Friday, July 4, 2008

old age

She was laying on my brother's bed when I walked in the room, looking up at me, glassily, and I sat down beside her and took her in my arms.  Pressing her head into my shoulder, I could feel her waking up and she moved softly, pulling herself as close to me as she could, and I ran my hand down her neck, shuddering as open patches of raw skin passed beneath my fingers, clumps of dried blood bubbling where the skin had been scratched away.

I took her out into the light, and all around her eyes, underneath her ears, she was bleeding, and she dug her claws into my chest and sighed affectionately as I brought her into the laundry room, setting her on the still white washing machine, and gently, I tried to pry her head from her shoulder so I could get a good look while she wriggled in my hands, purring all the while, and trying to speak with a crackling voice.

I filled a bowl with olive oil, placed it beside bathroom sink, and with my arm bent around her, I soaked one cotton ball after another and forced it between the folded flaps of her ears and she began to writhe uncomfortably, trying to back her way out of my grip, her claws slipping and clicking all over the tile counter.  

"I know, I know..." I said softly.  She was so uncomfortable. I wished I could just explain to her what I was doing.

Then there was this moment that comes to mind sometimes, of me in the backyard, early one evening when I must have been no older than eight or nine, catching her as she clawed at a stump, and feeling her clamp her paws to my temples and pull the skin away in parallel lines down my cheeks.  

She now knows how sharp her points are, and she knows to be gentle, knows that they get in between her and the feeling another heartbeat, of the warmth of another body, and she wants nothing less than a reason to use them.

She's deaf now, and doesn't know that she's screaming as she walks in the room, her yellow eyes wide and spilling out all of the want welled up in that thin body, at the end of a life of dependence. Nearing death, though, her needs have dwindled to the basic essentials. She only seems to demand three things from the world.  She wants to eat, she wants sleep, and she wants affection.  I feel like she's on to something, like she's reached some sort of feline enlightenment.  And when she lifts that tortured head up sleepily from that box of towels on the floor of the laundry room, she looks so satisfied, and somehow she looks at me with sympathy, maybe it is sympathy for the human burden of ambition, and she shuts her eyes and purrs as I glide my hand down her little back.