Boise left me dry with its alpine glow and a giant blow-up elf deflating in the middle of Shenandoah Drive. It left me filled with the screams of a deaf girl bouncing on her trampoline— her dolls flying up and down with her, she obviously possessed of the Christmas spirit, her apparition bobbing over a wooden fence like a jack-in-the-box. We were lost in the suburbs, trying to find good Christmas lights to stare at.
I walked my cousin’s bichon and kept looking for one of the recently-spotted cougars, feeling guilty, and all the while I’d never heard such an almighty silence in those hills. The only sound was from the rotating heads of mechanical reindeer creaking against the cold in the neighbor’s yard down the hill. I thought I had poisoned their dog when it ate the entire box of chocolate-covered macadamias sent from Hawaii. Animal Poison Control assured me if it wasn’t already dead then it would only puke later and so I was on a walk to make peace with Sparky’s stomach. I sighed into those rolling hills and watched the alpine glow for signs of the Second Coming. When was it going to come?
I wanted Jesus to come back and I wanted Joseph Smith to come back too. I wanted to have a meeting up there in the hills at Table Rock, a plateau with an erected eighty-foot cross overlooking all of Boise and discuss this thing we do when people we love die. Why not meet there and put our heads together.
I was there long enough to know Hope is waiting to die . She has given up all of it, hope and faith, in exchange for the comfort of “ashes to ash and dust to dust.” She wanted to talk spirituality withme, but only to push it over and stomp it out. Devout Catholic her whole life, and then Methodist, even when she had to sneak to church. But now, not so much. So maybe Jesus and Joseph can help her figure out what the problem could be. What’s the hold-up she wants to know, what’s the dealio; she wants to go.
I was there long enough to watch the cougar stalking me as I sat behind the glass on the hillside with bubble lights, Veuve Clicquot, and rotting Mogan David pudding. Outside, she paced back and forth on the cold stone pews that had been carved into the side of the mountain and her courage impressed me. I approached from inside where she couldn’t see me and I don’t know why I did this but I breathed onto the glass in front of her. Feeling my heat she backed up and wound down to the old penitentiary that had been converted into a drive-thru Christmas light garden. I watched her retreat, and wondered what she did when a member of her pack died. I was marking my territory.
The following day I climbed to Table Rock with the Dire Straits. When I reached the top there were no cougar sightings and I meditated on the city.
Later, I went with my mother to a 3-D Imax movie. The small child next to me knew every single word to “Our Lord Jesus” and my mother kept trying to catch the snowflakes as they fell on our noses. I wondered if Hope was ok by herself and wanted to leave this predictable script. I felt it was all the more important I talk with Jesus. I wanted to feel it at the heart. After the movie we stopped at WinCo for more food. While my mother was pushing a super cart I waited in the car. And that’s when Jesus and Joseph walked up to me.
“Hey guys. You’ve finally come.” It was all pretty normal.
They handed me some coupons for Fuji film, for my memories they said. They went up to the next car to distribute their coupons and put them under the windshield wipers.
I cried until my mom came out with about 100 rolls of paper towels and a four pack of rice chex.
I was there long enough my last day to hold Hope up and tell her she was never alone and only full of love. I laid her back down against her bed pillow and she wept, saying that her body was done and she was done. I didn’t want to leave her but I felt like the cougar outside the glass with death breathing on it from the inside. I didn’t want to stay either. I wanted to wander into the bush and not feel it all too much.
I was dropped off at the airport and sat at the gate for the next four hours until they un-cancelled the flight. Next to me was a man who drank a vodka tonic and we smiled a lot and told each other of our woes. When we’d landed back in California and it was over we did the shrug, the empty goodbye smile. And through all of that, the only thing I am sure of was the wild deaf child dancing with her dolls in the middle of the freeze.