I took the Starlight Express from San Jose to Portland. Just me and a tub of chocolate. Bello was very noticeably absent. The tracks take a route that once promised to be the main corridor. That did not turn out to be the case. To the west lies Interstate 5 and its endless traps and treasures. The train runs past a couple of forgotten lumber mills, quiet and harmless, and a few crumbled houses, more beautiful now than they have ever been. Reassuringly the land reasserts itself once we get out of the way. After a long, feverish night of cramped legs and endless whistle stops, I woke to the specific smells and sights of Southern Oregon: Pine trees, dry red dirt, Madrone shrubs, hidden lakes, wildfowl and woodpeckers. I was hoping the twenty-one hour trip would help me adjust to life in Portland without Bello. It did not. It could not. Not even if it took twenty-one days. Or years. I wasn't surprised to then be struck with the flu on the first day back. It somehow made sense that my body would resort to drastic measures in an attempt to reset. But where was Bello if not by my side? And when I was well, where was he if not in the kitchen eating the apple core I flung to the floor. No train ride, no stomach ache, no time away will placate this desire. A desire for something so specific, something that can not be replaced nor erased by anything on this earth. I am without him. Bello is so much more than that old dog I have written about over the years. He is my understanding of peace, of earth, he is the smell of love, he is the deepest sigh, he makes me feel good. Like a good person. He stood in for all the people that I love deeply but do not see very often, as well as the sea and the mountains and the stars disappearing as the fog rolls in. When he left, things changed in me. I am actually different now. And everyone who knew him is as well. A piece was pulled from the board and we all shifted. I am beginning to see how far the ripple will flow.

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