“Dear CALVIN we miss u”
I woke up to those words today. Father’s status message on Whatsapp. Five words. They shook my heart and triggered a tsunami. A tsunami of memories.
Those memories violated me, broke my bubble of sunny thoughts, filled me with doubts, and made me bawl in the restroom. In spite of the assault, I didn’t wish I could flush those memories down. I didn’t want to pretend that I am okay, when I can’t banish a bunch of images which would chase me until my bones are reduced to ashes. I choose not to cast off those images. They are mine. They are me.
We place Calvin on the cold table. He pants, still gathers some strength to look around. He knows that place and we know he loathes it. I don’t see his tail. I don’t know if he wagged it then. I see his eyes. Grey and glassy despite the cataract. I try to travel deeper into the eyes, I see fear. I think I see fear. My vision becomes blurred because tears are filling those two inadequate windows called eyes. I am mad at the tears because they are thwarting me from looking at our Calvin for one last time. I allow them to mar my vision all the same.
The doctor says he will not be in pain anymore. I thank her and she says I have a couple of more minutes with Calvin. I reach his ear and whisper, “I am sorry.” I am sorry for all the times I ignored you. I am sorry for hurting you. I am sorry for yelling at you. I am sorry for not talking to you a lot. I am sorry for being mad at you when I couldn’t manage my anger. I am sorry. I am sorry. IamsorryIamsorryIamsorryIamsorry.
I… am… sorry…
I drop a kiss on his face; I leave the room without turning back.
Calvin is alive. He breathes. He smells death. I cross a door.
I cross the door again. Calvin is not alive. I smell death.
A door. A door that conjured up a gulf that can never be crossed.
Father’s friend carries Calvin as we collect all the shards of our broken hearts to see our dear boy for one last time before he is going to be offered to the eternal darkness. His eyes are open. Grey. Glassy. Gone.
Fred’s aroma has not deserted him; it wafts over me now, as though I had just removed the stopper from a vial of cheap perfume. His aroma has not deserted the last collar he wore, either…
Here I am, seven years after his death, still sharing a fever bed with him and, what is infinitely more burdensome, still feeling the compulsion to write about him.
— ‘EB White on Dogs’
Call me schizophrenic, I wouldn’t complain. Two years after we let Calvin go, I still hear the pitter-patter of his paws which walked miles and miles, and I hear his sigh as he turns to his side to make himself more comfortable while he is asleep. I use the bowls in which he drank litres and litres of buttermilk. I sniff my old clothes, close my eyes, and I see him looking back at me with benevolence.
My nephew Shravan was right on so many levels when he said Calvin is alive. The years we shared with the great black dog is woven so deeply into the tapestry of our lives that it is beyond our brains to believe that he is gone.
We once had a balcony. A spacious balcony from where Mother and Calvin saw us leaving for work. Mother would wave with enthusiasm, with zennish Calvin at her heel. Before I take the last turn and leave the road, I would look at them one more time.
Calvin would look down, his leaf-like ears partially curtaining his eyes. Jet-black face. Velvety fur. Pink tongue bordered by shiny saliva. His starry eyes trained on me.
Calvin. Our golden Calvin.
We are forever haunted by him; we don’t want our lives any other way.
We are forever
mired faring in his web. After all, he is our Charlotte.
There is far more to us than what we live.
— ‘Solo’ by Rana Dasgupta