my dog spoke hebrew and it felt profound
By Emma Kushnirsky
The relationship between two deaths.
I want to tell the reader about a dream I recently had. Then I will also talk about a dream from less recently because the two are connected in my mind. Maybe then the reader can tell me what my dreams mean to me. It was not the first time my deceased dog had been resurrected. At the beach she would have leaped among rivulets of cold salty water Invade flat sand planes slope the gentle aggression of the white sky and at the edge of the water the dog— When I looked at her, I was scared by her gray muzzle. I counted her age on my fingers. Twenty-one years, but the dream math was wrong. I found that out when I woke up. My dad’s outline next to me was wavy, his voice nonexistent. Phantom Dad could not comfort. I thought of the times we had buried her and the times she had clawed her way to the surface. She was forgiving of the soil we’d surrounded her with; she came to us with her tail wagging. Now, before she lay down to die, finally, she spoke Hebrew, but all I understood was the lo, lo, lo (no, no, no). I wished my mom was there to translate. Instead, the jumble of sounds dissipated into the thick air. My dog walked up into the air like she was climbing a staircase. The horizon was laid out behind her, two distant islands and a faraway lighthouse that I couldn’t focus my eyes on.
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I dreamed about my grandma after she died, but haven’t for years. She was Russian, and I moved through a Russian river. The water cooled and soothed, parted for my body. It was fresh, even though there was a city around it. My hair was a pretty brown cloud around my head. At the edge of the river, my grandma held a comb. I floated without effort. She combed my hair.
It is strange to me that this is the dream I had of my grandma, when in real life she was all hard corners and sharp words. I wonder if that is what she would have wanted, or if a rounding, a softening of that which had been built up, would have felt like a betrayal to her. Would she rather I dreamed of her cooking, or criticizing, or carrying her family across the Atlantic? She did like to do my hair, but she would pull it tight and tell me it didn’t look good the way I usually wore it.
She combed my hair when I was four, too. She told me she had a magic comb that wouldn’t hurt when it hit a tangle. She was right. It didn’t hurt.
There was more to my dreams, but I guess I didn’t care to remember those bits.
It is embarrassing to me that these two dreams feel similar, because no one wants me to compare my love for my grandmother to my love for my dog.
But I wept the same amount. I stood stiffly when dirt rained down on their bodies. I had refused to watch their eyes go glassy. I did not go to the vet. I did not go to the hospital.
This piece was written very quickly because I was suddenly inspired and it came out almost all at once. It really helped me process my feelings about the events I talk about and think about these dreams in a way I hadn’t before. After the first draft, my mentor Robin also helped me to realize that the piece was not quite finished. I needed to work on what all these things really meant to me and what I wanted to say. That really rounded it out.
Emma Kushnirsky is a current college student in Iowa. She grew up mostly in the Bronx and the most uptown part of Manhattan. She's a writer and educator-in-training. Her work has previously been published in In Parentheses Magazine.