Pet Waste – plasticbagger
June 3, 2020
a T.V. is mounted to the corner wall. it’s on mute, playing a show about kittens. several of them are running around with a ball of yarn. they gently paw at one another and at the ball, before toppling over to fall asleep. the screen fades into a commercial break. a block of closed captioning appears. “Perfect. Exactly as you are. You don’t need any help, do you? Certainly not from anything artificial. Nope, all you need is a good squeeze. Simply Lemonade. Honestly simple.”
i glance around at laminated signs thumbtacked to random spots on the walls. stethoscopes and other wired devices hung on holsters beside them. one of those posters is labeled “Feline and Canine Life Expectancy Chart.” it explains how both species age five times faster than humans in a sans serif font. a stock photo of a golden retriever is crudely photoshopped next to the graph’s title. my cat is lying on the room’s metal table. her eyes are wide open. a splash of overhead lighting, neither bright nor especially dim, reflects off of her black-and-white fur. we’d been given privacy.
sticking out from the side of her face is a slender pink tongue. i poke it with my finger. my cat doesn’t move. the tongue feels dry and prickly. i use that same finger to lift up her cheek, which is already hardening. her four frontal teeth are long, sharp, and yellow. she used to sit on my stomach at home. whenever she did, i’d smush her face into an adorable mush with my hands. part of the experience of owning a pet is finding new ways to irritate them. she definitely would’ve bitten me by now.
cats are known for not moving. before today i’d always feel her presence. even in other rooms. it was like how old T.V.’s can play with no sound yet give off this weird staticky sensation, letting one know they’re on. newer flat-screens, like the ones here at Oceanside Animal Hospital, don’t have the same effect. i tuck my cat’s tongue back inside her mouth, before using my already gross finger to scrape a bit of snot off her whiskers. thick layers of it have crusted up over her face, especially around the nostrils. she used to rub her head against my leg to ask for food. in retrospect, her nose felt so moist, so doughy.
two months ago, she began struggling to breathe. i laid a towel down on the floor. her legs gave out not too soon after. that’s old age. least how i’ve seen it. our bodies are only meant to absorb so much life at once. eventually, and often without warning, favorite meals, even Fancy Feast Classic Chicken gourmets, become uninteresting mounds of slop. after that it’s only a matter of facing the inevitability of ending up in a place like this.
there are no clocks in Exam Room 2. i look at the T.V, hoping to get an idea of how long i’ve been here. i’d forgotten my phone at home. those kittens are back, stumbling around a bright green lawn, yawning and meowing without sound. i’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a second commercial break. those happen every ten minutes or so. my hand brushes up against the catheter taped to my cat’s leg. its cold, artificial texture reminds me of how the staff asked if i wanted to stay for the procedure. since my cat’s life had been reduced to lying around, shitting herself, it felt like my responsibility to give her, and myself, the final comfort of each other’s company. the vet took a deep breath before injecting several doses of pink and white liquid through the plastic tubing. she wore blue surgical gloves. i’d expected my cat to start convulsing. all she did was make a gasping noise. afterwards, everything fell into a deep silence.
here i’ve stayed, petting her dense coat, trying to untangle our time together. there were days when i’d throw a wad of tinfoil across the room. she’d run after it excitedly, but never actually bring it back for the game to continue. i’m not sure whether she didn’t know how to play catch, or if, along with puking on my bed sheets, that was something done to annoy me. i also remember other things. her sitting on the window sill, ears perked up, listening to the high pitched meows of strays outside. or how she’d once caught a mouse by the radiator and ate it in front of me, leaving only a bloody head for me to clean up. memories are a briefly easing joy that seem ever more miniscule in Exam Room 2. a glass lid atop one of the containers of cotton swabs is on the verge of falling over and shattering.
unlike the kittens on T.V., my cat doesn’t have any interestingly shaped spots in her fur, or even a cool color palette to begin with. i’d imagined being here for long enough would cause the random splotches of black-and-white in her coat to take shape into a sign to let me know this isn’t how it ends: with a whimper and several wads of tinfoil scattered underneath the living room couch. yet resting my wet cheek on my cat’s head, i only realize how it’s as soft as it’s ever been, with the only thing separating her from, well, herself is that staticky sensation of life. at the start of the second commercial break, the block of closed captioning reads, “We’d always trusted that our Subaru Impreza would be there for her someday. We just didn’t think someday would come so fast…Love you. Love you too. See you later. Introducing the Subaru Impreza. The latest vehicle in its class. More than a car…It’s a Subaru.”