The 16 year-old cat kept me awake all night. In the morning, and running late, I discover the reason why when I plant a bare foot in one of the many spots where the cat was sick.
“Pets get gastrointestinal virus, just like us,” the woman at the vet hospital says. “Or, it may be something else. She is old. We can’t know until you bring her in.”
The vet wants to keep the cat overnight for observation and instructs me to supply the hospital with my pet’s particular food. I call work to say I’ll be late, run home, and get her food. I drop it off at the vet hospital and am surprised to see a friend’s ex, in scrubs. I vaguely remember something about veterinarian school. He was a computer tech when I met him. It’s been since they split.
“I didn’t know you worked here,” I say, a little too animated.
He looks up my pet’s file on the computer. “Same cat?” I nod. “Damn,” he says. “I remember when you got her.”
He writes his cell phone on a piece of paper. “You have questions, you call me.”
I ask him how life has treated him. He flashes a big smile and whips out his phone to show me pictures of his family. He puts his phone back in his pocket afterward and says, “You know, it’s not that I stopped loving K.”
It’s hard to focus at work. My manager says something about being sorry about my cat. This, from a woman whose husband has pancreatic cancer and is facing only a year of life, maybe two, with chemotherapy. His doctors tell him he is one of the “lucky” ones. I’m mortified and apologize, and thank her for letting me take time off for my sick pet.
It’s a night to go out for dinner. The place is surprisingly empty for a Friday, so, what the hell, I take a booth. But the place fills up in no time.
A couple walks in and scans the place for a good spot. The look of disappointment is clear: The options are sandwiching in between the regular drunks at the bar, or taking the weird little table for two in the back, next to the brightly lit foosball and darts game room.
I wave at them. “I feel guilty taking up a booth. I’ll move. No, seriously, I really don’t mind. I’ll move. Happy to!”
I move to the brightly lit table next to foosball. This disrupts another couple tucked away in the very back booth, obviously hoping they picked the perfect private spot to cuddle and coo. Noticing I have an unobstructed view of their intimacies, the woman gently pushes her date away and moves to the other bench.
Embarrassed, I wonder if I should move to the other chair, so my back is to them, but worry I will make them feel more self-conscious if I do. Instead, I pull my laptop closer and hunch over the monitor in an effort to mask my view of their table.
When the waitress stops by, I ask for my bill. She tells me the couple for whom I gave up my booth paid my tab. When I leave, I stop to thank them, but they’ve already left.
I walk into my home. The strangeness of my cat not there to greet me (in her usual cranky, prissy, feed-me-now, annoying mood) makes me choke up. She’s just a pet, not my flesh and blood, but damn. It’s weird, her not being here.