Sixty seconds is how long it took for Kentou to leave us last night—to go from a relaxed cat-presence on the living room couch to utterly still and glassy-eyed as I yelled for my wife and frantically searched for something lodged in her throat or wrapped around her tongue. Anything to explain her lack of breathing and give reassurance that I was somehow helping this little cat to get well instead of watching her slip away. But the blood clot that had patiently lain in wait until now had already finished its task, and all I could do was gently run my fingers down her chest and cry out in shock. It was so quick and yet so slow.
"Look out!" said my wife on a dark Independence Day evening five years ago. I thought I'd just missed a squirrel darting across the road, but she swore it was a kitten. We stopped the car and searched the bushes, and pulled out a tiny four-week-old scraggly bundle of fur, dirt, diseases and lice. Lindsey wanted to give her to the humane society after the holiday weekend was over, but Kentou (Japanese: "to be found") never made it there.
Kentou always greeted me at the door after work in the same way: she made sure she had my attention, then flopped onto her back with all four legs outstretched to receive a belly rub. It was never a tentative action, but purposeful—she commanded affection, yet melted under a furry massage.
Board game boxes.
Hidden nests of toys.
Perching on top of open doors.
Proudly knocking over Christmas trees.
Disappearing when strangers visited the house.
Always meowing for food but rarely eating more than a few bites.
Crawling under the covers to snuggle when someone was sick in bed.
Standing in front of her humans when unknown dogs were in the room.
Never putting up with the bullshit that her brother Kaiju tried to perform.
It's an odd thing to be responsible for another being's welfare, to know that their continued existence is predicated on your ability to give them food and shelter. Our pets give us their trust, and yet we are ultimately helpless.
We sat with her for a long time, letting Kilala and Kaiju come over to cautiously walk around her body, sniffing and poking in a stark dichotomy of "I know this/I do not know this". I tried to gently close her eyes but they stayed open. She was soft.
I hope that I don't remember her dying as clearly as I do now. I want a few hours of yesterday evening to be a blur, for her to have been an active part of our lives and then gone with no in-between. The shock will fade, and the emotional turmoil recede; and I will stop tearing up in my office. But not today.
I miss you.