Grief or Memories of Sally

March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Grief lurks in the most unexpected places. Like the lecherous single man in the seamy bar, it leans in the creepy corners of our bodies and comes lurching out of the dim light to startle us out of our busy, happy moments.
When I get sick in the car, always as a passenger, most often on winding roads, I usually experience the unpleasant shock of the most particular smell. It’s the stench of my childhood dog, Sally, panting at the back of the car as she gradually dried out after a swim in a river or creek. On long road trips my dad would stop at some spot he had noticed while coming around a bend, never a designated rest stop with signs, toilets, garbage bins and picnic tables, never assigned social encounters with other people wearing wrinkled country traveling clothes and eating humid snacks. We would stop at his spot and get out to quietly explore a place that felt like ours for fifteen minutes. Sally was allowed the most uninhibited enthusiasm for the experience and she would run over her own legs just to get into the crisp water as fast as possible. I always envied her as she splashed, plunged, and grinned her way through the rushing stream named something like Otter Tail River or Castle Creek. On the hotter days I longed to join her and feel the rocks on my feet as I submerged myself in the clean, wild relief. Oh sometimes, we took our shoes and socks off, or gathered handfuls of water to our faces but no one was as free as the dog.

But then it was those hot days, when we assembled ourselves back in the car, getting into our assigned positions, and preparing for the potentially infinite silence and solemn appreciation of the canyon, the mountains or the forest, that I dreaded the wrath of Sally. As that dog I knew smiled at me from behind the seat, her terrible scent would be made more intense by her heavy breath and I would want to escape through the tiny crack in the window. That whistling spot would tease me with its rough autonomy and I would silently squirm with my hatred of Sally’s joy. I wanted to puke. Sometimes I did. The misery of having your mother help you throw up roadside is just so distinct. Its only relief was the blissfully foggy sleep afterwards aided by the thick pink release of Gravol.

I think grief is like that. You can be travelling along just fine and you may not even know you’re a passenger until you’re hit with the putrid scent of memories flooding back to you through a thin slice of sorrow.

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