Sunday, August 11, 2019

Charlotte



It’s going to be 103 degrees today,
Doug warned before he left.

But we weren’t where the sun could touch us,
were we, Charlotte? No.

There were no windows in the waiting room—just posters of pretty cats free of fleas and leaflets about feline autoimmune disease and the smell of wet fur and sanitizers.

Signs said, “don’t remove your cat from its carrier”
So all I could do was gently rock you in your case and sing “My Favorite Things” while you hissed at the beagle who kept pressing his nose to your face,
oblivious to the fact that you’re not there to make friends.
(Dogs are like men, they can never take a hint, can they?)

and when they took you back and ran the tests,
and when they said your kidneys were the size of string beans and you couldn’t drink enough water to sustain your five-pound frame from collapsing with inevitable failure,
and when the technician held you down to stick an IV in your neck,

all I could think of was how, on a toasty spring night 17 years ago,
I drove from New Orleans to Jackson with you in my lap, and for 17 years I’ve only known a home with you in it,

And now I had six months to prepare for your death,
when all I wanted was to walk backward through time,

back to Coralberry where you could lie with London in the grass, hear her giggle as you sniffed each freshly mowed blade,

back to Brandywine where you could sleep in the shade and chase shadows behind the glass,

back to the nights in Lakeway where you could walk between London and Kaya’s rooms as they slept, ever watchful like a shepherd guarding her sheep—an unquivering eye scanning the darkness for the dangers only a hunter’s eye could see.

Back to Fentonridge where you could purr and coo whenever Doug picked you up and called you his baby

back to the lower 9th ward where you were born where you could sip hurricane rain and watch Bourbon Street dip into the sea from the crumbling steps of a memory that you once called home.

My crocodile-eyed cat. Here is my hand, go ahead—self-pet.

You will always have my lap—always, always.

I write this before these six months have passed, before the words leave me and the long night begins without you in it, before I lose my voice as sure as you will lose your physical form, all five pounds of it.

*

They rang up your death sentence and handed me the receipt, along three cans of chicken dinner designed with cats like you in mind, the st.jude of cat food, a feast for loss causes.

They let us leave with one last warning, “be careful, it’s 103 degrees out there.”

But we weren’t where the sun could touch us,
were we, Charlotte? No.

We were far beyond that.

-ep 8-9-19
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