Not long ago, I lived in rural upstate New York, and one of the only businesses near my home was a mechanic’s shop decorated over its surrounding acreage with Volvos. These were not new cars, but survivors of long histories, veterans of travel that John Grady could not bear to sever ties with. Near the outermost row of the dead and dying, there was a charming, narrow country road lifting toward the horizon.
And it was from that spot, where the early morning sun met the line of sight, that my friend Yioshi could be seen lumbering his muscular bulk toward the automotive repair site. He had no watch but made a habit of always arriving on time and staying until the last customer had gone in the late afternoons.
Through my time in that glorious part of the state, it was my habit, when needing car maintenance, to cover the few miles well before eight o’clock in order to be first in line for the day. No one else would have arrived yet, but I sometimes could see Yioshi approaching, happy and proud in his bright yellow safety jacket.
Yioshi communicated with only his body and his eyes, but he lifted my spirit with every sighting. Before Yioshi’s time, I had always waited impatiently for my car, sitting restlessly for an hour or more on the filthy car seat sans car in the reception area. I always guessed that that dirty bench was intentionally unappealing to dissuade customers from waiting. But, once having met Yioshi, I looked forward to being there and could not have cared less about my seating.
Yioshi’s job was apparently to greet customers and to patrol the premises anytime something seemed amiss, or perhaps on an hourly basis. As I admired his every move, I would sometimes catch sight of his arms and the horrific scars he carried from some former life. It was soul-crushing to think of anyone as gentle as Yioshi having had a life of trauma and suffering, and it was awe-inspiring to witness his ability to love without exception – humans and non-humans. He moved from one to the other as if to soothe souls with his own.
From his adoring co-workers, I learned that Yioshi had been a fighter. Not by choice, but by force. And that the Yioshi they knew would lie down and die before he would act with aggression against anyone or anything. If he had been a man, I think he would have been burly and rascally, with tattoos and huge hands. But my friend, Yioshi, is a dog. That word “dog” often seems not nearly sacred enough to describe the canines that we treasure. And, in Yioshi’s case, when every moment with him seemed a gift from God, it felt completely inadequate.
Often, as I sat with him against my calves and hoped my car would not be ready any time soon, his adoptive mother would telephone from over the horizon. The gentleman at the desk would assure her that Yioshi had made it in to work that day and was quite busy with his self-imposed routine. I remember tenderly that she once told Dave that she wished Yioshi would retire and stay home, as she missed him terribly.
Another time, he was nowhere in sight and Dave told me sadly that Yioshi had not come in to work that day. The mood was heavy in the reception area and in the work area, as every human felt the lack of the sweet soul. Gratefully, he was not MIA from home, just from his workplace, and his absence was soon an excused absence. I imagined that sweet being feeling torn between his loving human mother and his obvious commitment to the mechanics and the customers.
I haven’t seen Yioshi in four years, but I have his picture on my phone and I pull it up occasionally, never without a pang of warmth. If reincarnation is real, I believe Yioshi was, and is, a master, what some call “a spirit guide.” All I know is that I have the deepest gratitude to have known him, and to have had him sit at my feet, when surely, I should have been sitting at his.
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