I used to cry when my heart broke

I don’t now.

Perhaps there’s something wrong with me.

Probably there’s something wrong with me.

When my favorite seven-year-old good-boy cat died I didn’t cry. I wrapped him in an old, soft baby blanket that used to belong to his favorite girl, duct taped him in an Amazon box, and handed him over to my husband to be buried.

His pregnant widow just gave birth to four more baby thems and one of those baby thems has not survived his travel from mamí’s belly to the earth plane. When I attempt to retrieve him, Mamí stands on her back legs, puts her hands on my arm and looks me in the eye to tell me, “Not yet, please,”

I sit here, not crying.

I sit here, wondering what the fuck is wrong with me.

I can’t remember the last time I cried.

That is an almost lie. If I put some effort into it, I remember. I just choose not to.

The almost, maybe truth is that I am always crying.

It just doesn’t come out of my eyes.

The almost truth is, all I am is crying.

The truth is, there is a limited number of times a person, me, can be broken. After that, there is this.

I’ve looked her over. She is a she. She is a gray and black, mackerel tabby with a white belly, four white paws, eighteen pink toe beans, and a white tip on the end of her tail.

I am a lady with a dead kitten. I want to name her Lil Pin. Or Lilliput.

She never felt stiff. She never felt cold.

She just went from breathing and wiggling to not breathing and not wiggling and now that I’ve taken her from Mamí (who tried very hard to convince me to give her more time), it turns out my eyes do leak sometimes.

Sleep is not my friend

Sleep dislikes me so much, it has decided to see other people.

I tried bribing it with new positions and it still wasn’t interested.

I tried the bed, the floor, the recliner and it still said no.

Upright, semi-upright, left side, right side and balasana. All no’s. That last one almost worked until my mind realized what all that looked like from the doorway to my bedroom and that was the end of that.

There is one cat in this house who is also running on his second week of third shift and that crazy dude is my buoy now. During the day we side-eye each other through heavy-lidded, bloodshot eyeballs and give each other a mental thumbs up.

See you tonight, bestie.

Today, he spent twenty minutes pilfering a Mickey D’s bag out of the kitchen garbage can. He spent another twenty minutes flattening the thing down just right to make a nest and he looked so close to a successful nap, I just stared, silent, thinking, “You go, boy,” in my head.

Then my husband went to bed and called his name and that was the end of that.

Now, here we are. Me and Roary. God and Goddess of the opposite of sleep.

Now, he’s staring at me like if I don’t actively get this sleep thing going right meow we need to go eat the goldfish.

I refuse to eat the goldfish.

And I’m awake enough to defend it. So, I guess I have to go talk a cat out of the aquarium.

Me and Roary, with his one wet paw, we’ll be right here, watching documentaries about British castles, with the sleep timer on the TV set for three hours.

Red Ballet Shoes

Once upon a time there was a little girl who told me she was going to dance someday and be a, “really big deal,”.

Looking for something to stream, I passed by a movie called Leap and now I can’t stop remembering that little girl.

Leap was her favorite movie.

I gave her a ballerina sculpture once. And a picture of red ballet shoes for her bedroom wall.

I haven’t thought of her very much in almost four years because if I do, I will die.

Or, in a not exaggerated way, I will feel like I will die.

But, more accurately, I will remember I already died. Almost four years ago.

I would wake up at 5am and walk five blocks, before the sun came up, so my son could go to work.

I would wake her up and help her get ready for school. We would pick out her clothes and she would let me fix her hair.

Every school morning for all of pre-kindergarten, I did this.

Every afternoon, I would go back to meet her bus and walk her back to her apartment. We would make a snack and we would watch Leap and she would tell me about her friends and how she loved playdoh and sand and colored pencils. Sometimes she would let me show her how to write her name or how to tie her shoes or how to use the microwave or how to meet a new friend in the apartment complex.

When summer came, I walked to her house and stayed all day. We drew on the sidewalk with chalk. Little pictures for her dad. Pictures for her. Pictures for me. Flowers and rainbows and stick people and a thousand letter V’s for her name.

The last day I put her on the bus (for kindergarten, by then) she asked to hold my hand. She wasn’t really a hand-holder so I asked, “You doing okay?”

She said, “Ya,” and sighed. Which meant, “Read my mind Grandma,”

I said, “Have you got something on your mind, miss?”

She said, “I’m going to have a new house,”

I said, “Yes. Are you excited?”

She said, yes.

I said, “Are you a little nervous?”

She said, no.

I said, “Then what is it, toots? Maybe I can help.”

She said, “Maybe I’m a little sad,”

I said, “What is making you sad, honey,”

She said, “I don’t know,”

I said, “You’re an amazing person, lovie. You will make lots of new friends.”

She said, “Why will I have to make new friends?”

“You will be at a new school. The friends you have at this school will stay at this school,”

“I have to have a new school?”

“The new house is too far away for you to go to this school,”

And she said, “But, why?”

And then her bus pulled up.

I told her I would talk to her after school and help her through it and she said okay.

She was not a big hugger, but she hugged me.

She wasn’t big on saying love yous but she said, “Love you Grandma,”

I hugged her back, I said I love you, V, I put her on the bus and I didn’t see her again for three years.

I turned off my head and closed off my heart and I don’t leave my house very much anymore.

But, today, I can’t stop thinking about the picture of the red ballet shoes I gave her.

And I wonder if she thinks I lied.

Dear Lovies

Yes, you.

I’m concerned.

From the moment I became aware I had some control over certain things, not everything, of course, but some things (I know I’m not God. Or even a goddess) I decided I would use that control to teach what I could.

And I don’t see my lessons being lived by anyone.

You’re angry. I know I taught you, there are times when you should be angry. You should be angry when you are right and anger is the only choice to prove your point. When it is righteous.

From where I sit, your anger appears random. Willy-nilly. Aimed at the wrong targets and fought with the wrong ammo. You use hand grenades when a tap on a shoulder would be enough.

You’re sad. I know I taught you there are times you should be sad. You should be sad when you mourn a loss. When you miss someone. When you are disappointed.

From my vantage point, it appears you are sad over things not in your control. People who don’t behave the way you expect. Things that don’t fall into your lap because you want them.

You’re impatient. I know I taught you to live for now. Today. To find joy, right now. To look for it when it seems absent.

From what I see, you live for tomorrow. For things you don’t have. For people you haven’t met yet. You hurry. You run toward cliffs.

I know I taught you to take care. Take care of yourself and take care of your own lovies.

Take care so well, your lovies feel cared for.

They don’t.

Take care of yourself so well, you feel cared for.

You don’t.

I know I taught you not to wait to be rescued.

And there you are, wondering when the cavalry will show up.

I know I taught you to say thank you. To be grateful.

I know I taught you to say I love you when you mean it.

I know I taught you to help when you’re able and to ask for help when you need it.

I know I taught you to speak when you need to and to listen when you should.

From over here, where I am, all I see are fingers pointing at blame and shame and a refusal to look in mirrors.

If I did not take the time to attempt to teach you these things, this letter is an apology.

If I took the time to teach you these things and you didn’t listen…

I recommend you close your eyes, right now, and acknowledge there is an absence of something you can’t quite put your finger on.

Listen to the silence.

That absence is me.

The silence is mine.

I envy his anger

I’d like some of my own. Maybe. But probably not.

This is today’s epiphany.

Emotions happen to other people.

They used to happen to me but I gave them up.

I watch my dude. How he is annoyed when he has to lift one foot higher than the other while walking because, if he doesn’t, a cat will kill him.

I listen to my dude. Bitching to the air (because he knows I don’t care) about how I don’t care.

Sitting here, just now, in came the dawn of thought and sunlight that said, “Lort, that man is full of feelings, I wonder what that’s like,”

I had to correct it to, “That man is full of feeling,” because, really, he only has the one.

Truth be told, I’m probably not actually hollow.

Truth be told, my problem is self-inflicted emotional constipation.

If y’all don’t care, then I don’t care.

Sure, I could do a deep dive up my own nose holes and give myself an in-depth soul douching, but, truth be told, I can’t be fucked for it.

I know all about what’s up there. In there. Around there.

In there is the part of the map that says, Here there be dragons.

And my dude is angry enough for both of us.

There’s something wrong with Rory

Not really. But really.

We suspect ADD. Or CADD, since he’s a cat.

Whatever issues Callie has, Rory has the opposite.

If Callie accidentally falls over just walking through the living room, Rory does an accidental somersault and lands on all four feet. On a table.

If Callie struggles to figure out “how to drink water from a bowl too small to stand in”, Rory helps her out by tipping the whole thing over and rolling around in it.

Then Callie licks the water off Rory.

He’s pleased as punch about it.

She’s happy to have such a nice brother.

If you come over, Rory will wear one of your shoes. If you were to take them off, of course.

He will also probably take a nap on your lap. Whether you want him to or not.

Rory has object permanence. If he were to get in trouble attempting to eat a nickel and I take it from him, he will watch where I put it and wait until I am asleep to retrieve it.

One night, I caught Rory halfway up the bookshelf. When I turned on the light to find out what all the ruckus was, he looked at me over his shoulder as if to say, “We could’ve avoided this if you left the jar of buttons where I can reach them,”

With Rory, no means go.

Stop means the game has begun.

With Rory, go also means go and the game never actually ends.

Until it is time to nap.

If it is naptime, he is asleep in a shoe or on a lap.

He will say, “Oh, hey, hi, I see you’ve brought your nap lap, that’s so nice of you, thank you very much,”

And before you are able to do anything about it, he will be asleep. Snore-purring. Snurring. Hugging your arm, resting the back of his head on your face

If there is actually something wrong with Rory, he will never be convinced.

But if you ask his sister, Callie, he’s almost purrfect. (She reserves the title of “total purrfection” for their other brother, Captain).

Currently free-balling

Without ADD meds.

Because 1. I’m not working. Don’t need to worry about focus in that department.

2. I’m not in school. Don’t need to concentrate for that.

3. My fucking driver’s license expired. Don’t need to concentrate as a passenger.

4. The entire country is “temporarily out of stock”.

I wondered if there would be withdrawal symptoms.

So far, I now take three naps per day and eateveryfuckingthinginthehouse.

But… I remember shit.

There were some fucking perks to ADD I forgot about.

Like the fact that my brain is returning to the, “every character from Charlotte’s Web” status from before ADD meds.

In my head, I am fun af. And Templeton really will eat anything. It’s my idio-idio-syncrasy. Because I am Some Pig.

Stream of consciousness writing is going to get wild, y’all.

I am supposed to drive with a DMV dude, (DOT dude? I never get those right, on or off meds).

In order to get my driver’s license renewed, I have to drive with one of those people with clipboards who checks off “stupid shit this bitch did while driving”.

Because, I accidentally let my driver’s license lapse for TWO YEARS past the expiration date.

In my defense, I didn’t notice because 1. I don’t have a car and 2. I don’t go anywhere and 3. I have ADD.

Then one day last month I thought I’d look up how long I had before it was time to renew my license and to my surprise but no one else’s, I was informed, I was so overdue to renew I had to prove I was still me and I’m still alive.

Because, obviously, someone who hasn’t renewed their driver’s license in two years must be dead.

I took the written test and passed on my first try.

Which is excellent news since I’ve had a driver’s license for 84 years.

I even got my picture taken and I fucking hate that. They didn’t let me see it though because I have to drive with clipboard guy first.

I think it will be in everyone’s best interest that I take my ADD meds the day I drive for clipboard guy.

I’ve already postponed it twice.

Because 1. I don’t have a car and 2. I fucking hate going outside.

But I have to go or Mr. Arable is going to sell me to Homer for six bucks.

And I have no spider friends.

There is something wrong with Callie

But she is the happiest kitten I know. We suspect there might have been a shortage of oxygen for her at birth. We have thought maybe she is deaf or hard of hearing or blind or all of the above. But, regardless, she is precious. And she is ecstatic to be alive.

Trajectory is a thing that happens for other cats.

Callie watches them, her siblings and her parents, jump up onto the couch or the little cat-climber we have rigged up for them to look out the window in the living room.

She watches them jump, forward and onto things and she jumps, straight up and right back down in one spot. And then she falls over.

We built little stairs out of different sized boxes for her to climb up the cat-climber and look out the window.

The first time a bird flew by, she fell over. She continued to lay there, looking out the window. I was relieved she did not fall off but I am learning not to help unless absolutely necessary (with animals and with humans).

We put a footstool on the floor between her bowl and her brother’s bowl because she refuses to eat unless she is under it. We don’t ask why anymore.

Once, when she realized the footstool was like another step she could climb up onto, she was so happy about sitting on top of it, she ate from up there. Her bowl was on the floor. She looked like a duck. Her butt was up in the air and her head was in her bowl and she ate like that until she fell over.

Then she went under her footstool to finish her breakfast as if nothing happened.

The other cats run and jump into the bathtub. They like water. Callie watches them do things and thinks, “This is a thing that I should do,”

For a full week she would run at the bathtub without jumping at all. She’d run right into the side of the tub, and fall over.

Then she learned how to stand up like a meerkat and peek into the tub.

That’s when I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to help.

I picked her up to put her into the tub with her siblings and she did this thing- her front half spun one direction, her rear half spun the opposite direction. Just when I thought sure she’d come unscrewed, I put her down, her little toe pads felt the cool of the tub, she stopped spinning, and fell over.

I watched and waited because, no way was this confused, happy thing getting out of the tub by herself.

But, I was wrong.

She lay there for awhile, watching her siblings. Then she got up, drank some water, and learned trajectory. Sort of. Sometimes. Basically, only in reference to the bathtub.

Ever since Callie experienced tubby time, she is constantly in and out of it. In the tub, out of the tub. In the tub, out of the tub.

She plays until she is tired. Then she climbs her little stairs and sleeps. Not in the window but directly in front of the television. She thinks the TV is a window her people watch birds out of, so she gets low and small so she doesn’t block our view.

Because, although Callie is clumsy and slightly crooked, she is a conscientious girl. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with her at all.

Not Whistler’s Mother

Since I got dentures, I can’t whistle for shit.

Since I got dentures, when I say shit, it sounds like thyit.

Before I got dentures, I was an optimist. It was, perhaps, a long time before the dentures came along. In the spirit of the new year coming up, I am trying to remain positive.

I am positive I can’t whistle for thyit.

I can spit like a champ. Except, it is more like random acts of drool. And it is pronounced thpit.

My ch’s now sound like a Welsh double l. For some reason, my Welsh double l sounds exactly as it should. As if I have an overabundance of thpit.

My voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is perfect. Thank you very much.

Sadly, this means I won’t be drinking much in Germany. Not that I wouldn’t want to. I just wouldn’t be able to ask for it. Dentally.

Alkohol in maßen, I can say. Alkohol in massen, I cannot. To be more accurate, maßen and massen sound exactly the same now. Thanks to these teeth, even if I wanted lots of beer in Berlin, I would only be able to ask for it in moderation.

My sibilant sounds are arrogant. Show-offy. Bigger than their britches and too old for shorts. Please don’t ask me to say shorts.

Dentures and optimism have led me to believe now is the time in my life to learn Gaelic.

Dentures and pessimism have led me to believe I should just shyut up.

Gaelic wins.

Would this kitten still love me

If he knew how many kittens I have called mine?

He plants his warm toe beans on my hand before he falls asleep as if I’ve never loved another cat.

He stares at me as if I’m pretty.

I am not.

He purrs in his sleep on my belly as if I am the only home he’s ever known or will ever know. He thinks he will live forever and I have always been here.

He doesn’t know how short his life will be compared to mine.

If he does, he doesn’t mind.

In the basement, his mother cries. Looking for his litter-mates who have gone on to new homes.

He has forgotten her.

He doesn’t hear her.

He no longer looks for her.

She cries as if the loss of her babies is the end of her life.

He snores as if he was born from air without a mother and not a cat but a part of a human.

A part of me.

He is not.

There are no more parts of me. I cried for the loss of my kittens until I was empty. I cannot love him like she loves him.

Because he does not love her like she loves him, there are no more parts of his mother. She howls herself out into the house where she cannot find her babies.

What I know and sometimes forget is there will be many moments of remembering. They feel like death. What she remembers right now is there should be four babies who come when she calls.

Or were there three?

I remember my two.

And then there were none.

Eventually, the thing that is missing will feel like an empty space in the middle of things.

It will become unidentifiable.

It will become a thing.

Eventually, she and I will just be things. Hollow vessels, empty of howls, near one contented kitten.

One contented, stupid kitten.