September 25, 2009


This afternoon I was laying in the sun at the beach, iPod headphone in one ear and holding the other headphone in my fingers, feeling it pulsing, when I remembered the last time I had felt for a pulse with those fingertips; that was roughly eight years ago.

I was on the verge of hysterics, doing my damnedest to remain calm and rational, but I was holding Milo in my arms and he wasn't responding and reason was failing me. I ferociously pressed my index and middle fingers into his very warm chest and felt a pulse... But somewhere in me knew I was feeling the pulse that was naturally in my index finger. I was sobbing and trying to explain to my parents what I was doing and why it wasn't working. I shut myself in the bathroom for quiet as I tried to listen and feel for any sign of life in him... It was too much to try and calm my own raging head with a screaming family.

Then I remember my dad driving us to the vets. I held Milo in my lap, tears pouring silently, mumbling incoherent words I hoped formed a prayer. I looked at the hills by my house knowing I would remember that drive for the rest of my life. The day was so normal, yet my whole life was going to be forever altered by that morning.

At the beach today I was overcome with this memory until I remembered the date. It's September 25th, Milo's birthday. He would have been 16 today, a very old cat. But he didn't even make it to 8.

Eight years ago May 12th fell on a Saturday and I was still in my pajamas in the late morning. My friend's birthday party was later and I was fooling around with the keyboard. I heard a knock on the door but I didn't want to be seen in my pajamas. I couldn't hear who it was but I must have heard something because my stomach sank and I ran for the door. My mom heard me burst into the hallway and she looked scared, crying like someone just hit her. I never remember hearing anything, just knowing, and when I saw our neighbor at the door also crying I ran outside. My mom grabbed me, told me no, but it wasn't too hard to break away. My slippers flew from my feet as I ran and I saw his body in the street in front of our house. As I reached the road my brain told me a car was coming but all I saw was Milo and that's all that mattered in the world.

I've seen cats hit by cars before and it's a horrible, sad sight. Milo did not look like that at all. He was perfectly normal except for being a little wet, just sleeping in the road. But he didn't open his eyes when I touched him or wake up when I picked him up. Up until when I was back inside, cradling Milo in my arms and feeling for a pulse, is gone from memory. A vet tech was waiting for me when we got there. She asked if he was the emergency and I said yes and handed the love of my life over to her. I don't remember what happened while my dad and I waited, don't remember how long we were there, don't remember if I cried or what the vet said when she called us in, or if we even went in at all. I do remember looking at his body in the cardboard cat carrier tucked between my legs in the truck on the way back home; he was way too big for a regular carrier.

I stayed next to his body for the rest of the day, even after the rigor mortis started. I left briefly to watch my dad build his coffin and went back to him after my dad said the bright side to him dying was us spending time together that day (that wasn't even the most insensitive thing my dad said about Milo). We buried him in the backyard between two fruit trees, at the foot of the ivy he loved to hunt in. I would buy that house back in an instant.

Everyone who knew Milo, other than the neighbors who killed him, loved him. My family loved him like he was the son my parents never had (except sometimes my dad was jealous of the attention the world gave him, a cat), my neighbors in two neighborhoods loved him even to the point of feeding him chicken to keep him around and letting him go into their children's rooms to wake them up in the morning. Sometimes I thought if Milo was a man he'd break my heart with his 9 lives, but I knew I would love him even if he did. Everyone did- you could not help but love him.

The neighbors who killed Milo didn't fit in. They never associated with the neighborhood and though we weren't the kind to have potlucks and block parties we waved, the kids played together and babysat each other, and everyone knew everyone else's name. The neighbors who killed Milo didn't even say hello. The man was freakish about his front yard and would pick weeds in the morning, in his suit. His wife stayed at home and misted the plants on hot days and drove the kids to private school. The man left for work every day by backing his truck around a curb. He didn't like Milo in his yard, which I would have understood if Milo was a dog and dug up the flowers, but he was a cat and other than occasionally rubbing himself on the grass did nothing but keep pests away. When I found him laying in the street he was in the tracks of the man's truck. The next time I saw them, that Monday, the whole family was all hellos and have a great day. A short while later they moved.

If I could go back in time I would beg my parents for a toxicology report and necropsy. I know he died because he was hit by a car, but he wasn't hit by a fast moving car because as far as I could tell no bones were broken and there was no blood. Milo watched my sisters' cat die by a car and had been afraid of cars since; he would not have stood to be killed by a slow-moving car. Milo was famous in two neighborhoods, with all our friends and family members, and the families my mom did daycare for. That man took something very precious away from me and indirectly everyone I knew. I hope karma gets his ass.

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