At some point I started saying that it was Ribsy who led me around, when I originally said it was Foxy who took that honor. Things change here. The Roadkill Café is a reflection of the life its visitors once knew, but things change. That’s the whole point.
Barky was the first one to come. He says it existed before then, but I have my doubts. He says a lot of things. The first time I saw him, he didn’t say anything. The more I asked Ribsy and Foxy about him, the more I convinced them to finally let me meet him. And when I did, I realized I’d seen him before. He was the first one I met on the road, the one I took, the one that took me to the Roadkill Café.
He was left on his side, on a sidewalk. I started thinking about how he got there. I imagined that he was run over, and the driver thought enough to stop the care and put him someplace dignified. I imagined that he died in his owner’s home, and was left here, someplace undignified. I imagine that he’d grown sick, and that his owner left him there, left him to die on his own. I imagined that he’d run away, and finally he could go no further, and so lay down and waited for the end.
Somehow he ended up at the Roadkill Café. The end wasn’t the end. I’ve called it limbo and I’ve suggested purgatory, and there’s a difference between the two. Limbo is a place you end up when there is no sure way to know where you really ought to be. I used to think the Roadkill Café was a limbo. Now I lean more toward purgatory, if anything. Well, I did. Purgatory is a place you go to lose your baggage, the things you couldn’t let go of from some previous life. It implies that you want to forget, that you can, that you need to.
They say that humans have the advantage over animals because they remember, and the greatest curse is to lose that gift, because knowledge breeds innovation, the ability to improve your life, to impact the world, to make a difference. It’s all about ego, really. Animals don’t have ego. They live by instinct. They adapt and take advantage of circumstances, but they’re incapable of human innovation, the spark of genius. They can’t love?
I think I learned differently. Barky’s story was everything I imagined it to be. It was a horrible tragedy. He told me he thought about it every day, and he kept going, settled into the heartache, and decided to never leave the Roadkill Café, and welcomed every new patron personally. He kept to himself, though, and avoided humans, never called me Comrade. I guess he didn’t have to.
Ribsy, who decomposed on the side of a road, took charge. He relished the opportunity. He spent the most time of anyone with me, and I used to take it for granted. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t do that anymore.
What does it all mean? I guess I don’t want to answer that. I met a lot of friends there, heard a lot of stories, and they were all a little sad, but they were also pretty happy, too, even if in ways some people will find a little hard to understand. I guess if there’s a point, that’s it.
I wanted to tell their story right away, but I was cautioned by all of them. They all pulled me aside, privately, and it was like a conspiracy. I’m certain that none of them consulted each other, that it was a decision each of them made on their own. I guess that says something, too, maybe explains something about heartbreak and life and something about love. They trusted me, because I guess I allowed them to. It grew to be overwhelming, really. What was I supposed to do with it? I guess, when I was ready, when I felt the time was right, when it made sense, to share it. Well, and then here we are again, at the beginning...