|I WAS TIRED AND JET-LAGGED when I sat down to breakfast
after a late night in Burgos. Dennis got up from the next table and took
me aside. "I was talking to Andrea last night," he said. Andrea is his
wife, a good friend of K.'s. "She was on the phone with Kathleen. Your
cat died yesterday."
I thanked him, sat down and finished my coffee in silence.
SHE SEEMED OKAY before I left, probably not her usual
energetic self, but I was certain she'd be there when I got home. It was
probably a matter of a month, maybe two. I was hoping I'd have the strength
to see when she was suffering and make the call to the vet.
She got weaker about a day after I left, and developed
a strange, wheezing cough. She stopped eating by Sunday, and K. became
worried. There was diarrhea, and when she couldn't clean herself, K. resolved
to call the vet the next day. She spent the night on the bed with her.
"The cancer's spread to her lungs," the vet said. "She's
having trouble breathing."
K. asked to have a few moments with her alone. "She was
very peaceful at the end," she told me on the phone when I called her from
Salamanca. My poor little cat.
A FEW THINGS I REMEMBER about Nato. She weighed eight
pounds at her heaviest. She was seven years old when she died. She was
a long-haired black and white, with wispy, fine fur and orange-gold eyes.
She had white paws and a little black patch on the right side of her nose.
Obviously the runt of the litter, she always seemed scrawny and scruffy.
She could clear six feet in a single leap, and loved to
crawl around on the overhead sprinkler pipes in our old loft. She also
loved to tunnel, and crawled into bags, or under the sheets of our bed
whenever she had a chance.
She was bossy and domineering and hardly the calm little
kitten I hoped would keep Keebler company; she started pushing him around
when she was still a fraction his size, and kept it up till the end. He
also has a few scratches to remember her by. At the same time, she was
his best friend, and they slept together much of the day. He was twice
her size, but he always let her eat first.
She was demanding and talkative. She had a large vocabulary
of sounds and always spoke back when you talked to her, and even when you
didn't. You always knew when she wanted something. She was coquettish;
a real princess. I don't know what I did to spoil her, but I doubt that
she ever felt that we were in charge around here.
Maybe it was the time I spent curled up on the sofa with
her when, as a kitten, she had a nasty respiratory infection. I can't help
but think of K., curled up on the bed with her on her last night. We always
search for something significant, something that gives our loss shape and
She constantly contrived to slip into photo shoots in
my old studio, and even managed to get onto the cover
of a jazz CD.
She's left behind a small pile of fur under my desk, and
scratches on several pairs of my favorite boots, as well as on my desk
chair, our wardrobes, the sofa, the spines of several books and LPs, the
case for my glasses, and down the side of a pile of newspapers where she
regularly sharpened her claws.
She broke the same glass coffee table, twice, along with
an answering machine, and toppled a shelf of CDs and the speakers from
She often slept on her back, with her paws in the air,
and had a habit of shaking her right paw once before licking it to clean
her face. She slept on my chest or across my legs every night when we watched
t.v., or sat on the couch, watching us.