If you’ve never had a pet, you should probably stop reading this, because, trust me, it’s going to sound very melodramatic if you don’t understand where I’m coming from. Tonight I came home from class expecting to hear the familiar jingle of my cat’s bell, quickly followed by the welcomed sight of her stick legs struggling to support her tubby body. Every night Pickles greets me at my door, and when I let her in she runs straight for the food bowl. Food is always her first priority. When she’s done gorging on the cheap cat food I buy from the corner store (or turkey leftovers) she’ll jump on my bed, purr, knead my blankets, and curl up with me when it’s time to sleep. Tonight, I didn’t hear her bell. I didn’t hear her meow. And in twenty minutes I found her dead on the sidewalk.
Two years ago I moved into The Blue House and was immediately greeted by a half-Siamese stray that hissed at me every time she saw me. Despite her rudeness, I could tell she was hungry and began to put food out every day. Quickly after, this cat we affectionately called Kitty fell in love with my housemates and me and we adopted her as the house cat. Since then, we’ve been through a lot with Pickles (so named after my mom yelled at me for calling her Kitty and said to pick the first name that came to mind). The first time we took her to the vet, we enclosed her in our homemade cat carrier: a moth-bitten box tied with a belt. We procrastinated on getting her fixed and six weeks later witnessed the birth of four tiny kittens under our coffee table. The kittens were a whirlwind of adorableness, frustration, and poop. Lots of poop. My housemate Kasey affectionately referred to them as Little Fuckers. We cried when the last one was adopted.
When my housemates moved out, it was Pickles and me against the world. No matter how alone I felt, she was always there, waking me up at three in the morning for more food, banging on the screen door to let her in, dragging her claws down the wall to let her out, and most importantly curling up next to my chest and purring herself to sleep. I joked about being a cat lady, but Pickles provided me with much needed support when it felt like I didn’t have friends.
I won’t get into the details of how much of a sobbing mess I was after I ran back to my room and slumped on the floor, trying to erase the image of her body draped on the sidewalk. After phone calls to both parents, I called Kasey. “What up, bitch?” I started to cry again as I launched into the depressing reveal. “I just don’t want to leave her out there, you know? I don’t want people to see her.” Kasey immediately came over. He wrapped up her body and placed it in an empty Daredevil vacuum box. Without a shovel, we resorted to knocking on the neighbor’s door. A middle-aged man opened up. He didn’t speak English. I looked up “digging shovel” on my phone. “Tienes una pala de excavación?” He nodded and went to retrieve it. His toddler stared at us with wide eyes from behind the screen door.
Under the light of two weak flashlights, Kasey dug a hole under the stairs outside my room. I helped a little, though it was pretty pathetic to watch me struggle with the unwieldy shovel. “Do you think this is a big enough hole?” I pictured her curled up, the way she did when she would lie in the sun. “Yeah, I think so.” I closed my eyes when Kasey put Pickles in the ground. “Do you want to say something, or…?” It felt stupid and necessary. He leaned against the railing. “Pickles lived with me for nine weeks. She was a great cat, and those kittens, those little fuckers…I don’t know.” I nodded and tried to talk without crying. “Pickles was one of those cats that kept getting better. This past week was one of the best.”
In the scheme of things, Pickles was just a cat. But in my life, in this room, in this bed, I’m really not sure how I’m going to sleep tonight without a chubby Siamese curled up against my chest.