The wolves are out again.
Out there baying at the moon. Although there is no moon. Well, there is a moon, of course, there is a moon. There is always a moon tucked behind the smog and fraying ozone. Although the moon is hiding, the wolves know it is there. They call to it the way that whales sing in the sea.
There must be six wolves at least. I should get back to work but their woeful canine voices ricochet around our high city ceilings, shoot through me, stop me from trying to balance this free ranging checkbook of ours. We are digging deeper into overdraft. I should have paid more attention to New Math in junior high. I never counted on a practical application for negative numbers.
That one wolf has a particularly plaintive yodel. The other wolves stop. Maybe that wolf is the star of the group, a leader or something. I walk to the window, look out. But I cannot see the wolves any more than I can see the moon. There is something awful in knowing something is out there, out of view.
The wolves are on the roof across the street. The roof! A man keeps them penned up at
night. During the day the wire corral is empty. Where are they? He must bring them inside. Wolves in the city. Something. Just like a man to keep wolves as if they were pigeons. Why keep pigeons, come to that? Why ‘keep’ anything? In this city, a woman might have a bird, cat, dog, baby but not on the roof.
Sound from the bedroom draws me from the window. Is Miriam awake? Sleep avoids her the way that I avoid our bills. It is amazing how little rest she gets. What is the least amount of sleep we need to survive? Sometimes I wonder just how little water, air, sunlight we could get by on. Like those wolves managing in a pen on the roof in Tribeca.
Lately my mind wanders.
Miriam is my lover, although that hardly describes us. What word covers our arrangement? Spouse is an actuarial term. Mate is zoological. Partner sounds legal but, paradoxically, is anything but that.
Back when I was trying to be straight, trying to run with the pack, back then, you could use terms like, ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ and people knew what you meant, or thought they did. Still, those terms imply other things depicted in a Medieval Guild and Craft painting shadowing hues of ownership. Bad as they are, words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are digestible, sweet, if a tad lumpy as tapioca. Those words at least imply putting out garbage, say, and other quotidian chores, as well as sharing a bed. Lover sets up the expectation that everything will be about romance and red passion. There is a lot more to staying together than moon glow and sticky fingers. There are bills to be paid, wolves on the roof next door. The word lover is a lot to live up day-to-day. Yet in another way, lover is not big enough to do the job.
The wolves let loose again.
Wolves should not live on a roof of a building in a city. Wolves should not stand next to a water tank. Wolves should have their paws on the Earth, necks stretched, crooning to an open sky.
Imagine what they would say at The Center. The women at The Center are touchy. Injustice sets them off. I have friends there who become enraged if a man holds a door open. Wolf incarceration might detonate a sizable reaction. Especially if the wolves turn out to be female.
The Center is the bookshop/meeting place where I first saw Miriam. I started going there when I was becoming myself, coming out, into my own. There, in the Feminist Oracle section, I spied a tall woman with hair that I thought of as pre-maturely gray, (and now just call gray) flipping through The Witches of Eastwick. She looked straight at me as if about to paint my portrait and said, “All right.”
The thrashing noise from the bedroom gets louder. It will be joining us any day, in the flesh, and Miriam cannot sleep. Even when Miriam does manage to drop off, she doesn’t stay down. Miriam is a tosser by nature and lately she can’t turn over without a push from me. She scowls at night when I help. She doesn’t like to lean on me to move about, as if we were climbing a hill and had to depend on me for purchase. Still, it must be a relief for someone else do the pushing sometimes.
What will it be like when it gets here?
I say ‘it’ even though the test came back ‘he’, not ready to forgive the pronoun. Miriam swallowed his gender whole, the way a snake does a mouse. At the end of her first trimester, she picked up the phone just as it rang. "All right," she said and hung up, turned to me.
"That was the genetic counselor. It’s decided to be a healthy boy. Want a gyro?"
I agreed even though I never know whether to pronounce the ‘g’ in gyro when I order one. I tend to mumble and the cook in the stained, short-sleeved shirt shouts, "What you say? Speak up!"
Will it cry all night?
What is wrong with me? Women are supposed to be supportive. Women are supposed
to want children. Women are supposed to.
Outside, a light goes on. A man’s voice bellows a blur of reproach at the wolves. I go to the window, ready myself to bellow. I am not angry at the wolves. It is not a wolf’s fault if they howl, carry on. Wolves are wolves. Will the keeper listen, hear? My words would be absorbed by the traffic noise, swallowed up, ignored. You cannot shout things out and believe you will be heard. You would think it was not possible to keep wolves on a roof in this city. You would think someone would stop it. There are laws. Aren’t there? But still it happens. No one seems able to stop it. It’s happening. It’s a bit like standing on a roof and screaming into the ether as horns blare and wolves howl.
I go back to the table. The checkbook. Try to finish setting things right.
Miriam comes into what we call the ‘The Situation Room’, groggy, slightly drunk with her gravid state, her grey hair wild, XXL red T-shirt clinging to her swollen belly. “It’s so hot in here,” she observes.
“Well, it is winter,” I say as if this is an explanation. “You know as well as I do that there’s no controlling steam heat in a rent-controlled apartment. Think of it as interior weather.”
She shakes her head . “Let’s open a window, Des.”
I sigh. “The wolves are out. Didn’t you hear them?”
“Sort of,” she says and walks over to the refrigerator.
It is very much to Miriam’s credit that she doesn’t waddle or do any of those pregnant woman moves like holding her back or massaging her stomach. Standing at the open refrigerator she frowns. “There’s nothing to eat,” she says peering in as if trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
“There’s Havarti in there and some yogurt.”
“I want a blood, rare burger. I haven’t thrown-up in, like, hours,” she adds smiling.
There is her old face hiding behind the pregnant one. Pregnancy changes more than a person’s body.
“We shouldn’t waste money. Now more than ever.”
“It wouldn’t be wasted.” She deigns to take out a cherry yogurt. “It’s okay,” she says.
“I’ll deal.” She dips a spoon in, swirls it, drops a dollop on the end of her tongue, closes her eyes, swallows. “So,whatcha doing?”
I tap the page in front of me with my pen. “Reconciling checking. We really need to go
paperless. We need a lot of things. We shouldn’t have been so impulsive about work decisions, come to that.” I look down.
She laughs. “No wonder you vetoed burgers. No biggie. Anyway, this works for staving
off nausea, and, you know, bfb.”
Better For Baby.
Miriam has morning sickness well into the night. We refer to it as morning-noon-and-night sickness. Furthermore, she has beaten all the odds having the affliction well past the usual first trimester late into the third. I would really like to indulge her cravings but burgers and fries would set us back nearly twenty bucks, counting tip and tax. Someone has to think of this, and I get to be that someone.
We sit together, she with her yogurt, me with the checkbook. The cavernous space of the
loft me feel lost and alive like being in the woods at night. The wolves yelp. We pretend to do what we are doing, but we both listen.
“One died today, you know,” Miriam says between a spoon full. “I went for a walk and there he was. Splat. Fur and blood in the snow. What a mess.” Miriam’s cheeks flush.
I look up. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. Apparently, one got out during the day, committed suicide on North Moore.” She has a drop of pink yogurt on her upper lip.
“Horrific,” I declare, not lifting my eyes from the lines and numbers on the register.
“Yeah, the bouncer at that new bar on the corner said he was going to call the ASPCA, but maybe he forgot.”
“He should have called.” I stop, look up. “You know what? I will call tomorrow.”
She spoons more yogurt into her mouth. "What will they do? Deport them to the Yukon? Let’s face it, Des, they won’t fit in the wild after being in the middle of the city.”
I look up. “Not the middle. Way downtown,” I roll a pen on the table.
She smirks. “Point is, they’re lives have changed. They can’t go back."
“Right,” I concede.
“Anyway, maybe that one wolf, the one that jumped maybe he had problems.” She licks
her spoon. Maybe that wolf was already depressed. You know, pre-existing.”
I squint at her. “Miri, wolves don’t get depressed. That is the whole point of being a
wolf to begin with. They just live…unless they’re in danger.”
“How do you know? Maybe that wolf wanted to off himself long ago and finally had, you know, like, the chance.” Her face does not betray the slightest mirth, irony.
Miriam is not herself. Lately, she reads People Magazine with the same concentrated
devotion she once applied to Finnegan’s Wake. Her only craving, that I have observed, has been for blood. She has metamorphosed from a semi-vegetarian locavore to a card-carrying carnivore. That is not all. She used to come home from work, select Enya, Dar Williams from her playlist. Now she is all about Whitesnake, Anthrax, Meminem. Last week, on home movie night, she curled her nose at re-watching Enchanted April suggesting streaming the most recent Carrie instead.
I don’t get it.
Why did they re-make that movie? It was perfect. No one will be better than Sissy Spacek.
But maybe she is preparing for the gore ahead. Who knows? Not me. I was never one to dream of children. Now, I worry about that inevitable neon alphabet that appears on the refrigerator after a baby comes into the picture. What if those letters re-arrange themselves, form words, sentences, disclose why I left my old marriage, make dire predictions, like a motley, free form Ouija Board?
It could happen at any time. Miriam could turn to me and say, ‘This is it.’ Which just
goes to prove that you can make choices all you want, but that does not mean you get to choose.
I stand up, walk to the window, look out at the building across the way.
“We really should do something. We simply cannot just pretend it is okay for wolves to be out there. Something could happen. Hell, something has happened!”
Miriam walks over to me, puts her hands on my shoulders. I feel the heat of her palms through my t-shirt, to my skin.
“The ASPCA isn’t the solution, Des,” she declares as if it’s the truth. “Nothing we can do. This seems like a conclusion everyone comes to about so many things.
I turn to her. “There’s bound to be animal rights activist at The Center.”
She drops her hands, shakes her head. “They’re so preoccupied at The Center, what
with elections. Animal rights groups are busy tossing paint at furs to care about stray wolves."
They are not strays. They are slaves.
I go back to the checkbook, re-work the numbers. But it’s hopeless, a matter of
spending more than we were once earning even before the baby arrives. What will happen after?
Maybe the solution would be to sell it. I think back to that annoying, pre-requisite
Lamaze class, imagine it emerging, oozing and bloody. Not too appealing. That is when we could swaddle it, like Moses, put it in the River. Or cart it over to Sotheby’s or punch up E-bay, sell it to the highest bidder.
Thinking this makes me bite my lip. Such thoughts fall beyond the venial category.
Still, I cannot resist. Thinking about Miriam’s baby is like standing on the edge of the building. There’s a terrific impulse to leap.
The wolves that remain let loose again. There’s no doubt about it. Something must be done.