Last Thursday, while trying to explain to a friend what my recent diagnosis means, I managed to accidentally demonstrate by falling spectacularly to the ground and cutting my knee, grazing my head and shoulder, and winding me, to the point that I couldn’t get up again. I had to be hauled to my feet and hobbled to the nearest safe place, bleeding freely as I did so.
Which means I was, under the advice of the triage nurse, not at work on Friday, which means that I was at home when I got the call from my mother to tell me that my beloved cat Willow was about to undergo an operation, and half an hour later, the call from my father to tell me that Willow had died on the operating table.
Willow has been in my life for sixteen years. By the end of the first day, she was sitting on my chest as I lay supine on my gran’s floor; when I went back to university soon afterwards, it was very hard to leave her.
For the last tumultuous decade and a half, she has been there for me. By the time I started writing ILB, Willow was there. She was curled up on my bed as I was setting up my first Blogger account. Three girlfriends came (and, in two cases, went) and every single one of them adored her. I carefully combed her for fleas once and she was so grateful she didn’t leave my bed for a week.
As my sexual identity grew, Willow was remarkably tolerant. She wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I masturbated with her in the room having forgotten she was there. If I remembered, and put her outside, she would wait patiently for me to open the door so she could resume her napping spot on the bed. If I cried because of heartbreak, she was there. If I sat up in bed reading, or on the ‘phone to a loved one, she’d be there. If I lay in a pool of sweat and cum, or weeping with frustration because it didn’t happen (and I’d forgotten to let her out), she’d be there.
Willow was a constant throughout a good portion of my life. She wasn’t just my cat – she was a member of the family and, in certain points, I saw her as something like a daughter. I loved her, and I still do, and I always will.
I can’t describe the noise I made when I heard the news – it was something between the sounds made by a banshee and a werewolf. I was still in paroxysms of grief when my beloved called, and then for a hew hours afterwards, I was sobbing on and off. By the time I got to bed, I was feeling nothing but a dull, empty numbness; my uneasy slumber that night punctuated by waking moments feeling small holes opening all over my body.
The bit that hurts the most – unequivocally – is that I didn’t see Willow at all during the past few weeks. I’ve spent quite a lot of time at my parents’ house for one reason or another – including just after being in hospital, when I asked where she was – and didn’t seen her once during that time Every time I used to go there I saw her, and would give her a tummy rub or scratch behind the ears, and was looking forward to doing so again… and again… and again.
My parents didn’t bring her body home. I will never see her again.
And suddenly nothing seems to matter any more.