Grieving for Esme
The Last Straw
I've taken one blow too many.
I've found my last straw. I know there are many more that could break me, but this was it.
I'm a fifty-year-old man. I have no money, no job, no car, and no life. I wrestle with anxiety every night. I fear that I'll lose my home soon.
And now my Esme.
I'm a stupid human that had a stupid cat. I took three kittens from my father and gave them a home. An orange one, a white one, and a black one. The orange one, Harry, grew to be big, fat, and friendly. Three years ago, I found him dead on the floor. I cried and I buried him.
And now my Esme.
She came to me yesterday. It's as if she'd known she was going to die. She was only seven. She came to me and sat on my lap. This cat, that I had for seven years, was aloof. As a kitten, she watched the other two play like idiots, while she sat, calculated, and assessed. Her kitten eyes were blue on black. When she became an adult, they turned yellow-green. She was a black Halloween cat. She sat. She caused trouble. She'd cover her food and hide it from the others. She moved her water bowl. She'd scratch the dog in the face. She'd mew loudly for her toys. And she watched.
She was always watching.
A week ago, she came to me. She sat and watched me write. My wife took a picture of it. I thought she was finally coming around. She would be my new lap cat. Harry was my lap cat until he died. I have another that does a bit of it now.
But Esme... Esme gave me a gift.
She would spend her last day on this earth mostly on my lap. She purred and let me pet her. And then she left and came back again. She purred and let me pet her again. She sat in my lap and laid on my stomach looking up at me with her yellow-green eyes.
Later on, I saw her mother that day at my father's house. He told me the older cat might need to come in and eat. She's an outside cat - a calico of sorts. The white cat, Gytha, has her face. I remembered thinking as I saw her, "I'm taking care of your daughter now. Don't worry. All is well. I wonder if you can smell her on me." She came in the door, and like Esme got vocal and ran to my father's garage where her food was.
When I got back home, I had a migraine.
There was no initial pain - only the aura. It snaked past my vision and I finished what I was doing and sat down. When I did, Esme jumped on my lap again. I could only see half of her face. The other half was covered by the aura. I continued to pet her and I relaxed. The aura was leaving. I pet Esme and scratched her head. The aura was getting smaller. And as I began to feel better, I realized I had other things to do.
So I got up. I left her. I would never see her alive again.
If I'd known it was the last time. I would not have left. If I'd known, I'd have had a person make a bag so I could relieve myself without leaving her. If I'd known, I wouldn't have let go. I still haven't let go.
I got up this morning and did my things. My wife was feeding the cats and asked me where Esme was.
Every pet owner in the world has a secret dread. When you realize an animal isn't where they're supposed to be and shouldn't be anywhere else. I found Esme, ironically, in the living room. Dead. She was lying on her side. Stiff and cold. I cried like a child. My wife came down and was wailing.
I hear so many parents say that owning a pet isn't like having a child. I think they're right to a point. I don't have children. I won't ever know a legacy or have the comfort of someone to care for me when I get old. Children will eventually grow up and take care of themselves - feeding themselves and never needing a walk or a litter box change. I'll never send a cat to school or watch it graduate. I'll never worry about my cat getting her heart broken or worry whether my cat would come home drunk one evening.
All I have is my memory of my cat as a kitten, running around full of unfettered joy. I have the memories of caring and feeding another life and knowing that I would and have spent my last dollar to be sure that she would eat and be healthy instead of me. When she came into my life, I also knew that regardless of me being in my forties, the odds were that I'd outlive her.
I just have the love and compassion that comes with caring for something more than myself - just for the sake of having love and compassion to care for it.
Now what I have is a life that is just that much more empty with a raw painful wound that I know will eventually lessen. On the flip side, there were seven years of joy and happiness I got from a stupid cat. My cat. My Esme.
"My cat is dead," I say with a heart that continues to break as I type this. There are people who think it's trite and that I am less of a person for letting something like that get to me.
I couldn't care less. You're not me.
And she was my Esme.
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© 2016 Christopher Peruzzi