We were sitting in a car. I had just put on the radio and for a moment we were just listening to the music. We had always been good at silence. Good at being silent together. I smiled. Out of nowhere he started to cry. I had never seen him like that before. My tall, lanky father who looked so small at once, like he was going to fade any moment, was sitting there with the steering wheel in his hands, crying.
“We lost her,” he sobbed, wiping his face with the palm of his hand.
I nodded, because I couldn’t speak, I wanted to but I couldn’t. Do you know that moment when you feel you should say something; you want to; but you’re stuck. So you don’t speak but if you had been eloquent just this once, it would have meant the world to you. We had just buried our beloved Dalmatian dog Bula under a cherry tree. Cherries had been her favourite. There had been that old cherry tree in our first house with that big garden that Bula had loved. I had known her since I was born, she had been a lifelong companion until her heart gave in shortly after we had turned twenty-five.
“That’s a very long life for a dog,” I remembered the vet saying.
And it had been a good one. Bula had adored us and we had adored her. We’d been her family and she had been ours. Sometimes people asked me if it had always been just my Dad and me and I always said: My Dad and me and Bula. Most people thought Bula was my mother or some kind of other human relative. In a way Bula had been a mother to me so much more than any real mother ever could have. She used to bring me a blanket when I sat down to watch some TV because she knew I got cold. She just carried it between her teeth and dropped it onto my legs, every time.
“Do you remember the cherries?”, Dad asked.
“I remember that she used to get horrible diarrhoea from them but that didn’t stop her from eating them.”
“She loved them so much, that she didn’t care.”
“And we had so many of them.”
“An abundance of cherries.”
“ A paradise for a dog.”
“She was the sweetest thing.”
“Yes she was.”
“Do you remember that you used to play with her, when you were supposed to study or do your homework, that you played with her for hours and hours until both of you were so tired that you had to stop? That you didn’t play with other kids, that people thought you were odd because you wasted all that time with a dog.”
“Some dogs are worth wasting time for,” I said.
He looked at me, still completely crushed but with a smile on his face. There was my eloquence.