My best friend died today and life is going to suck for a long time.
I'd visited Simone earlier today at the hospital and outwardly, she seemed fine. She rubbed her fuzzy black head all over me and I gave her coat a good brushing - her favorite thing. She opened all cabinet doors, pulled out drawers and even gave herself a bath while I read an ancient People magazine.
Then, they took her away for an ultrasound. The vet - an incredibly kind, cool woman named Erin Miller - called me later at home to say that Simone was "one sick kitty." Besides liver failure, her lymph nodes were enlarged, her gallbladder was irritated and her pancreas was just plain "angry." Still, they had a plan - liver biopsy, blood transfusions, pain medications and so on. I said 'yes' to everything, knowing full well the bill would climb into the thousands.
We made plans for me to visit Simone tomorrow and I hung up. In anticipation of houseguests next weekend, I began to clean the house for about 20 minutes. The phone rings and it's Dr. Miller again. "I think you better get down here. Simone just took a big breath and collapsed. She's on the table right now and we're giving her CPR."
I broke several speed limits racing to the hospital and the Dr. took me in to the operating room. There were four people working on her but she was clearly gone. Her skin was all yellow and tubes were everywhere. I asked them to stop and thanked them through warbly tears. Dr. Miller then scooped her up in a big, leopard-print blanket, handed her to me and motioned for me to follow her.
We walked down a long hallway into a quiet room clearly designed for this very situation. Cushy couches and lots of Kleenex boxes. I sat there weeping and cradling my kitty for a very long time and the good doctor sat with me, telling me how impressed she was with Simone's toughness. Dr. Miller let me ramble on about various memories and laughed in all the right places. Those people are saints, I tell ya.
Eventually, I handed her limp body over to the doctor and that was incredibly difficult. Even though I had lifted up her head and could see that her soul had checked out, stroking her fur had been a comfort - at least physically, she was still there.
Next, I was given options (yes to biopsy, yes to ashes) and signed another enormous bill. Then, I made a couple phone calls and eventually left the building with my empty cat carrier.
Now I am home and the apartment is horribly still. Thankfully, I have long-made plans this evening and they couldn't be with more suitable company. Laura moved here this summer from Chicago and we were pals in San Francisco. It was she who told me long ago of a wild black kitten that needed a home and did I know of anyone?
Simone was feral and beyond feisty when I picked her up on New Year's Day 2001 - the first day of a new century. Because she was so wild, her keepers warned me, "Let us know how it turns out. You can always bring her back." I made it clear: "You don't understand, I'm taking her HOME." I promptly named her after another fierce and beautiful black creature - Nina Simone - and that was that.
Words just don't fit around the expanse of my sadness and I'm so glad this little black cat crossed my path.