Eight years ago, I went to the ASPCA & made a deal. I sat down on the floor & smiled at the striped, spotted cat that hopped into my lap & declared me home. I ran my palm over the black line of his spine, where the stripes converged into a solid line, not knowing yet that these multi-colored strands would work their way into the weave of every article of clothing I would own. & I made a deal with this rumbling, big-pawed mutt, that I would stick around. It wasn’t a promise I was used to making, not even to myself. But I made a deal with him. & every morning he greeted me with a series of scolding meows because I’d stayed out too late the other night, every time he head-butted his way into the tight knot of my body I’d made to hide my crying face, every day he leaned against my legs & set them trembling with his purring, I remembered that deal. I got out of bed, I planned for tomorrow, I stopped throwing myself through life without knowing that I’d climb out of the wreckage the next day. But when he got sick, I knew that, somehow, despite the deal I’d made & tried to honor, I’d failed him.

People always commented on how big he was – he finally grew into those paws – but when I slung his carrier over my shoulder for the last time, his emaciated form was so light that the bag felt empty. I ran my hand down the black line of his spine, each of its knobs stuttering my progress, & he kept his back turned towards me, his motor silent. All deals off. Carrying the empty carrier home, its weight feeling no lighter, was too much; I sank down against a fire hydrant & sobbed into my knees. No one wriggled into my lap to bring me back to the world.

Corduroy died almost 3 years ago. Every time I think I’ve forgiven myself, something sets me back. I share my apartment with 2 cats now, Dizzy & Noche, & yesterday Noche had to be hospitalized for emergency surgery. They shaved a patch of his forearm for the IV, leaving a strip of grey in his black fur. He nestled his face into my elbow as the sedatives worked through him, & I stroked that velvety shorn patch, marveling at the moon-pale color hiding underneath his fur. When they sent me home, they offered to keep my carrier, but walking home alone didn’t feel much better.


4 thoughts on “deal

  1. You did not fail that pussycat- you gave him love and companionship, and suffered the loss of him in illness, and honor his memory in death. That is all any of us can hope for in life, and not every one or thing is lucky enough to get it.

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