Empty house

  • Aperture: f/4
  • Focal Length: 35mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter: 1/250 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Northport, Alabama

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, then this must be my soul from the outside looking in. I feel shell-shocked. Broken. Nothing in my world makes sense anymore.

Just a cat. Yes. Boogie was just a cat. Four feet and a tail. But he was so much more. He gave my life stability, normalcy, whether I was at home facing another dark night or two hundred miles away standing in the middle of a hurricane. No matter how bad things were, there was always Boogie. There was food to be prepared. Water to be poured. Litter to be freshened. If all I could manage was dragging myself from my bed to the kitchen, I did it — not for me — for him. I drank vodka and made lists. Reasons to live. Reasons to die. Some nights my reason to live only had one entry. Boogie. Always Boogie.

My tenuous thread of faith is unraveling. I am no longer certain of heaven or hell or anything in between. How many hours have I spent lying in bed, staring into the depths of Boogie’s green-gold eyes, losing myself in another world, a better world than the one I lived in? How many nights has a soft paw tapped my hand, a wet nose nuzzled my cheek, brushing away tears I didn’t even realize were falling? When did the nights grow so long as to become virtually indistinguishable from the days? When did my inner world become such a desolate, barren place? When did I stop believing?

Of course, I know the answers. Always have. I wonder sometimes if there are any pieces of myself left to lose. I am jaded and cynical. A pale shadow of the idealistic girl who used to read Keats and think she could save the world. I can’t even save myself. The world has little hope if its future rests in my hands.

But of course, this post is a bit melodramatic — bleak and sad, as is so much of what I write these days. My midnight writing. My darkest hours. Drifting blearily yet fighting sleep, wild with loneliness, drowning in a bottomless sea, falling asleep over my keys, cursing the words that used to flow so easily and now falter and struggle, a flimsy metaphor for everything that used to work but doesn’t anymore.

Outside my window, Boogie lies buried in the cold ground. It is tempting to stretch myself across his grave. Lay my cheek against the damp earth and let the dew cover me, mingle with the tears that refuse to stop falling. To tell you what that one tiny little fluff of fur meant to me would be to tell you of a hundred nights in hell, a thousand hours for which there are no words. How can a dying man explain what one swallow of cool water means to his parched throat? How can a bone-weary traveler give tongue to those first moments when his journey is over and his ravaged body is encased in the soft folds of warm flannel, stretched across fine goose-down, swaddled in the velvety black cloak of darkness?

I can’t tell you what that cat meant to me because I can’t tell you where I have been. I can’t tell you what that cat gave to me because I can’t explain to you what I have lost. So many nights, I drew my very breath from his soul, willed myself to live so that I might look into his eyes one more time.

There is work and there are projects and there are friends and there are obligations. There is the sun and the wind and the stars and the rain. There is the earth itself, waiting to reclaim the beloved creature that was only given to me on loan, never mine to keep. I think of C. and how we stood in the rain and murmured goodbyes. Half-sentences that meant everything and nothing, all at the same time. I think of another night lying face down in the pouring rain, digging my nails into the mud, feeling the life ebb out of me and praying a litany to my own private saints — one night of a thousand just like it, tangled in a cacophony of misery that only I truly know.

No matter how treacherous the path, Boogie was always waiting for me at the end.

And now? What now? I used to be the girl with all the answers, but I don’t have another rabbit to pull from my hat. The path is filled with landmines, and I can’t patch the holes in my soul quickly enough to keep my head above water.

I have lost the light at the end of my tunnel, the bright spot in a string of too many dark days. Just a cat? Yeah, Boogie was just a cat.

But to me he was everything.

Music: Try not to Breathe by R.E.M. (lyrics)

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