The next morning I was in a dead sleep oblivious and unaffected by all the atrocities of the world outside. I felt something slightly damp, and abrasive repeatedly brushing against my cheek. It was enough to stir me from some wonderfully needed slumber, a deep one where nothing and everything happened. This thing butted its head into my sore, bruised orbital, nudging me. Wake the fuck up or get woke the fuck up.
I tried hard to remember my dreams, but most nights I couldn’t retrieve anything. I wanted to be able to pull a dirty fedora from my dream like Nancy Thompson. Hibernation robbery. I couldn’t remember anything from it, but maybe it was better that way. I suppose the ones I didn’t remember were either scary or made up of unattainable goals. I could never have the things I possessed in my unconscious mind. No success or mental stability. Or maybe it was something ridiculous like the time I dreamt I was back in High School and Vincent Price was my teacher. I might have been in that metal or hardcore band that me and the boys always wanted to start. We could have played shows with my friend Sonny’s old band, Lon Chaney Jr. High, had they not broken up. We could have ripped up stages and toured the country in a beat up van, but that time had passed. I might have dreamt I had a some minute trace of talent and was doing something more productive with my time, something mentionable, anything better than what I actually did with my time. Maybe I dreamt I was a reclusive artist living in some wooded plot of land upstate who only did portraits of old telephones. I had a thing about rotary dial telephones. Maybe I dreamt I had some kind of superpower and wore a suit with too many pockets and was a member of X-Force.
Maybe I dreamt of smoking Smith and Wesson six shooters, asking for shots of whiskey and telling the bartender to leave the bottle and painting whole towns red. I was born in the wrong era, wrong century, wrong everything. I could have been the man with no name watching the townsfolk scurry for cover as I rode in, holding the reins with Eastwood tattooed across my knuckles.
I’d opt out of most fantasies if I could have a nice life with Glory by my side, that would never come to fruition, and if it did it’s not certain it would work out. Come back and see me tomorrow or in a week and ask me about it and see if I still feel the same. Everything is subject to change.
Fuck dreams. I remembered last night though, and I sincerely wished it went differently.
“Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth and knowledge, virtue and abiding love. You know who said that, Pangur? Last chance. George Bernard Shaw said it. Ever read any of his plays? Me neither. I’m thinking maybe we should though.” Only on paper and in the mind have I known Glory. I’m almost certain she is composed of those other traits.
My alarm clock that morning was Pangur Ban, my elderly cat. She had charcoal gray fur with lovely yellow eyes, and deceptively youthful looking. Her best days were way behind her. She weighed about seven pounds and was diminishing rapidly, skinnier each day, cursed like a Stephen King novel. I knew that her time would be up soon. I knew I was going to lose her. I gave her the best life a cat could have within my means. I wasn’t prepared to say farewell just yet, and maybe I would never be. I should’ve taken her for that last trip to the vet but I couldn’t stomach the thought of agreeing to euthanize her, to being a participant in her execution. Having it marked on a calendar like a birthday or a dentist appointment didn’t feel right. It had to be the last possible option, not when she had a few days left, one last short life. Her quality of life was based on opinion, more specifically my opinion, and my opinion on putting her down was pending. 8 lives have departed, one by one, with white gowns, suitcases in hand and halos above their heads like in the cartoons. She purred on my chest, I relished in the moment, knowing moments like these were fleeting.
Pangur Ban’s frail body expanded and contracted as she laboriously breathed, gently tickling my nose with her own. I played dead. I refused to open my eyes or move a muscle. That was our thing. My left eye was swollen. I feigned snores, cutting down a forest in swaths. Her breath was so rank. A breath so horrendous due to the rotting of whatever teeth she still had and her decaying insides, not to mention the nausea inducing wet food she consumed. The sweet aroma of death and Fancy Feast. She loved the can with the blue label, whereas I did not share the same sentiment.
Pangur was relentless in her efforts to rouse me. I attempted to open my eyes, but disobediently, they would not allow it. My eyeball was bound by intense pressure, pulling from the inside of my skull. It was like Edith fit her entire fist directly into my eye socket. It had been a long time since I was punched in my face. It felt on par with a migraine. My eyelids were sewn shut, glued by the lacrimal fluids that seeped out of my tear ducts, the thought of my mother mixed with booze has that effect. Those embarrassing tears congealed, sealing my lashes together. I pried and fluttered my eyelids to loosen those crunchy particles of my unconsciousness. One of many reasons why you shouldn’t cry yourself to sleep.
I held Pangur above me, my thumbs hooked around her armpits and gently rocked her back and forth. Poor kitty. Who would I confide in? Things that can’t speak are the best to tell secrets to. Pangur was pretty and loyal. Humans can’t keep secrets. Humans can’t be trusted. I nibbled on the paws of her hind legs as they swung in front of my mouth. She never tried to wiggle free, bite or claw me. She trusted me completely and I, well I trusted no human being completely.
She was struggling. It was apparent. This was going to hurt. Add one more to the list. She experienced kidney failure, safe to say cancer was a probability and arthritis had fused her spine together. I shuffled her to my left hand, and lifted her high and with my right I fished through the air behind me, searching for the elusive string to raise the venetian blinds. I captured it like a hunter, like Orion, yanking it down to invite the sun to join Pangur and I in the bed. A little sunshine couldn’t hurt. I felt behind me for a warm extremity, in an attempt at fooling myself that someone might be there with me. My bed has been rife with meaninglessness. It had been lawless. That might sound a tad mean, but no worries, I’ve since then given up on that. I’ve refrained from sleeping with women for the sake of not being alone. Lust makes us fools while loneliness makes us pathetic. It used to serve a purpose but no longer does it make sense. I wanted the woman of my dreams. Something damn near close to it. I know what you’re thinking? It’s cliche. It sounds lame. I know that. But that was truthfully how I felt. The woman of my dreams doesn’t even exist. I barely exist. I fall in love with a new woman everyday anyway. If it’s not an actress on the television, then it’s some strange woman on the 7 train sitting across from me. My mind was all over the place, all the time, emotions can’t be trusted.
Pangur cuddled up, and I said, I love you. “You smell absolutely horrendous.”