Yesterday, Fall

With half an hour before I had to be in school, I drove the opposite direction, to the Redwood City Plant Nursery, bearing two yellowish leaves of a camellia sasanqua. What is wrong with this plant? I asked the lady working at the nursery. She turned the leaves over. “Overwatering,” she said, without any hesitation. “See the little black bumps on the leaves?” I looked; I didn’t see anything. “Look along the edges,” she said. I peered intently. I thought I saw little black pinpricks, so tiny they looked like part of the dark green of the leaves. “That’s the moisture trying to push out; there’s nowhere else for it to go.”

Now, it’s just past 7 in the morning. Bella the old beagle stands at the end of the hallway and gazes intently at me. The older she gets, the more anxious she becomes about food. There’s a new avidity and hunger in her eyes, and it saddens me, for we have pampered this dog. Sometimes I wonder if all older animals — even people, even Dearest Mum? — become this way: avid. Will this happen to me?

Bella confronts me as I walk down the hallway, she plants herself just in front of the stove. As long as I am home, she is constantly watching, and the minute I happen to drop something — a morsel of sandwich, a piece of fruit — she is on it so quickly she almost causes me to trip. Something about her great hunger (which has nothing to do with really being hungry, I feel) annoys or even frightens me. I am very tempted to kick.

The younger dog is not that way. She approaches, but her purpose is playful. She will sit on my foot, simply to feel some part of me against her body. If she stretches out at my feet, one paw is invariably stretched over my shoe. She owns me, this little one, without even trying. Whenever I go on a trip, it is the little one I worry about, for our neighbors have two little boys who are constantly throwing things at her, over the fence. I tell hubby that when I am in Manila, he has to fence off the part of our garden that is adjacent to the little boys’ garden. For I don’t want them tormenting her for hours. She starts barking and barking, frantic. She can keep it up for 24 hours — no, longer. Hubby works very late, who knows what can happen while he is in the office.

It will be so strange to be in Manila without Ying.

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