Going out in a blaze

There’s the scratch and sizzle of a striking match. Then the blue-orange blaze that ignites the shrouded body, which is wreathed in marigolds. Then … foof! … all is rising flame and billowing smoke. The corpse begins to burn. It will do so for hours, until all that remains is a heap of ash and bone.  

I witnessed such sacred funeral pyres on the Ganges in India and on the Bagmati River in Nepal some years ago. I didn’t stumble upon them; I sought them out as quasi-spiritual pilgrimages. My slightly morbid, slightly practical fascination with death led me there. Beholding the ritualized smoke and fire, I felt privileged and humbled.

What I didn’t feel was awed. Death is deeply quotidian to this non-believer. There is nothing mystical, magical or celestial about it. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, with no heaven, hell or afterlife to follow. Pardon the party-poopery.

Seeing these holy spectacles, my thoughts toggled between where the spirit goes (er, nowhere) and the fact that I was simply watching large bonfires almost beautiful in their pageantry. Any psychic weight was emotional — these were real, beloved humans — and philosophical — what does it mean? — and not, at last, spiritual. 

I’m brought to these memories by a spread in today’s Times about the only public open-air funeral pyre in the U.S., located in the small, dusty town of Crestone, Colorado. The story follows an 81-year-old resident from the last stages of his illness to his outdoor cremation:

“He knew his body would be wrapped into a simple shroud, carried on a wooden stretcher into an enclosure, and placed on a platform a few feet from the ground,” the story goes. “His sons and his wife would light the fire and watch his body burn for several hours. The next day, they would collect the ashes.”

While pyres are rare, cremation in the States is hot stuff. In a statistical shift, more than half of Americans are cremated after death, and you can be sure that’s how I’m getting out of here. Embalming is for chumps, religious beliefs be damned, and casket funerals are so much ceremonial claptrap — wasteful, ghoulish, quixotic. (You can read about far more creative and eco-friendly ways to be put to rest here and here.)

The Hindus have it down. Across Asia they practice communal, public pyres that almost anyone can chance upon and witness. They are solemn. Tears are shed. But for some reason they are not private family affairs, but rather regal roasts for all to see. Crestone, Colorado, is on to something.

Yet as much as I respect it, that’s not for me. Let me say — family, listen — I do not want to be burned on a communal funeral pyre for public consumption. A high-tech, high-temperature crematorium is just fine, and afterward, as I’ve said, do what you will with my ashes. I suggest salt and pepper shakers. 

What I saw in India and Nepal was real and powerful, despite my spiritual doubts that border on irreverent. I’m of two minds, the sacred and the profane, but a bit closer to one than the other. Guess.

Funeral pyre, Nepal

Thinking on my feet

Almost everyday I take a brisk, modest-sized walk through the hyper-suburban neighborhood, an asphalt idyll of buckled sidewalks, buzzed lawns, old two-story houses, big porches, and the sporadic American flag and Black Lives Matter sign. People walk dogs. New moms push strollers. Birds chirp and squirrels scamper. 

God, is it tedious. And it’s all in my head. 

The luxuriant boredom I experience on my walks is tenacious and tiresome. My brain won’t shut down, churning as it does with bland thoughts and uprooted memories that flitter like confetti. Everyone says they walk to clear their head. I don’t know what they’re talking about. 

Ah, but there are remedies, I am told. And yet this mind is too distracted by mental detritus to concentrate on the airy, erudite gabbery of a podcast. And the sound of music isn’t powerful enough to muffle the noise echoing in my head. A precious cure eludes the mighty AirPods. 

Extract yourself from the leafy suburbs, I nudge myself. There’s more stimuli in the city — shops, traffic, people, the vast, raucous urban tapestry — or in nature — trees, paths, brooks, snakes, deer poop. Or find a walking pal with whom to chat. 

Yes. Sure. Maybe.

There’s the easily amused and the easily bored. Guess what I am. Sometimes I even glaze over while playing drums to records I love. I’ll zone out, stare at the wall, go through the syncopated motions, finish a tune without quite knowing it. This is rare, but it happens. It’s sort of like sleep walking, with sticks.

I just took a walk and it was fine. I didn’t bore myself silly. Kissed by the breeze, warmed by a soft sun, I actually put my mind to something: this blog. Amid the riot of thought shards, I was able to organize a through line, if only intermittently. The chaos in the cranium still throbbed, but I plucked some ideas from the storm. Nothing major, as you can see, but still.   

It’s like rubbing your head while patting your belly: two disparate tasks at once. Walking and talking is easy. So is wandering and wondering. Muzzling the mind is something else entirely. That’s called meditation, which is not easy. I’ve tried many times. I’m terrible at it. 

My addled brain whirs like a broken fan. On it goes as I walk, each step taking me further into the storm, and that much more away from peace. I welcome the simplest of detours, one where I can quiet the cacophony and harness a madly reeling mind. A cake walk, maybe?

Crumbling teeth

Recently I went to the dentist for the first time since “The Simpsons” was actually funny and the good doc noted that one of my top front teeth is chipped. She asked why. I could provide no good explanation. I could only theorize, and it went like this: I chew holy hell out of my fingernails, then I file them on the ridges of my front teeth. It’s a foul habit, but it saves me a bundle at the nail salon, where I occasionally get my toes done. (I wish I could nibble those things off, too.)

To my surprise she chuckled and admitted that she also bites her fingernails. Yes, but do you file your nails on your teeth?, I thought but didn’t bother to ask. I doubt she does. She seems prim and proper and she’s a dentist, after all. (Then again, she was wearing a mask, so maybe her mouth is as pugilistic as my battered pie hole.)  

Seriously, I never really noticed the chip in the tooth until she mentioned it. I sort of vaguely recalled it when she did, but it seemed simultaneously new and foreign and exciting. I suddenly felt like Mike Tyson, or that kid Jason who face-planted off the monkey bars in third grade.

I examined it when I got home and it was both less and more than I imagined it would be. Sort of “Fight Club”-y and meth-heady and pitifully prosaic at the same time, like I absently bit too hard on a piece of ice in my drink while doing Wordle.

And where did this chip off the old toothy block go? Did I swallow it? Spit it out? Ugh. I’d love to see it. From what I can tell, it would be about the size of a tiny fingernail shard — nothing dramatic, but substantial enough to react to (which in my case would be: “cool”). I can feel the vacated groove with my tongue and I definitely see it now that it’s been highlighted.

For all its aesthetic possibilities — gnarly or character-making? — the chipped tooth doesn’t have much use. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t make me money. It has not upset the space-time continuum. Yet one thing is sure: It files fingernails fantastically. 

This isn’t totally new for me. A long while ago, I was eating something hard  and a splinter of enamel from a bottom tooth shaved off and landed on my tongue. I spit it into a napkin, its demise anonymous and ignominious, and for that I lament. 

As far as I know, that was my first tooth chip. It was novel and neat. It was painless, almost imperceptible. What I kinda perversely like: It certainly won’t be my last. 

Teeth are ever-evolving, generally for the worst, be it cavities or wayward wisdoms. The mouth is a monster, filthy, festering, fragrant. And despite it signifying that one’s teeth are slowly disintegrating, a little chip here and there is nothing to spaz about, as even my dentist showed. She simply pointed mine out as if it was a birthmark or a cute little dimple. Yeah, it’s just like that.

Oral apprehensions

In a feat of magnificent self-control, the dental hygienist did not flinch. There she was, peering into my gaping maw, inspecting, poking and scraping teeth and gums, and miraculously she didn’t throw up.

Pro that she is, you wouldn’t think she would. But my mouth hasn’t been examined by anyone with “dental” or “dentist” in their job description since the Obama administration for a plethora of reasons, none of them interesting, credible or justifiable. “Massacre” is the word I figured would spring to her mind as she toiled in my mossy abyss.

I’m a mad brusher and flosser, but I dumbly dropped the ball on getting my choppers checked, and after a while I just let it slide, perhaps the least responsible thing I’ve done since paying good money to see that Spin Doctors tribute band.  

Going into the eons-belated dental appointment, I braced for catastrophe. I entertained Dantesque visions of cavities, gingivitis, cracked crowns, mouth cancer, hairy tongue syndrome, or worse. I imagined my teeth encrusted with piles of plaque, towers of tartar. Dentist? Get me an archeologist.

Dentistry isn’t gorgeous. It’s violent, invasive, queasy, medieval. Still, dentists don’t scare me much. I’m not one of those characters who whines and quivers over the periodic oral exam. My mouth has been through a lot, including braces, a few crowns, scads of fillings and wisdom teeth extraction (all four). 

When I was 14, a dental surgeon propped up a few of my receding gums by slicing strips of skin from the roof of my mouth and using the flesh to support the sliding gums. That happened.

I’ve rode merry clouds of nitrous oxide and been jabbed with novocaine needles the length and girth of bratwursts. I’ve seen my own blood smeared on the minty-green dental bib. What else can they do? I’m pretty much ready for anything. 

And so I went to the dentist this week, steeled, as I said, for that scene in “Marathon Man.” I pictured drills and pliers, sandblasters and buzzsaws.

Instead, I got teddy bears and lollipops. The hygienist couldn’t have been more pert and welcoming, a living bubble machine. (Not only that, but the ceiling television was set to “The View”!) 

She proceeded to do the poke-and-prod routine with hooky metal utensils and rather than recoil at my neglected mouthful, she actually complimented the super job I’ve been doing maintaining my oral health. Clearly, she said, I take my toothsome hygiene seriously. I would have smiled if seven of her fingers weren’t jammed in my mouth. 

And so I won Round One in the dentist ordeal. Of course I had more in store, the big stuff: the x-rays and the photos and the exam by the capital-D Dentist. This gig wasn’t over by a long shot, and with my luck I’d be getting some kind of shot with the longest needle available. 

I was ushered into a new room, where the official dentist’s chair spread before me, the full-length recliner straight out of Torquemada. Once you lie back in this chair, it’s over. Once you open your mouth, you’re doomed. Rinse, spit, repeat, scream.

As it’s been 135 years since I last saw a dentist, the young doctor who eventually entered, after a pair of technicians took x-rays and photos, was of course new to me. And to my delight, she was just as chirpy, enthusiastic and calming as the angelic hygienist — a human puff of nitrous oxide. 

But she was serious, too, and got down to business. The upshot: I am a fastidious cleaner, but I grind my teeth and need a tooth guard for sleep; I have two slightly cracked molars that will eventually require crowns; and I have one “baby” cavity that did not concern the good doc a bit. 

In fact, she practically laughed it off. And at long last, relieved, disabused of my festering fears, and with no fingers and pokers clogging my mouth, so did I.

‘Tis the season to chillax

2020 bit, hard. Somehow 2021 was just as rotten. 2022 looms — turn the page and all that. Don’t hold your breath. It’s going to be another shit show.

What’s been on the menu of wonderfulness? In short: family deaths, illness, Covid and its spawn-of-Satan variants, political/racial/social outrages, chronic insomnia, that gnarly pimple on my forehead last summer — the usual maelstrom. 

Complaining about, even inventorying, these things is by now beyond trite. So we saunter ahead and seek purpose and palliatives, things that distract and dull the pain. 

Like … hell, I don’t know. A stiff drink? (Yep.) Christmas carols? (Bah!) How about just a mindset adjustment, a way of looking at the world in a soft-focus haze rather than the cold, klieg-light glare we’re currently deploying? 

Things are pretty bad, but for most of us, most of the time, they’re not catastrophically bad, are they? Maybe they are. I’ve had my share of catastrophes in these gloomy times — some bad, some badder — and yet I’ve still found resilience, wisps of hope.

It’s a matter of focus and self-possession. If at all possible, we need to mellow. Take a deep breath wrapped in a sigh. We’re starting to hit the I’m-over-this-shit button, yet we’re in for more bone-cracking cold. Hang tight. But not too tight.

Maybe this is a call for self-improvement. For our quirks and foibles — our hideous flaws — to get tweaked and kneaded into something softer and more accepting. And more helpful.   

Me, for instance. I own a roiling anger that springs from fighting life, resisting and pushing, sparking off it, flint-like. I strain and recoil, writhe and seethe. It isn’t helping. I need to cork it. Clonazepam does only so much. 

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions — hardly a novel stance — but if I did one it would be to ride the next wave with the mettle and determination of that young surfer who got her arm bit off by a shark but keeps on shredding half-pipes like nothing ever happened. Limbs are missing. Still, we carry on.

Setting my sights on new specs

At long last I need prescription eyeglasses. I figured it, the doctor confirmed it. I am the most olden and wizened man on Earth. 

And yet I am not devastated. I am hardly ruffled, didn’t even blink. I’ve been wearing reading specs for some time now, used namely for books, food labels and computer stuff, and without which I couldn’t type these words and how that would break your heart. 

I can see people, cars, trees, raccoons and the general environment with spectacular clarity. No one appears fuzzy like a gelatinous apparition or a melting snowman. In fact, I’d reckon my vision is at least 80 percent normal and healthy. 

Yet, as I have just learned, I am clinically far-sighted: objects at a distance are clear but those up close, like book pages, laptop screens and microwave buttons, are distressing smudges. They look like amoebas, or roadkill.

So this week I elected to get a fancy, full-blown eye exam, my first in about 15 years (and my second ever). I pictured, blurrily, a speedy, comfortable procedure featuring paper eye charts and other quaint peepers paraphernalia. 

Instead, for almost an hour, I was subjected to a harrowing battery of high-tech tests featuring Kubrickian contraptions, yellow-dye eyedrops, blinding photos of my wide-open eyeballs, all while being ushered in and out of apparatus-cluttered rooms by two assistants and a doctor who maintained a scary, chirpy detachment. The lab coat, an unsettling touch.

Eventually, I was done. I blinked about 585 times, wiped the gooey yellow dye from my lashes, examined, with the trio, disconcerting snapshots of my bulging, bloodshot orbs, and listened to the dilated diagnosis. I am going blind. 

No, but a prescription was prescribed: progressives. These are glasses, or specifically lenses, or, as I snatched off the web: “a type of prescription eyeglasses that let you see your whole field of vision without switching between multiple pairs of glasses.” That’s a bit reductive, but it makes the point.

The upshot: I need real glasses.

At least I sort of know what having glasses is like, what with my onerous readers and all. Those I have to fetch and fumble for, be it at home or in the tahini aisle at Whole Foods, or at the ATM, etc. (and that’s a very long etcetera). 

The new glasses I ordered will be glued to my face with utmost convenience and questionable aesthetics. I wanted dark blue, even cobalt, frames, and I selected a blue-blackish pair from the sterile racks and rows of spiffy eyewear. The frames run pricey, the lenses even more. Discounts are involved, so the damage isn’t blinding. Still, the money might be spent more festively on my approaching voyage to Portugal, on, say, museums, or octopus platters. 

Color me excited. Blurs be gone. The whole world crystalline. Granny glasses, the cursed readers, in the dustbin. I foresee all of this, and I haven’t even tried on the new glasses. I envision a brighter future. I call this far-sightedness.

Thankin’ about Thanksgiving

I have a cold, all the pumpkin pie is gone, and my pants are dirty. Still, Thanksgiving was fine, just grand, as we did all the gathering, eating and digesting (Macy’s has the floats, we have the bloat) called for on this most misunderstood and head-smacking of holidays, in which hysterical myth supersedes historical fact.

Massacres, disease, the galling absence of quality cranberry sauce — I won’t get into the lowlights of the so-called First Thanksgiving. Think rather turkey, stuffing and pie obtained in an annual pilgrimage to Whole Foods, pun most sincerely intended. 

It’s a whitewashed affair, with thoughts totally not on the brutal realities of 1621 and more on unabashed gluttony, soggy family movies and, for the yahoos, grunts from the gridiron. Put the guy carving the turkey in suspenders and a bow tie and you’ve got a Norman Rockwell painting. 

Sounds unbearably wholesome. More like ho-hum-some. Which is how I like it. Give me low-key and low-pressure — you know, Covid-sized shindigs — over the flustered festivities of my childhood. That’s when long-lost relatives converged in fragrant farm towns for queasy parties featuring a veritable rogue’s gallery of relations, from fawning, darling grandparents to scofflaw second cousins. (I’m looking at you, Billy, the toothless terror.)

Those were the days, until they weren’t, and I am glad. Though I’m not pleased about the pesky cold I somehow caught out of thin, albeit chilly, air. I’m all snot and snorts, hacks and honks. It’s hardly incapacitating — if someone said let’s hit the slopes or jet to Spain, I’d pack in five minutes flat — but it is annoying. Waking each morning I feel mummified, rising from a death slumber, swaddled in phlegm. 

Thanksgiving has always been entrée to the big kahuna of holidays, Christmas, much as, say, Harry Potter’s been a gateway drug to genre realms for an entire generation (and for many stunted adults), be it to fantasy, sci-fi, Marvel or manga.

But I digress. Thanksgiving kicks open the wreathy door for the even more brazen fantasies of Christmas, which has also lost its historical meaning, drowned in an ocean of twinkly, tinseled fabulism animated by sardonic elves and sexless singing snowmen. Look closely, waaay in the background, and you might spot a slight bearded fellow whose birthday this supposedly is. He’s the one waving meekly.

The power of myth prevails on some of our biggest holidays. (Easter. Sigh.) But that’s what we’re there for — entertainment, merriment, community, ritual (not the deep, religious kind, but the fun, Chardonnay kind), and the weird random fairy tale that will keep the kiddies hyperactively interested. 

But here’s the truth: there is no Santa Claus, there is no Easter Bunny, there is no Great Pumpkin and there is no utopian First Thanksgiving sit-down. We all know this. Nobody cares. 

What we do care about isn’t trivial, it’s familial. It’s a little indulgent and, well, a lot ignorant. Yet it’s merry and nourishing. And, no matter a cold and some carping, it counts.

One memory launches a hundred more

There was the one-legged kid with the giant mouth who sold us homemade firecrackers for 25 cents a pop on the playground. That was Clayton, grade four, with a wooden leg and a broad freckly face topped by a shaggy pageboy. I still don’t know why Clayton had one leg. But he got along, though with a strenuous limp that made him look like a lurching scarecrow.

Those were some times, grade school in Santa Barbara, Ca., when John Travolta, John Ritter and Jonathan Livingston Seagull soared. When skateboarding became a bowl-swooping craze and the Boogie Board vaulted bodysurfing to radical crests. And when Pong and Space Invaders rocked high-tech recreation with bleeps (and, face it, creaks). 

Jim Jones and “The Devil in Miss Jones.” Darth Vader and “Dancing Queen.” The time machine churns and Clayton, poor Clayton, is probably selling TNT to demolitionists in Arizona these days. Light the fuse …

Boom! That’s KISS, circa 1978. All fire and folderol. And, for a fourth grader, everything alluring wrapped in one blinding bundle: sex, rock ’n’ roll, explosions, noise, mayhem, tongue-flinging personas in makeup and costumes.

Not a good look. Things rarely age well, unless it’s wine, or Cheryl Ladd.

Some things last. Queen and the Ramones. “Annie Hall” and “Apocalypse Now.” Bowie and Belushi. Richard Pryor and Richie Cunningham. Didion and De Niro. Rodney Allen Rippy and priggish Charmin pitchman Mr. Whipple. And yes: “Maude.”

What we’re getting at is memory and endurance, how they’re braided, and the randomness of it all. It started with Clayton’s cheap firecrackers — painted silver, with the fuse strangely in the middle, not the top — a fond memory from when I wore Keds sneakers and Sears Toughskins and had hair like Adam Rich. 

Apparently out of nowhere I had a flash of Clayton, always with that enveloping smile, his disability be damned, and everything came rushing back in mere seconds, and with it the world.

I can’t do karma

I was just thinking about the childlike knuckleheadism of karma, that form of magical thinking summed up as “what comes around goes around” that’s as easily dismissed as so much mystical poppycock.

What triggered this thought was how some unpleasant things have happened to me recently with little rhyme or reason and how some people, using karma as lazy shorthand, might reduce my miseries to retribution for some naughty past behaviors. 

Was it the time I shoplifted records when I was 14? Or when I flipped off a fellow driver who cut me off ? Could it be that I ghosted a girl I was dating because she didn’t read books? I doubt it, on all counts. I just don’t think the universe works that way.

Karma is synonymous with cause and effect, destiny and fate. It’s a measure of the luck one deserves and an incentive to do good deeds: you helped starving children, now you will be rewarded with a wish-granting genie! And it’s a deterrent from wrongdoing: you probably got in that fender bender because you never call your mother, you selfish wretch.

It’s not about getting a wicked hangover because you drank too much. That’s not karma; that’s ill judgement. Nor is it getting a promotion for a job well done; that’s hard-won exceptionalism.

No, karma is about the intangible, rooted in coincidence. It’s a strenuous leap of faith. A bit of chance. It’s not unlike the gauzy fictions of astrology or palm reading, though it’s probably less harmful and deceitful. 

In college, a furry Grateful Dead fanatic — a bona fide Deadhead — chided me for talking about scalping some Dead tickets at inflated prices. “Oh, dude, that’s bad karma, man,” he whined. I ignored him. I sold the tickets. The only adverse effect was the wad of cash I gleefully made.

But maybe karma was at work there. Had my hippie friend refrained from calling me dude, I might not have sold the tickets. Peace would shine upon the land and a few less Deadheads would noodle in druggy bliss to inexplicably horrible music. Then again, nah.  

The term karma is from the Sanskrit for “action, effect, fate,” and it echoes the biblical notion of reaping what you sow, not to mention such needlepoint philosophy as: “Life is a boomerang. What you give, you get.”

I don’t buy it. While I believe you are the author of your life, that your choices navigate where, to an extent, things will take you, I also think most of it is out of your hands. There are no messages in the universe, no cosmic justice. There is, however, striking coincidence, dumb luck, chance. Life as the Lotto.

Karma, ergo, is a cockamamie crutch. It’s got woo-woo written all over it. It’s as plausible as Santy Claus, spirits, or my friend Tom picking up a check at lunch.  

And now that I’ve spouted off here, with snark and a smirk, you just know something is going to get me.

All dolled up

When I was 8, I picked out a stuffed seal from the gift shop at SeaWorld in San Diego. He was gray, firm and fuzzy, and I promptly named him Salty using all the imagination my tiny head could muster. (Seals live in the ocean. The ocean is salty. Voilà!) 

I owned a sprawling menagerie of stuffed animals, including Bugs Bunny, Snoopy and this cruddy sawdust snake I won at a carnival, but Salty immediately became my favorite. When I accidentally spilt milk on him, I erupted in tears. I liked him that much.

A handsome fella with a minimalist design — nubby flippers, dark glass eyes, a few canine whiskers — Salty beat out Bugs and a hand-me-down teddy bear as my preferred plush, realigning the delicate balance of the toy hierarchy. Indeed, during my last move, I donated all of my stuffed animals except Salty, who even now sits out, visible to all. He radiates pinniped pride.

Salty on the left (stern as always); Bugs; and the ancient, loved teddy bear I was given

Salty had it easy. His job was to be an object of cuddle-osity and little more. I never drafted him for elaborate games or humiliating role-playing frolics. He has an almost comically serious face, and I could tell he would brook no foolishness. 

I left that to my, huh-hum, KISS dolls, creatures that were all about foolishness. Infected with the KISS bug before I turned 10, I greedily got my hands on the original dolls of Gene, Ace, Paul and Peter and was thrilled. I built them a big stage trimmed with Christmas lights. I never used it.

Because what does a non-collector — the dolls’ valuable packaging went straight into the garbage — do with plastic figures of rock stars, who also happen to be comic book heroes? Well, you play dolls, naturally.

The original KISS dolls

This is where I look sillier than usual. My next-door neighbor Joanie, a year older than me, owned the requisite Barbie and Ken dolls. I brought over the KISS guys and we dreamt up a scenario of Ken secretly being Gene Simmons without make-up, and then, when his superhero powers were conjured, I’d pull out the Gene doll. 

And there you have the presto-chango transformation from a blonde beefcake Republican to a hairy, tongue-wagging Neanderthal who belches blood and exhales fire. 

Lest you think I only played with a stoic seal and kabuki-faced clowns, my brother and I also wrung creative mileage from a caped Evel Knievel action figure (including a small motorcycle); a doll of sensible chimp Cornelius from “The Planet of the Apes”; and, of course, a kung-fu grip G.I. Joe, whose buzzcut fell out when we put him in the bathtub. 

I also liked the thick rubber dude called Stretch Armstrong — he was very stretchy, pull, and that was it — who met a grisly demise when, out of pure boredom, I sliced him open and synthetic pink jelly oozed out. (I think my plastic Army men found a gnarlier fate: I lit them on fire and watched them melt into gooey puddles.)

Only Salty survives. His plush playmates are somewhere in the Salvation Army ether, hopefully finding good homes, many, like that pitiful carnival snake, probably sacrificed to the incinerator. The KISS dolls are somewhere, packed away. I think. I don’t really know. And I kind of don’t care. I don’t exactly have any friends who’d want to play dolls with me anymore.

Perched in the open like a noble sphinx, Salty is none the worse for wear (the milk didn’t stain him; my tears might have). His whiskers are slightly bent out of joint, and he could maybe use a dusting. 

Otherwise, that stuffed stalwart hasn’t aged a bit. In so many ways, neither have I.