But she wasn’t a human. She was a cat. And as such there were only two options.
Growing up, I would tease her in one of two ways. When she was little, in fact, too little to be from her mother, I used to call her Little Baby Notallowed because she would find her way into dangerous or damaging situations. This nickname lasted well into our college years, but faded over time as she mellowed out, as did I. The other way I would tease her would be to ask, in a mocking voice, ‘when she was going to grow up?’ ‘When was she going to be all big like the rest of us?’ ‘When was she going to be people?’
I’m angry. I’m angry at everybody. I know how stupid it is to be angry and yet I couldn’t help busting my fists against a shower wall just angry at everybody, from those who really hate to the people who genuinely try to help. Except I don’t want any help. I’m a miserable fuck-up and if I can’t take care of my own life when its so dreadfully simple compared to the problems other people have, then how in fuck’s sake am I supposed to have someone dependent on me.
So I called off work today. I didn’t say why I was calling off work because some would make it a fucking competition. ‘Oh, your cat died? Big deal, my grandfather died.’ Yeah. Except it’s not a competition. And if it was it would be a pretty morbid one.
You want to know what happens when you die? You die cold and alone. Even if you’re in a warm place in the arms of the only person you truly love and they give you something that lets you drift peacefully off to heavenly slumber… you die cold… and you die alone. Because the only person in your head at that final moment it you. And your body temperature drops almost right away. You die. Cold. And alone.
And she was my best friend. Yeah. So it’s lame that my best friend was a cat. But you know what’s even more pathetic? The reason that she was my best friend. Because around that damned cat I didn’t have to be anybody but myself. She knew everything about me from the noises I make when I wake up to all the lies and secrets that everyone has so that their social persona is slightly different than the one inside their head. I didn’t need that buffer, I guess in part because cats can’t talk, or because, intellectually, we all know that she’s still a dumb animal, or perhaps I sincerely didn’t care if I was embarrassed or lost face, because we were so close. She knew what I was feeling often before I did, when I needed consoling, and I tried to do my best to reciprocate. Somehow, we understood each other on variant levels of reality that shouldn’t seem possible. And it was the most meaningful relationship I’ve ever had with anyone. Which is sad.
It was my job to protect her from the physical fears of the world; burglars, prowlers, and big mean dogs. It was her job to protect me from real or imagined spiritual harm; ghouls, boogeymen, and night terrors. Nitwit leftover fears from childhood, I’m sure, but in the course of our friendship I can honestly recount all of my nightmares on the fingers of one hand. And we all have those fears. We all have them buried back in our subconscious and, real or imagined, need someone to uphold the law. Well she did her job. And I failed in mine.
As I held her and stroked her fur, behind her ears and under her chin because she was always more like a puppy than a cat in those respects, I sang ‘Take it Easy’ by the Eagles because it was the only song I could think to. And when I couldn’t sing it any longer I whistled it. And then I told her that ‘she was finally done growing up.’ ‘She was all big now.’ ‘She was one of the big persons.’ And in a funny way, it’s true. She’s the same now as every human being ever ends up.
Then I said to no one in particular, “I’ll have what she’s having.”