A visit from el perro negro

At a particularly depressing and anxious time for the human race like the one we find ourselves in now, depression and anxiety are understandable. It is hard to stay optimistic in the face of prolonged social isolation, a still raging incurable disease that can kill you, lies and denial of reality in the service political brutality, cascading climate catastrophe and all the rest. The hanging out with friends, family and likeminded strangers that used to remind us of the other side of life is now dangerous, must be approached with caution, if at all.

Social media, texts and emails are no substitute for personal contact with people you like. People think you are insane (and they are probably justified) if you send them a hand-written letter in the mail. Sekhnet, a self-proclaimed happy hermit, is relatively fine with cheerful random encounters with strangers, by phone or socially distanced and masked. At times I find myself wistful about the ongoing lack of connection with others.

I’ve been aware of not falling into the trap of despair. The world is the world, always full of danger and challenges, and though fear may grab us hard sometimes, and doubt, and all the other dark things of this world, it is best to keep in mind all the rest, the sweetness of life that keeps us grateful for every lifegiving breath we take.

The world is also change, all life is constantly moving, evolving, changing. This shit too will pass, surely, and once the pandemic is over we’ll hang out together to talk about it and laugh in relief to have survived it.

There is hard work to be done fixing a lot of things that are badly broken, I’d like to help. I hope to figure out how to lend a hand, throw my back into it. I feel like I’ve been doing OK emotionally, the usual complaints (the arthritis in my left knee is getting to be a real pain) aside.

Last night I cheerfully dialed an old friend, to check in, to resume my long habit of checking in with distant friends. I’d decided not to talk for long, just hear how he was doing, hopefully have a laugh (he’s a funny bastard) as I exercised my ailing legs outside in what was suddenly a mild evening. I got his voice mailbox, which was full.

I suddenly remembered the weight he carries, responsible for the livelihoods of literally hundreds of people in his badly stressed organization, dozens of whom must call his cellphone daily. It was too late to ring his home phone, his wife goes to bed early and it was already almost 10:00. Figured I’d call the home line tonight, after the dinner hour, see how they’re doing.

Watched an episode of David Attenborough’s brilliantly presented (and beautifully shot) Planet Earth on Netflix, had a moment of despair about what human greed has made of the oceans and deep seas (which contain 95% of the earth’s life, I think I heard), but mostly, we marveled at the weird and wonderful beauty of nature and the gentle, wise presentation of it . Here’s a nice montage from the wonderful limited series.

Sekhnet and I went upstairs, played few rounds of Wordscapes on my phone and I tucked Sekhnet for the night (so she could spend the next hour learning Chinese in Duolingo).

Then sometime after I did a little watercoloring (a variation on the figure below):

washed the dishes, got myself a cold drink and sat down to prop my leg up and watch a dark crime show, I became aware that the Black Dog had crept into the room with me.

I’d truly forgotten all about el perro negro.

“Remember me, motherfucker?” asked the black dog.

I did, indeed. Everything was suddenly hopeless. Why bother calling my friend? I’d destroyed my life, utterly, the whole thing a series of stupid mistakes I’d keep making until the end. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about your precious, polished, meaningless, unmonetized hobbies. The world is only a depressing antechamber to certain, terrible death. Nothing is ever going to work out well, you’ll see. Everyone who ever said they loved you was lying, and they proved it, in spades; everyone you love, dead. Evil triumphs in this world and if you think it doesn’t — fuck you, I’ll slit your ugly face. Look around, asshole.

“Forgot how persuasive I am?” asked el perro negro, stinking faithfully at my feet.

Not for a second.

I took two Tylenol PMs (discovered by Sekhnet’s insomniac cousin recently) and waited for the stabbing in my left knee to subside. Within an hour I was drowsy, went up to bed. Today, no sign of the black dog, though I can still smell his wet, cloyingly pungent fur. I’d forgotten all about the motherfucker, actually.

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