Category: death

My baby

Harley, photo by me

Yesterday, I spent the day napping and cuddling with my cat, Harley. In the last couple of days she had been having trouble walking and moving around. We decided to put her down last night. She was 19 years old, and we had her since I was 6. I grew up with her. I used to dress her in doll clothes and drag her around the house. When I was older, she had a knack of knowing when I was upset. She would always appear and I would bury my face in her fur and cry. An animal’s love in so heartbreakingly unconditional. In truth, I like animals more than I like the majority of people in the world.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I love you, Harley!

The between hours

The sun was a gold disc, blurred by salt patterned windows; the horizon a bleary somewhere else. We drive the way of tackle shops, motor stores and cheap motels. The roads lined with general stores and diners that belong to people like Frank and Al and Nana. I listen to a melancholy playlist and that song comes on. The song that fits like a second skin. The song I carry with me always.

We drive until the sun disappears, until the lights of the city appear in its place. After five stale hours, the children two seats ahead get antsy. We adults wish that we, too, could whine are we there yet? We’ve places to be, but mostly we’re tired of between.

Twenty six hours in another city. The heaviest hours I’ve felt in a long time, passing both slowly and too fast: burdened by the weight of sadness and carried by love. I pass on the songs that carried me here and hope they will offer some strength.

My memories are full of Greyhound buses. Of looking at my face in window reflections on buses, trains and planes. Tired eyes and bedraggled hair look better in the forgiving dark glass. I watch one city disappear and another appear in the fog before dawn, and I think of a quote I heard years ago:

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre

Morta

“People underestimate the value of a good bad experience.” - The Good People by Sarah Conn

I’ve always thought this way - that bad things make us what we are as much as good things. Which is why there are some bad things I’ve always wanted to experience. Some that I put on my list of 100 things, like have my heart broken. Probably inspired by my love of Savage Garden and the line from Affirmation, “I believe you can’t appreciate real love till you’ve been burned.”

I’m not asking for bad things to happen to me (in fact, I’m knocking on wood, lifting my feet and holding my breath right now to prevent it) but I truly think that to understand the enormity of human experience and human emotion, you have experience both the bad and the good. But I’ve been lucky. Nothing truly bad has ever happened to me.

This is the most unbelievable thing that has ever happened to me:

I went to Spain to visit my friend Chris, who was, in turn, visiting her parents. Though I flew into Malaga, we spent the two nights in Algeciras since it was right next to Gibraltar, our plan for Saturday. We were staying in a “hostal” which I think translates to hostel, but was more like a budget hotel. It was ridiculously cold in the room, but we were trying desperately to sleep. Until 2am when we were woken up by extremely loud screaming. At first we thought it was kids outside, drunk or high. It was Carnivale that week in Spain, so it wasn’t terribly surprising that people might be partying too hard. Then we realized that it wasn’t outside, it was only two floors down. They were SCREAMING. I’ve never actually heard someone scream like that before. We had no idea what they were saying, because we don’t speak (much) Spanish. There was a lot of crying, the sounds of someone throwing up and a bunch of different voices, one of which sounded like a child.

The screaming continued for two hours, and finally we got back to sleep around 4am. We didn’t venture out to see what was happening, because we were scared and we wouldn’t have been any help anyway, as we don’t speak the language. But when we went downstairs to the lobby the next morning, we asked the man what had happened. He didn’t speak any English, but we asked via charades what had happened. Chris held up two fingers, then four and did some screaming. He got it and started to explain, with his own charades. We gathered from this and a few key words (like “morta”) that someone had died! Apparently a woman had a heart attack. I don’t think I will ever forget that screaming. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after wards.