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Pavane for Dead Princess
It is considered a minor, lesser kind of love, the one that we have for our animals. Some may say it is but a fancy, born out of surplus comfort, overabundance and unfair privilege that surround the First World people, and thus there is something suspicious about it -- for how can one even afford it in the same world where there’s still famine, and illness, and poverty? So whenever it is spoken of, there’s this apologetic quotation marks hovering around the very word “love”, meant to ensure from the start that these partial to “real” passions of the heart -- parental love, filial love, love of God or love of one’s homeland -- would not get offended.
Yet, to me the fact that this affection is possible has always been a startling miracle. No other feeling known to humans takes us thus far, to the point of ultimate openness towards the totally alien -- where we decide to care deeply for creatures with which we have almost nothing in common. Us: living in the world of words and abstractions, surveying our surrounding from the heights of two-legged posture, with our sight always cast way ahead. Them: silent, driven by fugacious smells, attracted by weird tastes and strange noises; bound to experiencing the world on their fours, in eternal close-up. But once the spell is cast and the wild and the tame come together, it seems like all we do out of affection for these “lesser” creatures is most selfless, most purely humane of what we are capable of.
Thirteen years is a long time. This is how long my human-feline family has been together – and now that one member of it is gone, it’s hard not to feel the loss. It happened so quickly. I wonder if all cats die the way Chrissy died, tail first. She was still breathing – her pupils dilated into dark ponds of pure pain, her cheek pressed firmly against Robert’s warm hand – but as her head was still alive, the tail was turning limp and lifeless, as if she was pulled by it into the black air of a very different realm. There is something particularly heartbreaking in the way such helpless creatures die in one’s arms. Perhaps it’s the nature of this wordless bond between humans and non-humans – or is it guilt one feels for not being able to help them? – but in moments like this, all one feels is blind trust they project, hopeful that once again their people, the almighty providers of food and shelter, are going to save them.
There was Jaws playing on DVD in the cab that took us to the emergency vet clinic – not exactly the kind of mindless entertainment one needs when heading to a place like where we’ve been going. We only saw some twenty minutes of it. But you know what? I should have known right there that something was off. Remember this girl, who dies in the first scene, on the beach at dawn? Her name is Chrissy.
Strange how such loss feels somehow harder to take than ones of humans – colleagues, friends, family members: there were so many I have lost before. Perhaps the bond like this one, a relationship built without conversations and promises feels stronger because we want it to be perfect – no lies, ever; no bitter arguments; no ways for them to hurt us more than by an occasional stolen piece of forbidden food, or a new sweater that was peed on. Perhaps this is why we love them so much: because what we see in their eyes is what we want to see, a projection of our very human longings, somehow always slightly tainted with disappointment when we deal with our own kind.
So she was very sick, and we could not help her, the doctors could not help her – the decision was made, the injection executed, and now she was almost gone. Just a few minutes and then it was really over: our dear friend suddenly turned into small lump of dead feline flesh. We sat in the clean exam room for much, much longer, without talking or even looking at each other. Then they brought the cardboard box, strangely light and wrapped almost like Christmas present --and that was it.
In the undying words of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (deceased): So it goes.
It is a bitter irony that the letter arrived just a few hours earlier, summoning me, at long last, to take an oath as a newly-minted citizen of the citizen of U.S. of A. -- and there was this ugly little voice in my head, one I would not take heed to as I read it, saying that no country is really yours for real unless you allow the soil of this land swallow the bones of someone you loved.
So now I have these bones that make me belong here. I came home at last, but somehow feel lost perhaps more than ever. The pain will eventually pass, as all passes. I will be absorbed again by the grey world of constant rush and puny worries. Before this happens, though, I will savor the knowledge found in this sad moment. What I learned by losing her is it does not matter who it is that you feel connected to, nor how strange this connection may seem in the eyes of others. Whatever it’s made of, this shiny, fragile thread spun from creature to creature – even if it breaks, it’s incredibly strong and incredibly real. Love is the only thing that’s real.
niedziela, 19 maja 2013, bigapple1