Author’s note: Early in my graduate studies I did academic work on the phenomenology of memory. During this period, I spent time in a huge library, writing fiction to procrastinate. These procrastination stories gave me new perspectives not just on the research, but also on my life and its recollection. “Was” is one such story, and I hope any reader who encounters it experiences a similar (or different) perspectival shift.
SADIE AND I ARE TALKING ABOUT BEING NOW. I say the problem with being is that anytime you say what being is, you presuppose being. The trouble is the “is.” Sadie barks. She has been dying any number of days, and she looks at me in her usual way. She hasn’t read Heidegger. She doesn’t know these ideas are Nazi ideas, and plagiarized. Except in her eyes, I see she knows her being, whatever it is, is coming to an end.
The highway is full of the kind of trucks that terrify me. They have additional vehicles stacked on top of them. Mass graves moving at high speeds. I think of them falling all over me, burying us both.
The sky is clear and blue and radiant with refracting light, and the snow on the ground reflects it too. Up at the sun I’m looking backward into time, about eight minutes. Every second that passes was an earlier second far away. In the water droplets of the sky and the snow on the ground, time bends around us. Do you see, Sadie? If you look far enough in any direction, you can see your whole life.
Sadie is curled in a ball, and her lumps fall against each other under the skin on her neck where I picked her up to adopt her. She peed then; she was so scared. Four or so feet in the air, her pee dribbled onto the carpet.
She peed again just now, before I told her about being. I don’t think she was scared. I think she just knew I won’t waste time being angry with her. Sadie has always understood me. She pierces the heart of my meaning. The smell of her urine is what takes me back to holding her by the neck as a puppy. I think of her always-twitching nose. The many memories it conjures for her, second by second, in the part of our brains we share.
The exit for the veterinarian’s office is only a mile away. My iPhone alerts me again and again, and each time a bell chimes, I think, already?
This vet uses gas. Sadie will drift off to sleep forever. It will be painless, painless. Like a hole at the bottom of her leaky brain, and her light dripping out until she’s gone. Weeks ago, I shared a Facebook post about how a little girl told her mother dogs only live fourteen years because they don’t worry so much, and they don’t need so long as people to figure out how to be. Well, isn’t that nice, my mother commented. Must make you feel better.
She’s heavy in my arms. I carry her through the glass doors held open by a girl in white.
Cameron Blais earned degrees from Pratt Institute and Harvard Divinity School. He writes and teaches writing in Laramie, Wyoming. Originally, he is from Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Delmarva Review publishes evocative new prose and poetry selected from thousands of submissions annually. Designed to encourage outstanding writing, the literary journal is nonprofit and independent, supported in part by a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org