I stared at the people entering and exiting the door in front of me as I fought to process, turning the radio down to dull some of the stimulation circling in and around the still-running car. Memories of visiting this Panera ten years ago lapped at the edges of my consciousness, the small tug of the apartment complex behind me reminding me of times so far gone yet somehow, always just right there.
I was going to see if you could come relatively soon, the voice said, and I stammered my open availability, babbling on about the Panera and my kids and being downtown. Yes, of course, I just have to get on the highway and I'll be there in 10 minutes.
This is what I get for leaving home, I said. It's a different beast down here.
I put the car in reverse and made an illegal left-hand turn onto an incredibly busy street, my children's voices becoming more shrill with each revolution of my tires away from the carefully curated area surrounding a college campus I never attended, yet feel I graduated from.
I hung up the phone, then dialed, leaving a voicemail, straightforward and blunt, as I couldn't muster anything more. Meet me there, just meet me there, click.
The kids exclamations become sobs and I speak up, over them so they hear me.
"Hey guys? We're still going to get cookies and milk, we just have to go visit Sylvester first, okay? We just have to go visit Sylvester first."
They perk up at the sound of his name, repeating it to their best abilities, distracted momentarily by a new task at hand.
I can't begin to figure out how to explain to them what's really happening, or the choice I just made to end another creature's life.
I thought I'd be able to write my way through all of this. Obviously, this is not the first time I've had to deal with extreme heartbreak at the hands of my husband. I felt impenetrable for a while, just another speed bump in my life.
But, as could probably be predicted, it hasn't been that easy.
I've been shying away from the Internet as a whole -- I don't feel like anyone really wants to hear me whine about my relationship, besides, I have a therapist for that. I can't muster thinking about much of anything else, to be honest. To write about my kids feels like a thin cover; the house is stagnant with indecision and haunted by the ghosts of unkempt promises and unsavory deeds. I've had thoughts about the goings-on of pop culture, but nothing succinct enough to merit effort, nothing that isn't already being said all over my news feeds and streams and what have you.
Though, sidebar, you should go read this.
Each new tragedy is another weight upon my heart. I struggle to let even one more thing in, things I would usually sit with for a moment and feel out in order to come to peace with the world I exist in, but right now I cannot, I cannot. I skim, I acknowledge, I click a thumb or a heart or a star as recognition of my support or agreement or just to prove my eyeballs were there however briefly and I move on, move away because I have nothing to offer beyond the most basic of engagement.
It hurts to see this world spin madly on while I feel so trapped, so stuck in exactly one singular spot.
If these were normal circumstances, I would be afraid I was spiraling into a bipolar depression. However, these circumstances are anything but, and I feel that I'm probably going through a normal, healthy process.
I'm sitting shiva for the life I now absolutely know that I never had, the dreams squandered, the hopes dashed, the family that didn't exist except on paper.
And then, I held a cat as he was injected with bright blue liquid, steadied him as he jerked away from the needle prick, looked him in the eyes as he laid his poor head down on the cold stainless steel table, and he choked out one last little purr as his yellow eyes met mine and I watched the light go out inside of him, taking with him the last of my strength. The awful truth of his death and my life intertwined there, permanently.
I am incapable of saving anything or anyone, not even a stray cat.
Least of all, myself.
I don't really know what else to say. I move through my days and I love my children as openly and freely as they'll allow me and I focus on the next task at hand, the next thing on a list of impossibly simple and mundane activities to keep myself moving in any direction.
When it gets warm again, I will have to bring in the food bowls and the purple plastic cat-shaped vessel from the front porch. I will have to wash them thoroughly, removing from them the last traces of a creature who only craved the simplest things in life -- shelter, security, love, a family -- and thereby acknowledging defeat. I will have to retrain myself to stop looking out the windows of my house for footprints in the snow or a small, black body outstretched into the sun. I will re-accustom myself to continue steadfastly from the front door to the car and reverse upon return without stopping to pet a disheveled head or replace kibble and clean water or even peering into the small structure to make sure he's still there, just napping.
I will have to learn to forget that he deserved better, that I could have done more, should have done more.
I'm just not ready to let go just yet.