She was on the floor by the table, Dolly, when the men rose up from the floors below, riding the electric scaffolding, and stopped outside Julia’s livingroom windows. This was yesterday, when Dolly was still alive. I was at the diningroom table, sitting in front of my computer, and Dolly was just lying there in front of the windows, her eyes open, having already thrown up bile a few times, getting close.

The bamboo blinds were down, but I’m guessing they could see me. Dolly was so small, though, and so low, that I’m sure they had no idea that she was there—the best little girl, pure bodhicitta, a princess in the land of lungta. It was her day. They were wearing yellow hard hats, and one guy unclamped himself and climbed over the railing of Julia’s balcony. Another guy pulled out a camera, and handed it to the guy now just outside the window.

I don’t know what they were photographing. Though I’d like to tell you that it was something inside the apartment, I think it was probably their handiwork, since they, or their colleagues, had been working on the building all summer. Dolly continued to lie there, her head tilted to one side. I thought about how odd life was: that a tiny little dog, so precious, could be a few hours away from her death, and the men on the scaffolding outside the window take a photograph, though not of her, unaware. We are so far apart.

In the middle of the night, after Dolly was gone, Julia and I watched “Law and Order.” In the morning, I checked my email on my phone from bed and discovered an angry letter from a friend. I went outside to walk Scout at six, the sun just having risen, and was surprised by the sound of acorns hitting the pavement from above. On the stationary scaffolding overhead, they sounded like rain.

Good journey, Dolly. If we see you again, we will be the lucky ones.


Youth: The Dark Side

Last night, while watching “Julius Caesar” in parking lot on Ludlow Street (don’t ask), I spyed a tall, spindly young blonde, being groped by a meathead in a baseball cap. She was in short shorts and a tank top, and her pin legs were stuck in those high-heeled sandal boots that are all the rage. She was about the twelve. Her escort was one of those thick frat boy types, in a shirt untucked and running shoes. I couldn’t see his face because his baseball cap was pulled so low over his brow.

He was standing behind her, pressed up against her, his arms around her chest, his hands glued to her ribs as close to her breasts as he could get them without risking legal problems. He was grinning. The girl looked incredibly unhappy.

But then I realized that there was another person there, about two feet away, but in their orbit: the sidekick. She was another young girl, half their height, with a body like a strawberry shortcake—that is, lots of layers of fat. (Sorry. Wrong speech.) She was trying not to look at them, and also clearly trying to figure out what to do about her very existence in that moment: Why, mom and dad, why did you drink those beers and smoke that joint seventeen years ago? It was the nineties—had you never heard of birth control?!

When the couple moved—that is, when he kind of swung the skinny blonde back and forth with his giant paws, or pulled her backwards, or pushed her forward, the sidekick moved. It was both fascinating and hard to watch.

Remember that? Or maybe you didn’t go through it—the awkward phase. I was close to my height now when I was twelve (that is, about 5′ 10″), and I remember once being at a party in the seventh grade, and all the kids were pairing off and disappearing into the night. I was one of the last left, sitting on a folding chair in someone’s back yard with my curly hair pulled back in a ponytail, and the shortest boy in the school walked up to me and asked if I’d like to “go for a walk.” I said no. Sigh.

What can I say? I guess this is our initiation into life: it prepares us for the worst ahead, and it gives us some perspective when things are pretty great.