There's a story that I've been trying to figure out how to tell for a very long time. I've never been able to decide how to share something that hurts to my heart's core. So I finally decided today to just tell it straight, just give the facts, and whatever comes out with them. So here's what I've got:
When I was about 9, my cousins lived right down the street from my mom’s apartment. I’d go into their house and wait for them sometimes, trudge over the piles of things on the floors that were often a substitute for the uncleaned litter box, manage to push a bedroom door open, clear off a spot on the torn up mattress, sit down, and wait for the kittens to come sit on my lap.
It usually took me days of waiting and stillness to get them to come to me on their own. They were too used to torture, too used to cut whiskers and broken tails, to just trust a random child.
There were two that came to quickly adore my visits, one my cousin Ashley had nicknamed Taco, the other one never really had a name. I’m sure that I tried to give her one, but there were so many kittens back then, it hurts to say, but the name I bestowed has been lost to time and a bad memory. Both kittens were siamese mixes, blue eyes and dirt-covered, short, white hair.
Taco had the misfortune of being a favorite, and she had the broken tail to prove it. My little one … actually, that was my name for her, I think, Little One, she had the cut whiskers, another mark of Ashley’s fun.
They would both come to me cautiously, every time I was there alone, and they would both curl up in my lap. I sat there and sang to them usually, some soft Girl Scout song, and gently petted them, while they would purr in my lap. I was probably the only human being to ever hear them purr.
This couldn’t have gone on for very long, maybe a month? They were still very small the last time I saw them, but then, very few cats in that house grew to be large. But I was protective of all of their cats and kittens, they needed someone, and there was so little that I could do to help. All I could offer was a small taste of safety and love, much less than they deserved.
And somehow I trusted that to be enough, like my feelings would contain them in a protective bubble that would keep them safe. By that age I should have known better, and I suppose I did after all, but what can you do when you know better than to love?
So one day I walked into the house, trudged through the kitchen, down the hall, pushed open the bedroom door, and found my little one, waiting for me, cold, on the mattress right where we would always sit. And I did what I did every other day, I sat her on my lap, and I held her, and sang to her, until my cousins came home. And I hoped that somewhere she was happy.
What happened when my cousins came in? I yelled, I blamed them for not caring, I finally asked where her sister was, where was the other kitten I’d grown to love? She was gone too, gone that morning, already in the mass graveyard that was their backyard. Daily they had been each other’s only safe harbor, until they finally couldn’t take anymore, and they left together.
As a child I never could manage to believe in God or a heaven for human beings. But I knew, absolutely knew, that there had to be a heaven for animals. They were always the ones who deserved a place of safety, happiness, and unconditional love. And they so rarely seemed to find that place on Earth.