The Cost of Falling Apart
What I spent when my true love cat was dying
J comes home from vet with true love cat, who is nineteen years old and the center of the universe. He’s been bleeding from his mouth (not in a horror movie way, but there’s no nice way to bleed from your mouth), and he has kidney disease and dementia and probably a host of other things that he’s concealing from us by continuing to eat and groom himself and not hide.
The vet does not like to tell people when to put their cats down, but. We should start seriously thinking about it. In the meantime, there will be an x-ray on Wednesday, followed by an assessment.
It’s 3:30 pm at this point. I haven’t eaten anything since Sunday night, because when I’m anxious, my appetite is the first to go. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to Wednesday.
We leave the house around 6:00 to get tacos. By this time, we’ve had either six or seven conversations about how this will end, or one very long one. I’m trying to reach the soft, clear space in my brain that says things will be okay, no matter what, and for a moment, when I’m ordering, I think I have, but after I’ve eaten the first one, I realize it’s not real, or at least not enduring. I can’t eat the rest of the tacos. I take them to go.
I have two deadlines, one of which is in the afternoon, and following through seems like a better option than hugging the cat (who is asleep) and sobbing. J goes to the diner around 10:00 am, and in a surge of optimism, I ask him to bring me back pancakes and bacon, forgetting that on a normal day, I can eat one pancake at best. This time, I eat all the bacon and one and a half pancakes, and then I can’t stand the glue-y feeling of having food in my mouth, so I pack it all back into the styrofoam container and put it into the refrigerator.
We’ve been in the house since Monday afternoon, except for the trip to get tacos, which almost doesn’t count because the taco place is across the street, so we decide to leave for a little bit. The cat is asleep. Things almost seem normal. We contemplate eating dinner out, but I tell J that there is little to no hope of me getting through an entire meal in a restaurant, so that would be a waste of money and time. We get back in the car and go to the grocery store instead. I haven’t eaten since the pancake/bacon attempt that morning, but I’m still not hungry. I get a container of Chai (I’ve been cutting down on coffee lately), and a package of Ding-Dongs. Yes, Ding-Dongs. They are delicious and they’ll stick to my insides, and right now, I need something to stick.
Stack of Pancakes/Bacon: $5.75
Package of 2 Ding-Dongs: $1.25
Box of Chai: $3.25
We drop the cat off at the vet at 10:00 am. I go outside while J talks to the doctor and sob. A stranger offers me a hug. I put my hands out in front of me, like I’m pushing him away, as though he tried to touch me (he didn’t), and he says, “Sorry.”
J suggests breakfast. I don’t understand why we have to keep eating. If I was alone, I wouldn’t eat. We go to a place we love, and I order a cup of granola and yogurt and I drink water, and I can’t stop crying and the food tastes more like glue than ever, but I get it all down.
The rest of the day, we walk and cry and talk about what to do,while we wait for the vet to call and report on the contents of the x-ray. The birch trees in the neighborhood we walk in are peeling. I pull off a piece, put it in my pocket. The next time I reach into that pocket, the piece is gone.
There is a point during our very long walk when I start to feel like it might be okay, when I start to think this might not be as bad as it seems. During that time, I get a chai latte. The barista makes it so I can taste the honey.
At 2:00, the vet calls. My true love cat has a soft palate tumor that’s making its way into his brain. If we do nothing, he’ll be gone in a month, and not in a way that is quiet or tender or fair.
We spend half an hour saying goodbye, and then drive back towards home. On the way, we strategize, and pick up Chinese food, which we’ll maybe eat some of tonight, although probably not, but at least there will be food. Before we eat, though, we purge the house of all the cat’s things: litter box, dishes, shampoo, medicine, tiny cat toothbrush and toothpaste. It might seem callous,but it doesn’t even matter if we throw it all away. It will always be his house.
Chai latte: $4.62
Chinese food: $32. 75
Chanel Dubofsky lives sometimes in Brooklyn and sometimes in Western Massachusetts. Currently, she’s very into one particular sweater, Seasons 1–4 of Gilmore Girls, and caffeine substitutes. Find her on Twitter at @chanedubofsky.