the present tense of the past

“is that a dog paw tattoo?” a random stranger at the checkout line of a grocery store asks me. 
“yes” i smile, angling my wrist to give her a better view. 
“it’s not perfect lines like the ones i have seen. is that an actual paw print?” she prods.
“yes, it is. i sized it down though. my boy is a big guy.” i grin.
“wow! thats so new. i dint think of that” she shows me the quintessential heart-paw tattoo on her collarbone. “i got it because i like dogs. my paati wont allow dogs in the house.” she sighs sadly. “do you have a picture i can see?”
i whip out my phone to show her Zee on the wallpaper.
“how old is he?” she asks excited. her eyes widen with awe when i say 14. “wow! semma. cha so lucky you are”
“kandipa. very lucky. he is a very naughty but romba loving fellow” i tell her. 

the line moves, effectively ending our conversation with a smile. as i ride home, i realise, i spoke of Zee in the present tense. like he still is. like we dint lose him in June. like he’s still waiting for me by the gate wagging all of him but his head in excitement. i hadnt done that. even when i randomly talk about Zee to Doc, it’s always in the past tense. “know what zee used to do?” or “he used to like this cheese a lot”. everything in the past. like he was done with. maybe because Doc knew. 

but with that random stranger, for a moment i forgot. i spoke of him like i did. like i used to. i never once felt sad because i was speaking of him in the present. it’s very black to white. either i dont remember or this black grief consumes me within moments clouding my eyes, shutting down my lungs and making everything in the world just stop. i havent written about him or spoken about him because i dont know how to process that. i dont even know if i will be able to handle processing that. iam either white or black, both of which i dont control. 

i felt alive when i realised the present tense liberated me the past. it is a slice of time that will continue to live on. present continuous forever.
henceforth anyone who asks, Zee is 14. yes, that’s his paw print on my wrist has a tattoo. Ask me for a picture, he’s always the wallpaper on my phone. he’s naughty because he thinks he’s puppy, moos like a cow, speaks his mind (literally), always up for kadalamittai and poori-chole. rowdy and so territorial no crow is allowed on our terrace nor a cat/dog on our street. he likes blackie though. ogles her when we dont look but barks when we do to keep up his macho image. dramebaaz no 1. no, he’s not that old for 14. he’s still active, healthy and always amazing.