I won't keep you in suspense.
We did not get Charlotte. And I'm ineffably heartsick about that.
I had her on hold through July 3, but her eye infection had not cleared up. Neil finally got to meet her between work and softball on July 3. His reaction was lukewarm. She's a cat, he said.
I have no one to blame but myself. Yet I want to assign blame so I can be angry at someone besides myself. I wish Neil had said, she's a beautiful cat. Or, she's pretty. Or, I like her. I suppose "let's get her" would be too much pie in the sky to expect. But he just saw an athletic cat who picked the duration of his short visit to scale a cat tree and saunter across the top of the cage towers.
The shelter was getting ready to close for the three-day weekend. Between her still-oozy eye and the fact that we wouldn't be able to return her until Monday if the fur flew at home, we decided to defer the decision until Monday.
And I made a strategic mistake. I felt guilty that I'd had her on hold for 4 days and since we were not 100 percent committed, I felt it would be unfair to keep her from a chance at a forever home. I took her off hold. Knowing the shelter would be closed until Monday, it wasn't really a big risk.
On Monday, if her eye looked good, I planned to take her home to meet the family.
And what I should have done on Monday was to head over to the shelter first thing. Or at least call.
What I did on Monday was make beads for a couple of hours because that's what I do in the morning in the summer, before it gets too hot.
I did call it quits earlier than usual. I put on my workout clothes and headed for the shelter. If her eye looked good, I planned to go work out, then come back for her.
Before I even got to the door, a shelter staffer (having a smoke under a tree) told me she was on hold. I was confused for a moment. "Do you mean, on hold for me?" No. Someone else had come in that morning and put her on hold.
I held it together. I said smartly, then I'll just go and say goodbye to her.
The lady who works at the front desk told me that a very nice woman who'd just lost her 17-year-old cat had put her on hold. Polly, the shelter's name for her, was going to be an only cat in what sounded like a good home.
I went and held Polly-Charlotte. Her eye had healed really well. I told her that I loved her and held her purring body against my heart. Then I went and told the lady at the front desk to call me if the other woman changed her mind. I had her write down my cell phone number. I said, I'm only 15 minutes away. I said, I'm ready to take her.
I went to my car and called Neil at work. He answered, which is the exception to the rule, but then I seldom call him at work.
Someone else put Polly on hold, I said.
And that's when the tears came.
Neil said, I thought that might be why you were calling. Then he said, I have to go, I have a meeting.
I went and did my workout routine. I went home. My heart hurt. I took a bath and laid down on the sofa, something I never do in the afternoon. First Loki came and sat on me. Then Zamboni, and, as you know if you read my blog, Zamboni just doesn't do that. He's only cuddled against me twice, each time when I had a blanket over me, and this time he climbed up and sat on the blanket. Which is how Neil found us when he got home.
I expected little compassion and I wasn't disappointed. Neil was cheerful. I asked if he felt even the least bit of regret. First he said no. Then he said, maybe two percent. I think mostly he felt relieved that we'd dodged a bullet. I know he did.
I felt listless. I cried. I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't feel like doing the things I usually like to do. Charlotte had now become the perfect cat, the cat who was destined to be mine, and I'd fucked it all up.
Sorrow makes me very tired. I went to bed early. Sleep is my escape. But after Neil left for work on Tuesday, I made myself get out of bed and make coffee.
And then the whole house of cards imploded. And I couldn't stop crying.
Neil sent me a note at about 8:40 am. Hope you’re feeling better today sweetie!
I answered. Thanks. I love you. I'm trying to feel better. This will pass right?
Like a leaf blown off a tree by an gentle autumn North Carolina breeze, he said. Sorry for the testy impatience yesterday, he said.
My answer summed it up.
I didn't think you were too testy or impatient.To which he only answered, Xxoo sweetie.
But for some reason this has tapped some wellspring of grief in me. For Puck. Gris. My mom. My dad. For my kids being far away. For K.C.'s hurt. For all the losses in my life.
I know my life is truly good and this is transient.
I made some beads and late in the morning I called the shelter and asked if Polly had been picked up. Yes. She had.
So. I did what I had to do, tried to dam the feelings of desolation.
I went and had my nails done. I scheduled a massage on Wednesday and a hair appointment on Thursday.
I went to the fitness center and I did my 3 miles on the treadmill.
The intensity of the despair decreased marginally. I stemmed the nonstop tears. I visited a higher level of the hell I'd created for myself.
I do that a lot, we both do really, but Neil denies it, even though our New Jersey trip just got foxed up because we (he) didn't buy our airline tickets. Which meant that he didn't give his dad exact dates for our trip, only that it would be around Labor Day. Which is why Neil's brother is going to New Jersey the last week of August instead of us. Because Labor Day is September 1 this year.
Dithering. It's me, down to a science. I'm indecisive. I wobble. I waver. I ask for advice and ignore it. I want someone to tell me what to do, and then I don't.
My neurotransmitters being what they are, i.e., inefficiently processed by my brain, I'm trying not to beat myself up too much. If I've learned anything in this life, it's how to weather an episode of disappointment that spirals into something dark and ugly and heavy. I've learned how to take one minute at a time and how to be kind to myself when I can't possibly expect anyone to understand the depth of my sadness, when I have no one to talk to, and especially when I brought it all on myself.
I didn't follow my heart. I didn't trust my gut. While Neil did not stand in my way, I put too much weight on his lack of enthusiasm. I forgot my precedent, my lodestar, my guidepost, that I'd rather regret the things I did than the things I didn't. That I'd rather go with my gut feelings and be wrong, than ignore my gut feelings and be wrong.
I liked this cat. I felt like she was the right cat for me, for us. She wasn't perfect, she wasn't a kitten or a male, but she was the next best thing, a young, small adult female.
I wasn't looking for another cat. I'm still not looking for another cat. I'd like another cat if it happens. I want to believe that my new cat is still out there and will come when he comes. A bigger part of me hopes the lady who took Polly home will return her, for some benign reason, such as she decided it was too soon for a new cat, or white fur looked bad on her dark sofa.
It's a very long shot. Not impossible, but unlikely. Polly is a sweet cat. And it sounds like she may be a comfort to a bereaved woman and have a responsible, loving owner. It could have been so much worse. Her eye infection could have worsened. Cats in shelters get virulent respiratory infections and die or are put down so that they don't infect other cats.
I have to look for the silver lining. I just wish it didn't come with a such a fucking dark storm cloud.
"Tonight the brightest moon in a hundred years
Floods the streets of Rome and I am standing here
Wondering where the ghosts of antiquity
Hide on nights like this once a century
Where do shadows fall when there's only light
Why'd you follow me halfway 'round the world tonight
What I'd give right now not to even care
And then this could be someone else's prayer
And on a sleepless night by St. Stephen's Green
Oh I turned and tossed with my Irish dreams
And when the morning shone through the burned off mist
I could sense you still just as close as this
Just as close as lips brush against a cheek
It's your voice I hear and it's your name I speak
But when I look around there's no one there
How I wish you were someone else's prayer
And now the twilight comes as a silent guest
And of all its gifts I like stillness best
Except for tin roof rains that commence with spring
It's a lullaby when that tin roof sings
Now you can look for me on the streets of Rome
Or in Dublin town but I've gone back home
I would always be just a stranger there
And now you're free to be someone else's prayer."
(Mary Chapin Carpenter)