Dog alone, that my lips had a tendency to recede into my mouth, that meeting anyone’s gaze was like looking at the glare of the sun, and that talking about everything else but Dog was the worst.
I thought my dad and mom were being heartless and bad, the only words I really knew. Something needed to be done. I played out how the conversation would go.
Me: Dad. Mom. I really think you should get rid of the cage. It’s so sad, and it’s mean to do to Dog.
In My Head Mom: But honey. . . [my mom never called me Honey, but in my made-up world, she did]
Me: No, Mom. I think if you think about it, you know it’s wrong.
In My Head Dad: Hmm, I think you could be right.
When I brought the conversation up to my parents, I would learn that the door was left open to the house, and Dog had sped outside to chase a squirrel. I learned from my dad that Dog was hit by a truck, her body contorted like a snake through the truck’s wheels and axles. I learned several years later that my mom had tried to clean as much of Dog’s remains off the road using the kitchen spatula, which my dad would vehemently discard when he found out. I saw none of this, but I learned.
My dad disassembled the cage a year later. He buried Dog that week in our yard, far away from the cage.