I kept thinking the veterinarian looked awfully uncomfortable, kneeling on the hard cement floor before our little bench in Exam Room B. Granted, it was beautifully treated cement, in a beautiful clinic in a renovated warehouse down on Alabama Street, the same clinic where Louie had gone for his throat surgery not so long ago. In spite of the beautiful floors, and the exposed brick, and the gorgeous wooden support beams, however, they neglected to give the vets themselves decent chairs. Or so I imagined. Maybe they were only missing from Exam Room B, on this particular night, last night, the night she told the Ex and me that Louie had about three months left to live.
“Of course we can’t be certain,” she said. “That’s just based on the medical literature regarding his specific conditions.”
We nodded soberly. I had a small notebook in hand on which I had dutifly scrawled three symptoms of heart failure, after which I had grown a bit distracted and left the page blank. Later the Ex and I, driving back to his place with Louie in the Ex’s Scion Milktruck, agreed that we had both hoped that the dog we’d raised since he was twelve weeks old might live until he was fifteen, and not just twelve years of age. Somehow we’d both had “fifteen” in our heads, separately, I suppose since fifteen years sounds like a reasonable age for a good, healthy, ridiculously sweet dog to achieve. Or maybe we’d just hoped to keep putting off this kind of conversation for another year or two.
The vet was pretty, a young intern with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, who kept adusting the rims of her glasses as she spoke, looking down at her notes, then back up at us, dividing, I noticed, her eye contact equally between the two of us, rather admirably. She reminded me of someone that I couldn’t quite place. Louie, she said, had right heart failure and left heart failure. One filled his stomach with fluids, the other filled his lungs. Those were the two contributing symptoms. But the main, underlying problem was nearly elegant in its simplicity; Louie had an enlarged heart. In the cold exam room I was struck by the metaphoric connotations: my dog was dying because his heart was too big.
Later the Ex and I split a barbeque chicken pizza at his apartment on Twin Peaks. The Ex had carried Louie, all seventy pounds of him, up the two flights of stairs, since our dog’s hind legs were growing too weak. I myself only carried a ziplock baggie filled with three prescription bottles, and a print-out of instructions. I walked behind them up the stairs. Louie’s tail wagged underneath the Ex’s arm, the whole way up.
Louie drank a lot of water, ate his dinner, and then spent the next half an hour throwing up. I grew more than a little discouraged, seeing him that way. But when the pizza arrived he gazed up at me with those big brown “I would like to help you with your barbeque chicken” eyes. Clearly he still felt all right, especially once I gave him a bit of crust.
Tonight he’s at my place, a dog in high demand, licking his lips after a frozen liver treat.
And today it hit me: the vet reminded me of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman’s alter ego, as played by Linda Carter. The way she’d slip off her glasses and let loose her hair before spinning around like a supernova. Here she’s gotten herself into a predicament:
Sort of like our vet, seated on the floor. Any gay boy in his thirties can tell you that Diana Prince needed her arms and legs free in order to spin herself into Wonder Woman. Things are not currently going her way.
Of course today, three decades later, there are a ton of super heroes running around on big and small screens all over our tiny global village. This probably has less to do with an aching need for real-life heroes, and more to do with the universal desire to Have a Secret Super Power. Whether one uses it for the greater good or not is, of course, a matter of personal choice. But wouldn’t it be nice, to live in that world, to find, through clever means or just plain luck, a way to slip your bonds, to slip off your glasses with one hand, let down your hair with the other, and to spin, and spin, and spin, transformed with an explosion of pure light, into someone else, someone with enough power to change an unfortunate course of events.