When I lived in San Francisco, I worked the bar in a steakhouse downtown. I quickly became buddies with all the servers (mostly men) and after the restaurant closed we would go across the street to the bar and hang out. One of the servers constantly showed up for work with bloody scratches all over his hands and I finally asked him what the heck was going on.
"I got a cat," he admitted. "She gets feisty."
I met the cat one evening and she was this adorable little ball of fluff. A tiny little fluffy kitten who meowed a lot and liked to play fetch with beer bottle caps. Her name was Anastasia.
One night he came to work looking dejected and told me he needed to give Anastasia away. He was too busy being a drunk to take good care of her. I couldn't let that little ball of meowy fluff go to just anybody, so I adopted the kitty cat.
I'll never forget that first night when he dropped her off at my apartment. He brought her in with her litter box, a few toys and some cans of food. We hung out for a few hours, drank some wine, and then he got up to leave. She trotted behind him only to be stopped up short by the door closing in her face. She sat there for a bit, waiting for the door to open. My heart broke a little bit watching her. I tried to be really loving and open with her in those first weeks. I talked to her a lot, I let her approach me for petting. In one of the first days that I left her alone she accidentally pulled down a mat and broke half of my glassware. I came home and the little kitchen was littered with shards and chunks of glass and my new kitty was nowhere to be found. I cleaned up and then called to her until she creeped warily into sight. I sat down on the floor of the kitchen and coaxed her in. We petted a bit then I fed her.
When she was young and crazy she liked to wait until I was almost asleep then pounce on me. Once I woke up just in time to see her lunging at my face. Anastasia was one of those cats that needed to initiate petting. Otherwise she would get mad and nip or scratch. Most everybody was afraid of her, especially when she was young.
Right before I moved to Portland my family took a trip to England and some friends were supposed to watch Annas. She got lost and they couldn't find her. After being lost for almost a month, I finally gave up hope. The next day, as I was visiting my friends for the last time, I heard a faint and sad meowing at their back door. There was my kitty girl, all dirty and scrawny and weak. But there she was, my little kitty girl.
One of my roommates in Portland encouraged her to go with him on his late night walks. Ever since then she liked to go for a walk in the evening. She would just follow behind me as I walked around the block. Later on when we adopted Pippin she taught him to go on walks, too.
As the years went by Nannas got older and Pippin took the place of the cute active cat who liked to play fetch. She stopped going for walks. She slept a lot and liked a lot of lap time. Annas never liked other cats but Pippin was persistent. Finally, after four or five years, I would find them sleeping together in the same chair, and sometimes even cuddling. That made me happy.
Anastasia started steadily losing weight last fall, and in January reached a dangerously low weight. She was weak and lethargic, dehydrated and uninterested in eating. She didn't even look like herself. She looked like this unknown sick cat. Right before I left for Mexico the vet drew some blood and said she was in the early stages of kidney disease. We got her stabilized before I left and she did well.
In the last three weeks or so she was starting to look really good. She stopped looking like a sick cat and looked just like her old fluffy self, even if she was skinnier. She was hungry and ate well, she had good energy and seemed to be in good spirits. It was really nice to see my old kitty girl again. I felt like instead of having months left together, we had years.
Friday night she started throwing up her food. She threw up all day Saturday and wasn't interested in eating last night. Sunday morning she woke me up at 6:30 am in the grip of a seizure. She had three more seizures by 8:00 am. We were at the vet's by 9:00 am. The vet did a blood work up, and my worst fears were realized. Around 12:30 pm, her little fluffy head fell gently to my knee, her chest stopped moving, and my heart, just like all those glasses 13 years ago, shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
The Mayans believe that the souls of the dead are carried across an ocean to their final resting place in a boat made out of the grief and tears of the bereaved. Anastasia was my baby, my kitty girl, my best friend. She would cuddle when I was sad, and be concerned for me when I took a bath. She was my constant companion. She was my love and my joy and my heart. I am building her a beautiful boat, shaped by my grief and held aloft by my tears. I wish you a safe and peaceful journey back home, Anastasia. I miss you, and I love you.