Out of the corner of my eye

10 06 2009

I saw Chelsea on the train today.

There she was, sleeping on a towel in that corner near the end of the car with FatCat, when she woke and stretched and sauntered over to me.

What? There is no corner near the end of the car? Ah.

Did I mention I had been dozing? And that in non-dreamland she would have hated the lurch and screech of the train?

It was good seeing her, though.





Ghost in the machine

17 05 2009

She’s been gone two weeks and I don’t feel her anywhere.

I choked up as this photo loaded on to the page, but it’s been been awhile since tears could be prompted by the thought of her.

She’s slipped right through and away from me.

Grief may be about the recognition of absence, as I mentioned previously, but what of the absence of the absence?

I can tell people I mercy-killed my cat and move on. I pull FatCat close to me and wonder how she is as an only cat. I think about getting a kitten in July or August.

I don’t think about Chelsea.

There’s a photo of her propped on top of her empty food dish (a small pot I threw and glazed in her tiger-striped coloring; FatCat has a similar black-and-white dish), but I rarely slide my eyes over the shelf on which the dish sits, so I don’t see her. Out of sight, out of mind?

It’s a relief not always to be verging on tears, but I’m discomfitted by my relatively smooth transition to post-Chelsea life. I was worried about the grief taking me over, but now I wonder about the easy sequestration of that grief.

I thought she’d be here. Yeah, I know, I’m an agnostic about all things supernatural, but I liked the idea of her, somehow, hanging around. Ms. Blithe comforted me with the words ‘Travel well, Skinny Cat,’ and I like the image of her continuing on, somehow.

Somehow. I was worried that my own disenchanted naturalism would dissipate into a cheap spiritualism, that I would be unable to deal forthrightly with Chelsea’s death and thus retreat into a moony ‘when-I-see-her-again’ wistfulness.

This is not a slam against belief. My friend and colleague J. is both ‘an orthodox Marxist and an orthodox Catholic’ (she pronounces this with her finger raised) says that ‘unlike those goddamned Protestants’ Catholics believe that animals have souls and I’ll see Chelsea in heaven. (Which is sweet, really, that she thinks I’ll make it to heaven.) I demurred and noted that some Protestants allow for this possibility, but, as with Ms. Blithe’s comment, I didn’t really take it in. It’s a nice idea that I don’t quite believe in.

I ought to be relieved: my agnosticism is not as blithe as I worried it might be! My beloved cat is gone and I don’t experience her as anything other than gone. She’s dead, as FatCat will one day be, as any other cats I take in will one day be, as my friends and family and I will someday be. Dead is dead.

Curiously, however, I am not eased by the fact that I am not eased by any post-death possibilities. I ought to be pleased with myself, insofar as I sometimes suspect that my agnosticism is little more than cover for lack of commitment. I am committed to doubt! I say, even as I think I am merely keeping all of my options open. Don’t want to be caught out a fool, doncha know.

So the unbelief side of my agnosticism holds. Whoopee.

Another stage of grief? Bargaining or whatever? ‘I want my cat back. I want her here, with me.’ And that she’s not, in any way, is a kind of small desolation which confirms the possibility of universal desolation. Is this the movement out of bargaining into acceptance? That death really does mean separation?

And then wrap this whole situation in the that whole over/underreaction dynamic I have going on, and it would make sense that I lurch from constant sorrow to a certain stoniness regarding her absence, and from there to a cosmic absence for everyone everywhere, forever.

I want to be clear-eyed. I want to remember. I want to keep open possibility. I want to commit. I want to make sense.

So Chelsea’s gone and I know that. I know that too well. I just want her here, as well.

I want something more.





You’ve got to. . .cry without weeping

4 05 2009

I hate crying.

I don’t do it very often, which means that when I do cry, I don’t do it well.

It doesn’t make me feel better, I don’t feel cleansed, released, relieved, or in any way unburdened.

When I’m crying, there’s always a part of me saying, Well, shit, I’m crying, and I hate crying.

I have cried more the past 6 days than I have the past 6 years, maybe the past 16 years. I cried on the bus, on the train, walking down the street, at my desk, on my bed, in the shower, at the stove, while washing dishes, making coffee, and retrieving milk from the refrigerator.

Have I mentioned how I feel about crying?

I don’t know what to do with tears, not least because I don’t know what to do with what causes tears. I’m no good with sadness.

Depression, despair, anxiety, numbness, unhappiness, disgruntlement, dissatisfaction—got all those down. But sadness? A specific reaction to a specific event which cannot in any way be fixed? Nope.

In many ways, I’ve been lucky. My parents and siblings and their kids are all alive and well, as are all close friends, past and present. Yes, I’ve had pets who were taken away or who’ve died, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to deal with something other than a self-inflicted loss.

I’ve certainly inflicted loss, on myself and others. I’ve left jobs and friends and cities, and am number one with the romantic-relationship-ending bullet. One former friend, who a couple of years ago decided to punish me for my alleged misbehavior (a misunderstanding) told me not to contact him, not even to try to clear up the misunderstanding, that he would contact me when he was good and ready. Fine. The letter he eventually sent still hasn’t been opened, the e-mail, unread.

Shut it down and walk away. Bloodless.

It’s not that I don’t recognize the downsides of being a cold bitch, and most of the time, I’m just a regular bitch. But I’m comfortable with the distances of bitchiness, even as I sometimes think that distance itself is not always the most comforting. This is what I’ve chosen. Consequences.

But now this, the mercy-killing of a cat who’s been with me almost all of my adult life. She leapt over my boundaries and into my lap even when I protested that I was reading or typing or just not in the mood. She didn’t care about my moods. She wanted to be scratched and held and at the center of my attention.

On cold nights she’d step over the blankets to sit on the sheet to the side of the pillow, and wait for me to lift the covers and let her in. And when I didn’t immediately do so, she’d paw at the covers, and if I still didn’t respond, she’d put her paw with her claws ever-so-slightly extended on my nose and remind me that if I knew what was good for me, I’d lift the fucking covers RIGHT NOW and let her in. Which I always did.

I’d bitch, but I’d always let her in.

And now she’s gone and I look at the box for the multi-cat litter and tear up, thinking, I only have one cat now. I open the fridge and look down at the floor, next to the heating pipe where she used to lay, and she’s not there. I lay in bed with Fat Cat on one side of me and the other side empty.

I used to wake up and pull both cats close and whisper ‘It’s good to wake up with two kitties next to me.’

No more.

So this is loss and it makes me sad and there’s nothing I can do about it except live with it.








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