Essay by Miguel A. Garcia
The entire drive back to the park was a solemn experience. I was sniffling like a baby, trying to hide the torrential downpour of tears beneath my aviators, turning my face away, staring out of the passenger’s side window. I routinely looked at my sorry expression in the sideview mirror, feeling absolutely embarrassed for making such a big deal out of something that even I had considered petty. So your dog died? Cry me a river. And I did. I didn’t make a habit of practicing my crying, so I fought with my diaphragm every mile back home, which only worked for so long before I got spasms of hiccups. Those hiccups always haunted me. It was a strange condition that I could never shake. One of my old church pastors, an Argentinian, once said to me, “A Mexican never cries, but when he does cry, he really cries.” He couldn’t have been more right.
Luckily for my pride, James, the park manager who had been kind enough to take me to the animal hospital and to cover the costs, was a dog enthusiast. I hadn’t known him all that long, but I did know that he had served with the Marines for ten years before settling down in Iowa. He looked over at me as I hugged the cardboard box that held my late dog, Blackey, or Lackey, as I had grown to call him. “It’s okay to cry, y’know. I was pretty broken up when one of my dogs died last year,” he said to me. I responded by shaking my head. Crying never did any good for anyone. Crying is weak. Crying is overrated. Crying is not a release, it’s a trap. Or, so I thought.
James let me out of the truck and pointed me patch of grass next to a lagoon beside some train tracks on Scott Blvd. That was the spot. I walked over with a shovel in hand and tried for China. Through the tears, I dug angrily. The whole time, I blamed the driver of the car. I fantasized about paying him a visit. When that subsided, I blamed myself for being asleep at noon. I blamed the dog, even, for being such a dumb pup. I stopped after reaching the clay at knee-depth. I walked over to that cardboard box and picked up his inanimate, petite, eight month old body. I held him close to me one last time before I wrapped him in a towel and tucked him into his earthen bed and said goodbye. Just then, a train roared past. Some might call it an interruption, some an omen. The wind blew harder and the ground shook. I got the message and headed home.
I cried a bit more that night, but it was a different kind of crying. I wasn’t over it, not for a while, but this time, I was happy for him, wherever he was. Even if it wasn’t with me.