Yellow connects to blue. My forefinger and thumb slide the two colors together and create a green seal across the Ziploc bag.
Yellow and blue make green.
I know the bag is closed.
I will suffocate her with a Ziploc bag if she does not die naturally but continues wheezing out her sound like that of a balloon letting out air through a very tiny hole. I read about this in a random article years ago. A couple’s dog was fatally hurt while they were camping. It was in so much pain. They would never make it to a doctor in time.
That's option one. The most humane act for my cat. Her consciousness is more in dream. She wouldn’t know. She is suffering too much.
Option two: Shoot her. Quick and painless, but-- my daughter is playing with Rainbow, her favorite My Little Pony, in her room with an open door. How would I explain mommy shooting kitty, why we have a gun? I would explain the action’s humanity. But, “Mommy, what is humane?” Here humane is synonymous with a violent act. Jocelyn’s father didn’t believe in guns. No argument, just, “Joan, I don’t believe in them.” Joan said in the same tone as when speaking to our daughter.
If he were an animal he would be an amoeba, something without vertebrae.
When Jocelyn was two years old she couldn’t pronounce “W” and Wendy the cat became Dee Dee the kitty. After studying for the LSAT I would sit on my back porch smoking my one allotted cigarette. For five days Dee Dee had been sitting at the bottom of the stairs as if waiting for me. On a particularly lonely night, I walked down the steps and picked her up as if I did that every night as if she were already mine. She was light enough for me to carry in one hand. Dirt had turned her white fur ashy and her left ear had a small tear at the top corner as if she had been wearing an earring and someone got mad and tore it out. I fell in love.
I don’t believe in love at first sight. With Al, it was mutual loneliness, a psychological decision. I would learn to love. Loving Dee Dee was not a decision but a surprising inner need to protect and take care of. This is called love.
Dee Dee’s head lays forward between her two paws as if contemplating and every few minutes her head arches back as though struck by profundity. She inhales one-two-three breaths through her dime size white nose and her head falls, weighted with the knowledge she found from above.
We aren’t ready.
A tiny earthquake of breath converges the orange and white striped fur like laced fingers and I think she has stopped breathing. I can throw away the bag. Her body shudders and she exhales and I exhale and we sit together in silence. Death drools from her mouth and mounts itself on her left paw. Drool is a sign of nausea. Signs of sickness and dying are: not eating or drinking, hiding in corners of rooms -- in Jocelyn’s closet between the polar bear stuffed animal and a unicorn, anywhere that is away from me. This is called distancing. A human distances herself to make it easier to let go. She is protecting me. I know she is dying, I feel its devastation.
My vision oscillates around the room tallying what is hers: grey felt mouse dirty from my broom rather than play, scratching pad drowning in fur while torn cardboard pieces lay soundless on my ivory carpet. I need to know she existed after her body becomes ash. I will not manically throw her memory into the dumpster as I did with my ex-husband or my first feelings for my daughter.
“Is it time, my love? Are we dying?” I lay my chin next to her face and her fur is soft like Jocelyn’s skin, and her breath smells old, kind of rotten and determined.
I twist the plastic bag in my hands as if to twist out an answer. “You must tell me if you can wait until morning. A needle will be much better than a bag” I don’t know. I press my lips to the back of her head. My blonde hair drapes her back. Silver highlights fade the blonde just as mortality fades her eyes.
I whisper, I know we are dying. Her breath comes out heavy.
Still, I need to be told. A flaw of mine. My fatal flaw if someone were to play a character of me.
“You’re mad at me because I should have told you. You should have known, Joan. You’re in this marriage, too.” Al said this as he finished packing up his clothes to move into his friend’s place on the north side of the city. He hadn’t been home in days and when he returned I was working on the computer adding numbers or something.
“What happened to you?” I said this as if he were only late for dinner or from picking up Jocelyn from daycare. Disbelief pulled his shoulders and arms down and he spoke to the floor, “Didn’t you know we were breaking up?” I knew but I had to be told. Some things you have to be told.
“The love for one’s child erupts from the mother’s heart because the child is hers and she knows she loves her without being told.” When Loving is not Second Nature: A book on Postpartum Depression, what you are not told.
My love for my daughter was not as quick as it was for the cat.
I was nervous. I couldn’t latch on to my daughter as she did to my breast. I thought I was unique. Maybe I was a cat person. I imagined her drowning or choking on a small piece of plastic and in that imaginary situation I could not evoke a need to protect. I prayed for my breasts to stop lactating, I didn’t want her so close. When my Al handed her over to me in the hospital I wanted to give her back. No one writes in On Parenting how some mothers initially don’t feel love or that the anxiety over wanting to hurt her baby has a name. She learns this condition’s proper name from a magazine article: Postpartum Depression. “It is real. A mother will learn to love her baby.” When I read this article it was too late. I had reached the liking stage.
If Jocelyn were an animal she would be a sugar glider. Sugar gliders desire closeness and bond easily.
Jocelyn’s hair has darkened from blonde to strawberry blonde like mine used to be. She is in the lowest percentile for height and her legs are thick but strong. When she is thinking she bites her bottom lip and peers through me as if I am glass. She is like me. I feel love in that.
Dee Dee pushes her head into my hand as I stroke her nose. Languidly she pulls away, lays her head between her paws, a new familiar behavior. Grief cramps itself in my stomach; it is the same pain felt while giving birth.
Dee Dee’s sounds have been overtaken by death’s quiet and my cries hush as I wait for her first words, we are dying. Let’s wait together until morning. Put away the bag.
Jocelyn asks the disorienting questions children do- why? They expect us to have answers. I don’t have a list of answers. After a thousand or so whys the answer becomes because: Because I don’t have the answer. Because, I don’t understand the question. Because -- the answer hasn’t been updated in my parent handbook! Because, I’m tired of why.
“Why am I afraid of spiders?” Her question last night in response to Dee Dee’s going away. Going away a euphemism for dying.
“Do you want to say anything to her?”
She was in the bathtub. I think she has grown because her feet nearly touched the end of the tub. Her little ponies’ faux pink and turquoise manes soaked under the water. Jocelyn washed the shampoo out of their manes instead of looking at me as she would when asking a question. Eventually, their hair will fall out and she will lose interest.
“I stepped on it outside. It was moving and then it stopped.”
She wasn’t asking why she was afraid of a spider but why she killed it. Before I could think of a new because she was grabbing hold of my arm and stepping out of the tub. Already she had forgotten the question.
Jocelyn has joined me on the floor and mimics my lotus position. Her hands are veiled in blue paint and her fingers are a powdery deep yellow as if they had been playing with pollen. Earlier in pre-school Ms. Delir had them finger paint. Ms. Delir is too young to understand this activity was a bad idea. Later, I will have to convince Jocelyn to wash off the paint as she cries, “It’s my art, mommy! It’s mine.”
Jocelyn touches Dee Dee’s head gently, as though touching a butterfly, leaving yellow dust. Dee Dee with her tabby stripes and yellowed forehead is being prepared for death.
“Why do you have a bag?” Jocelyn reaches to pull its corner out of my fingers. I slap her hand. She is confused. Tears fill her eyes. She blinks them away because she knows by the seriousness of my gaze and my grip on the bag, and Dee Dee’s unfamiliar wheezing, to be a big girl. I pick up her hand and my own closes entirely around it as if she never had a hand. I kiss her fingers as my tears fill in the spaces between our skin.
“I’m sorry, momma.” She whispers. I know she understands. I know because she is not crying. She is brave for me, protecting me. I feel my heart swell, as it is described in books, and I know I love her more than I ever have before.
Dee Dee is not responding to Jocelyn’s touch--rolling onto her back, her head tucked in, belly outstretched to be pet. Dee Dee will be leaving in the morning and Jocelyn will be spared death. Tomorrow night I will find the bill from the vet stating the patient as Dee Dee, a shorthaired tabby, eleven years old. I will use the blue star magnet Jocelyn bought me on a trip with her father to hold up the receipt on the refrigerator.
If I were an animal I would be a feline cloaked in long fur like a ragdoll. Fur being safer than bare skin. I would like to be a cat and know what she is thinking.
Dee Dee arches her head back, one-two-three quick gasps. I have tucked the bag under the couch cushion. Her neck lowers and her eyes close and she rests her chin in the space between her crossed front paws. It is midnight. Jocelyn lays her head in my lap. The three of us will wait until morning.