No monstrous scorpion came for you.
No jealous shafts from Apollo’s bow.
Nor arrows of anger from Artemis.
She sits here still, miaowing in confusion because you’re not here.
Was it my fault?
If I had given you more tartar-controlling treats, would your teeth have been all right?
Without that dental surgery, would you still be here?
If you or I had wandered into a different store that day, would you have been happier?
Would someone else have adopted you off the street?
Would you have spent the intervening years climbing someone else’s chest to mark her face with yours?
Was it all my fault?
More than a week in the veterinary hospital.
Was it too long? Not long enough?
That look in your eyes…
Did it mean “Don’t let me die!”
Or did it mean “Why won’t you let me die?”
Or was it meaningless?
I still don’t know if there was anything left inside.
Did I do the right thing?
Why don’t I know?
Why couldn’t you tell me?
Why did I sign on for this pain?
Sappho was right: “Neither the honey nor the bee for me.”
The honey of affection isn’t worth the sting of loss.
I don’t want to feel like this again.
I don’t want the guilt of knowing that there must have been a point where I could have made it better.
I’m going to cry every time I see a tuft of black fur that drifted underneath the furniture.
But I don’t have time to clean it now.
I have to dive back in. I have to keep going.
I have a book to read and a paper to write.
Even as a cat-owner himself, my professor won’t let me off of classwork for this.
I have to read about horrible deaths in horrible wars, feeling shallow and selfish because my tears are for my cat and not for those soldiers who died before I was born.
But you won’t hop up and get in between my face and my book to make it better.
Artemis doesn’t hop up; she can’t or she won’t.
How far would I have to wind back the clock to fix this?
How selfish is it to ask that question?
I know I have to keep going. But it hurts.
I don’t want to go back to my reading.
I know I should. I should clean the blizzard of dried tears from my glasses and get back to work.
But I don’t know if I can yet.
I should. I know I should set this aside and make lunch.
But I don’t know if I can.
If losing a pet feels like this…how does it feel to lose a lover? Or a child?
I can’t imagine the agony.
My characters have been shallow in their grief.
My books all need to be re-written.
The contrast is the worst part.
He was also so active, so lively.
The determined hunter.
The explorer, climbing me because I was there.
The connoisseur, turning his nose up at food he didn’t like.
The determined guard, protecting his home from the cat out on the deck. (Even though it couldn’t have gotten in.)
But in the hospital he was so lifeless.
Unable to move, unable to see.
I don’t think he could even smell me through the antiseptic smell of the hospital itself.
The staff who brought him out to visit seemed to think he knew it was me.
I don’t think he did.
Maybe he was already dead.
Maybe everything he was failed to be resuscitated on the operating table.
Maybe it will be easier for me to live with myself if I think of it that way?
I know he was just a pet.
I know they have shorter life spans than people.
But I’m still going to miss him.
Requiescat in pacem.
The most beautiful black cat I’ve ever seen.
Spring? 1998? – November 17, 2014