Plan B

We are packing for a move to Ingolstadt, Germany, and we have to decide what to do with Diana, my fifteen-year-old German Shepherd cross corgi cross chihuahua (think: low to the ground, attentive face). Kevin says I should add her to the cargo, but I worry that her aged heart won’t survive the twenty-three-hour plane ride. The vet advised against it. Kevin says I should find her a new home, maybe give her to a friend. But she’s blind, and she’s old, and it would be too cruel to abandon her like that, assuming someone is willing to take in a dog so sweet and senile. Well, then, Kevin says. Maybe you should put her down.

I’ve had Diana since tenth grade. She was a tiny baby when I got her, the runt of a litter born into a smelly animal shelter. Her head was small and round, like a golf ball. Her ears were perfect triangles, though they’ve curled inward with age, like the edges of a Dorito. She has brown patches above her eyes—an expressive pair of brows. In the car ride home, she curled into a donut and slept in the dippy part of my lap—the natural nook of my touching thighs. I stroked her squishy body with my thumb and knew I would love her forever.

We’re moving because it’s Kevin’s dream to work for a German automaker. We have to be in Ingolstadt in three weeks. That’s so soon, I say. I’ve only been waiting all my life, he says. He tells me to start packing. I fetch Diana’s squeaky dog bones, put them in the basket with her soft toys.

In bed one night I ask Kevin if it has to be now. Could we wait just another year? I talk about the life expectancy of dogs, how nice it would be for Diana to leave this mortal coil in this apartment, and then we could go anywhere, guilt-free. Kevin groans. You can’t be fucking serious, he says. He rolls over, sleeps far away from me.

Kevin didn’t always dream about working for a German automaker. We had a Plan A, which was to stay in Sydney, start a family, and he would keep working for Holden. I guess we’re currently living Plan B.

I named Diana after the Princess of Wales. Because she is blind and navigates the apartment from scent and memory, her steps are slow, deliberate. She won’t eat any kibble that’s been left out for more than a day. She likes her water fresh from the tap. I often find her napping on a stack of two or three pillows and wonder how she managed. Sometimes, when she is sleeping in my lap, snoring like a truck’s engine, sinking between my thighs, I am pretty sure she loves me, too.

Kevin says that dog euthanasia is very humane these days. He says, They put the dog to sleep before they put the dog to sleep, if you catch my drift. I look at Kevin, wounded, and he sees this, and his shoulders droop, but not in a sympathetic way. He is frustrated with me.

It’s just a fucking dog, Patty!

Whenever I give Diana a bath, I wrap her in a towel and cradle her like a baby. Kevin used to find this funny. He would take videos, his laugh audible in every one of them.

After the third time I woke in the middle of the night, bleeding, another sign that my cervix was sabotaging Plan A, he told me to please stop holding the dog like that, that it hurt him too much. I said okay. But when it’s just me and Diana, I still cradle her. Because it doesn’t hurt me.

We have to move very soon and there are still no plans for Diana. What happens if we do nothing? I ask. What if I just sit here, on the couch, holding the fat dog?

Kevin is impatient. He says, Not this again. He slams doors. He is very dramatic.

I ask him, What if I refuse to go? What if Diana and I stay?

He says nothing. This. This is what hurts me.

Maybe, when Kevin agreed to “Til death do us part,” he didn’t realize he needed caveats. ’Til death do us part, *as long as that HPV that everyone supposedly has doesn’t mutate in your cervix into pre-cancer. ’Til death do us part, *as long as doctors don’t have to go in there with an electric coil to slice away at the fleshy floor that would hold in a baby. ’Til death do us part, *as long as you don’t keep dilating early, far too early, bleeding our future onto linen sheets.

I never saw any caveats written anywhere. I swear.

We move in two days. My bags aren’t packed. Diana’s toys are everywhere. Kevin has already shipped his things.

“The Ladies Coach,” a relationship guru I follow online who wears very short skirts and makes videos of herself lip-syncing to music from the 90s, says that when couples cheat on each other, it’s typically because a betrayal happened earlier. Someone let someone else down, a fissure formed, the crack widened, it grew to a gulf, and then we fall in. I don’t think anyone is cheating on anyone. But my husband would rather go far, far away than stay with me. I see a gulf. I didn’t notice our fall. But here we are, at the bottom, no longer searching for each other.

We move tomorrow. Or do we? In bed, we hold each other and cry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I say. I’m sorry, too, he says. I don’t know if we’re apologizing for the same thing, or different. I don’t know what happens tomorrow.

For now, Diana sleeps between us, her body sinking.

First published in the Tahoma Literary Review (issue 17), Spring 2020.