Early last month, my cat died. It wasn't easy, and I was a bit of a basketcase over it. The next day, I went to school, and I did a pretty good job of getting through the day until sixth period.
You see, sixth period is when I have my divas. There's Brianna, who always wants to comment on my shoes. Then there's Alician, who if she's not having a meltdown is looking for an excuse to have one. And then Patricia, who hates everything. Add to that Shamere who wants only to grandstand and Edgar who is only waiting out the months until he turns sixteen and you have some idea of what that class is like.
They picked that day to be difficult. I don't even know what we were doing that day. I think we had just started The Kite Runner, a great book if ever I read one, and they wanted to complain about the length. So I said that they needed to stop because I wasn't up for it today. My cat died.
"Aw," said Brianna. "Do you need to go to counseling to get over it?"
Thanks, I said. I really appreciate your understanding.
"I don't get why white people get all upset over their cats," said Shamere. "It's just a cat. My brother got shot last week. He's okay, though. Thanks for asking."
"You know what you should do?" said Edgar. "You should tell the biology teacher."
No, I said. I shouldn't tell anyone. I shouldn't have told you, because clearly you're all heartless.
This wasn't the end, of course. The next day, I got an email from the biology teacher:
A student told me yesterday that you just lost a young cat due to urinary blockage. If it will help, I can sometimes reach them right after they pass, and make sure they are okay.
It's easy to feel guilty about this particular issue, but cats who get this condition can go very quickly, and it's sometimes hard to spot - sometimes it happens in as little as 24 hours, especially to neutered males on a mainly dry food diet.
So, please don't think you were somehow responsible. Let me know if you want to try to find him, and see how he is doing. What usually happens is that animals are much more casual and matter-of-fact about leaving their bodies, and they think people are too afraid of that transition, so they are almost never sending anything negative back after they pass over.
Flabbergasted isn't the word for it. It took me a couple of days to respond, and then I finally sent her a note thanking her for her kind words and telling her that although it had been difficult, I was coming to terms with it. I attached a picture of my cat and told her what a good boy he'd been. If I want to be honest, the picture was a little bit of a dare. I wanted to see if she'd do it.
More than a week went by, and I was beginning to think that was the end of it. Then, the day before Christmas break, she came into my classroom.
She'd been talking with the Spanish teacher's bird, she said, and Bubby was so strong that he broke through. She handed me some paper and said that she was a little surprised by him. He had kind of an attitude and used bad words.
"That's because he's from Brooklyn," I said.
The paper was a two-page conversation she had with Bubby. He wanted me to know that he was happy, but hadn't liked death very much. It was very uncomfortable, but it's over. Then he said that I wasn't to blame for what happened to him, and he couldn't wait to see me again. I shouldn't worry, though, because that wouldn't be anytime soon.
Good god, I thought, I didn't know my cat would want me to confront my own mortality, too.
And what do you do in this situation? I thanked her, of course. She meant well.
Then, I brought it to my friends' party. Because this was too good not to be shared.
And this is why I should go straight to hell, because she really did mean well.
My friends thought that I should use this opportunity to ask my cat more questions about the future, because clearly, he knew when I was going to die.
I was just worried, I told them, that when he said it won't be for a long time that he meant in cat years.
So great hilarity ensues. What should we ask the cat? "When will the Cubs win the World Series?" "Will Cecilia ever get married?" (Thanks, assholes.) "Will it snow on Christmas?" It went on in that vein for some time.
Soon enough, we got bored with that and began tormenting Omar about his new girlfriend. So I'm sitting at the bar talking to Omar when Ramon sits down. He wanted to know what all the fracas was about. I hand the letter over and he starts to read it. And instead of laughing like everybody else, Ramon gets sensitive.
Now you need to understand: the last time I saw Ramon, he compared oral sex to eating prime rib. (Don't ask.) Every time I see him, I want to cross my legs.
So he's saying all these nice things about the biology teacher's motives and asking how I was doing and I'm guilt-stricken. Because it hits me that I've been using this as a coping mechanism, it wasn't nice of me to make fun of the letter, and Ramon totally called me on it.
Omar sat back down at the bar again and asked what we were talking about. I told him and he laughed. "Still?" he said.
"Shut up, man," said Ramon. "If she wants to talk about her dead cat, let her talk about her dead cat. This is the most I've gotten her to talk to me in the last two years. I'll talk to her about anything she damn wants."
And there you go -- prime rib guy is no longer sensitive. The world can go back on its axis.
The next day, however, when I was looking in my purse for Bubby's letter, I realized it was gone. At first I was disappointed, but then I thought: no. You deserved to lose it, just for being such a bitch.
I'm still a little worried about those cat years v. human years, though.