Aftermath

The second day without my cat Bella.

I notice the absence.

We put her water dish away. She will never drink from it.

Her litter box in the bathroom is gone.

She's gone. She is truly gone. I will never see her again.

The anguish. The grief.

My mother said "We've lost our home, our family, and now our cat. What will we lose next?"

Later, she pointed to her chest and said "I'm so broken."

Where is the joy? The happiness? Will we ever know it again or is it gone for good?

I'm 26 and I feel ancient. Other people my age have optimism. They see their life going somewhere. They have plans and dreams. I have none of that. It feels like my life is over, like things will never get better.

Last night, I woke up and couldn't breathe. I think I had a panic attack.

Tonight, I took my dog outside and breathed in the cool night air and told myself "You're here, you're here" as I looked up at the stars.

Yes, I'm here but she isn't. I'm here and my father isn't. I'm here I'm here I'm here.

On Watching My Cat Die

My cat is dying.

I didn't have pets growing up. We were poor. We didn't have the resources to take care of an animal. That's the only excuse I can think of for why we didn't have a pet. My mom and dad had two cats before I was born, but we never considered bringing an animal into the house and I never asked. I was content to play with the neighbor's dog and stroke the stray cats that congregated on my grandma's front porch. It never occurred to me that there was a void in my life, that I was missing out on anything.

In 2010, four years after my father's death and the year my mother re-married another man, we finally got a cat. My first pet. My mom and stepdad brought Bella home from the shelter where she'd been living for eight months. Someone paid half her fee, so the financial cost was lessened. She was an old cat, already eight years old by the time she came into our home. I remember the first night she was with us. I was up late by myself in the living room and, for some reason, she ran around in a random, spastic way, like she was running after something that wasn't there. Her strangeness scared me at first. I had no experience with animals. I didn't know their language or how to interact with them.

It didn't take long to fall in love with her. She is white with patches of brown fur. Her eyes are large and round and green. I think she taught me how to love in a different way. At night, she climbed on my chest, then when I slept on my stomach she sat on my back. Sometimes she even plopped down on my head. The physicality of her astounded me. I'd put my ear to her purring body and feel the mass of fur against my skin and it felt like I was connected to another being so fully. I wondered if she had thoughts. What do cats think? What do they feel? I'd stare into her eyes and wonder what she saw when she gazed back at me. Did she know how much I loved her? Could she feel that love in the way I caressed her fur, in my hunger for her, how I'd take her in my arms and not let go until she escaped my grasp and ran away?

She'd had babies and her stomach hung down nearly to the floor. It would swing back and forth when she sprinted down our hallway. She'd ignore us all day but at night she came alive, meowing and laying on her back, signalling that she wanted us to rub her belly. She is an individual. I may have another cat in the future but that cat won't be her. It won't have her personality and idiosyncrasies. It won't smell like her or feel like her or sound like her.

I'm not ready to let go.

She hasn't let go either. Maybe she is staying for us.

In the waning days of her life, we are her caretakers. We give her water, feed her, hold her to our chests and she doesn't wriggle from our arms.

We've had her for six years. We recently made an arduous move from North Carolina to Rhode Island. It haunts me that perhaps this move has precipitated her declining health. Perhaps this new environment and leaving home has weakened her? I'll never know. I do know that it's hard to ache for home and watch my cat die. My sorrow deepens.

As much as I love Bella, I've noticed that I keep my distance from her. I realize this is a pattern in my life. Before my father died, I stayed away. As my grandmother's health deteriorated, I rarely visited her. I am ravaged by guilt. I can't look death in the face. I can't watch the body disintegrate. I can't watch what I love disappear.

But, even with all my fear, I take Bella's frail body in my arms and I try to face death, to provide comfort to this creature who gave me so much love. I think she deserves at least this. I want her to feel this love I carry. I want her to be wrapped in it. I want her to die in it.

Note: My cat passed away the night after I wrote this.

Fragments

He left me in this world alone. Sometimes I can't forgive him.

Nothing will ever be right again.

Life is the horror, not death. Life is this thing we are trapped in and death is the only escape.

I don't want to die but I don't want to live. Maybe that's the true horror: not being at home in life or death. No way in and no way out.

I can't do much in this world but I'll do my best to make another person feel less alone That's my purpose, why I write.

Writing in pain and through pain and still unable to articulate pain.

I need to be heard. I have to keep writing or I'll die before I'm dead, though I feel half-dead already.

The pain of life is shocking but what shocks me is how good I am at hiding the pain.

A never-ending list of everything I miss

Perhaps these words give voice to someone else's feelings and maybe this means that me and that someone are momentarily connected

Where no language exists, I will create one and live for it

New year's resolution: keep surviving and hope for the day when I will do more than survive

How did this happen? How did my life shatter?

Art is a reprieve from reality.

He is my darkness and my light. His death brought a void into my life but the life I had with him was the most beautiful thing I will ever know.

Where is he? I mean it. Where is he? How was he once here and now there is nothing left but this perishable memory?

I envy religious people. They have an external force (God) to grapple with. I only have a void, a massive emptiness.

Why can't I love the things he loved? I fear them. I keep them at a distance because experiencing them without him is too painful.

I once thought I was destined for something but I no longer feel that way. I feel no meaning.

Fragments

The forever of my father's death, the having to face it every day until I die from it.

Ten years without him. Ten years lost. And how many more are left?

So scared of death, of its eventuality.

Are we ever alive when, at the moment we are born, we are going towards death? Aren't we always in a state of dying?

I get it now--life is killing me, life is handing me over to death. I am not safe.

I live for the end of the day when I can crawl into bed and melt into dream.

Writing is my only possible resistance.

I was never here. I've never been here. I will pass from this life as I entered it: forgotten.