Sadness can be a palpable thing. It can fill up a whole house like dense fog. Days ago, it drifted around our apartment in thick curls of scentless cloud until it had permeated every inch of air and the only way to breathe was to get out of there. I felt sorry for my mom, who is mainly confined to the apartment since she left rehab, but then I realized, her sadness probably follows her around anyway. And will for awhile. You see, on Monday, we put her sweet cat, Carlito, to sleep.
Well, wait. If I’m going to do a proper remembrance, Carlito wasn’t exactly sweet. Not to anyone other than my mom anyway. He would just as soon hiss and take a swipe at you as look at you. I rarely even pet him. Except during his declining days. He grew mellow with age as even the grumpiest old men will. Or perhaps he just didn’t feel well. Being mean takes more energy.
Maybe he was just used to being alone, a cranky, forever-bachelor, when Bella and Frankie came along to pester him like rambunctious youngsters. Ugh. Maybe he could’ve gotten used to the girl. After all, she was his kind and a little more mature, but the boy? Always bouncing around the place like a happy idiot? Always sniffing butts, stealing food and trying to play? No, thank you.
My friend Matt and I used to joke that Carlito was out of sorts because he was in the minority. He was clearly a foreigner (being brown, with a name like Carlito) and stuck with a matched set. Matt said I needed to lecture Frankie and Bella on the importance of not bullying Carlito just because he was different. He laughingly warned them of the dangers of showing intolerance and feeling superior in their whiteness like white supremacists.
Kidding aside, I think Carlito preferred Frankie. I caught him grooming Frankie on several occasions. I’m not sure what Frankie thought was going on, but he tolerated Carlito’s sandpaper tongue raking over his ears with only the occasional twitch.
Bella and Carlito never groomed each other or slept together. The closest they came was eating out of the same bowl, but really that was probably just stealing each other’s food. It didn’t matter that they were eating the exact same thing, whatever was in the other cat’s bowl was better. Then Frankie would get in the mix because there is little he loves more than cat food (except, sorry to gross you out, umm … cat poo). Mealtimes would quickly dissolve into a game of musical bowls, with me rolling back and forth yelling at and trying to seperate everyone.
There was a problem sharing the water bowl, too. At first, I thought the reason there was water all over the floor instead of in the bowl was that I must have backed into it. Then, after this seemed to occur in several different locations, I decided the often bone dry bowl of water must be evaporating. Again, I tried repositioning the bowl away from all the air conditioning vents. Still empty. I was in the kitchen one day, when I heard all the splashing. Apparently, Carlito preferred to stir his water. He didn’t like to drink from a stagnant bowl. No, his water needed to be in constant swirling motion as he drank it. Of course, then he’d take his wet paws traipsing out on the porch, through kitty litter and what have you, all throughout the house.
The mess he made was only rivaled by the amount of noise he made. He would cry when he was hungry, which was pretty much all of the time. Therefore, being an early riser, I would try to be as quiet as possible getting up on the opposite side of the house. Not closing doors, not flushing the toilet, etc. It didn’t matter. I would inevitably run into something or need to turn the water on, and then there he was, suddenly appearing with a loud, demanding cry. Then it was just minutes before a sleepy-eyed Frankie and Bella would appear, the whole house then awake at five a.m. Only Mom slept through it. Or pretended to.
Sometimes I’d see the dark shape of him looming in the hallway and be able to get to him before he cried. I’d quickly set a bowl of dry kibbles down that I had left on the counter the night before. I called it hush money. Presented hurriedly to him like bankroll to a mafia boss.
In the end, it was determined the old man had diabetes, along with other unknown ailments. These days, I still awake and look down the hallway, expecting to see him there. I flush the toilet freely now, in the early morning hours. There are no litter paw prints tiptoeing throughout the house and the water bowls are always full. Life is a lot easier, cleaner, quieter. But we loved him. And we miss him.