Wednesday, April 11, 2018

best friends means

I have applied one of my favorite Joan Didion quotes to several frivolous losses over the years — the time Zayn quit One Direction, the time One Direction disbanded, every time Harry Styles released a garbage piece of disappointing new solo music — because I so often shirk vulnerability, trade it in for a cheap laugh, instead.

But I’ll use it in earnest now, because — like Didion’s beloved Nancy — my best friend, Romeo, is dead. “I close the box and put it in a closet," she writes. "There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.”

There are things you should know that will likely change your reading of this, depending on your own personal levels of sympathy and compassion in regards to pets: Romeo was a cat. He was my cat. He lived with my family, but he was mine. I knew him for 12 years, which isn’t even half of my life but somehow feels like all of it.

Romeo – so sweet he eventually developed diabetes – was born atop a wood pile in New Jersey, a fact my mother has repeated often over the years. He was the last of his litter to be adopted, a truth I’ll never understand, that someone could look into his orb-like eyes, so innocent and good, and still leave without him. 

But lucky me, my mother’s weakness persisted, despite several declarations there'd be "No more pets!!!" I was 17 when Romy came home and there we were, instantly bonded. This backfired only one time, when he caught and mutilated a giant cockroach and presented it to my sleeping body, littering the sheets around me with tiny fragments of bug. "Here," he seemed to say. "I did this for you." It was traumatic, but it was proof: Romeo loved me most of all.

I spent the majority of my time at home with him, the most gentle thing I’d ever met. He was so opposite the way I’d come to know the world — volatile, hostile, bleak. Romeo was warm, affectionate, genuine, kind. Maybe this is boring human projection and he simply was. But he was the only member of my family I actively missed when I left for college. I know he missed me, too.

I knew Romeo was sick months before the illness showed itself to everyone else. There were subtle changes in his demeanor easy to miss if your entire world fails to revolve around your cat. I do not blame my family for this. After all, I am the one who brings him up on first dates, which is probably why there are so few second ones. 

He once weighed more than our Thanksgiving turkey, but then the cancer came on quick and he dwindled down to nothing. It is too easy to lift him now. 

I used to make a point of telling people we were meant to be buried, to ascend to whatever afterlife could possibly exist, together. This is dark and depressing and obsessive in a way that is, to so many, unhealthy and gross, but I meant it every time I said it, because I always hoped I'd die first. I was so sure Romeo had a good 8 years left in him, and I don't see myself living past 35. Without Romeo here with me, I don't really see a shift toward the positive coming anytime soon.

So it is that I say goodbye to my closest friend, my beloved Romy. I'm so sorry we couldn't save you. You were supposed to live forever.

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