An Essayby Pia Z. Ehrhardt
It’s been two months. I’m visiting our neighbors of twenty years on their shaded front porch. Retired AP reporters, they love to chat about books and local politics. They pour me a mug of delicious dark chicory coffee, while Ella, our black Lab mix, makes herself at home. She’s thirteen now. She was mostly my husband Malcolm’s, but since he died, she’s become only mine. When a male pit bull passes by, I hold her like a hug, until he’s out of range. The pit’s a mix of colors with a coat as thin and tight as a pig’s. I have a friend with a pig, and she loves him like a dog, like the named chickens she keeps in her backyard uptown: Henrietta, Margarita, Rosalie. Who watches this menagerie when she needs to travel or spend the night out? Who will watch Ella when I need to do these things? I am new at loss, a slow study. The pit bull is yanking his owner into the park across the street. Is conceding power even possible for this breed? I fear Ella would lunge, lose her head, and fight over her weight. Otherwise, she lives gently, so passively I want to coach her, tell her to quit waiting for commands, take a chance.
Losing a spouse opens up the day. I’m friendlier, more available without the distraction of marriage. Malcolm used to stick to neighborly hellos from a distance before he cut the grass or trimmed the boxwood hedges across the street that spell CITYPARK. After Katrina he’d quietly taken on their maintenance, shooing away the groundskeepers. Drinking coffee with neighbors is a guilty pleasure, except when I go back inside, he’s not there. A lot of thrill it is to break the tacit rules of our marriage when I’m a widow. Widow. I look up the etymology. To separate, split, cleave, divide. Every word a cutting.