Memento mori Monday.
The year was 1999. I had moved to the sub-sub-basement of a historical Queen Anne apartment building. A friend, making the long, long descent for the first time remarked: This is somehow apt. And it was: a dark subterranean apartment was simply a mirror of my personal interior. I had been without any animals in my life for several years and four since I'd had a cat. I had a very clear thought one night: If I don't get an animal, I will cease to be (and if you had a sudden flash of the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, well, stop it). So, that weekend I contacted a woman who rescued and fostered cats and she thought she had just the right one for me. It turned out to be a giant one eyed Persian who, that day, was being returned from the home where he hadn't quite worked out. He was traumatized and I met him, and he simply wasn't my cat. I made my escape and sat in my car and cried, feeling like a piece of shit for leaving him behind. I drove around for awhile, getting lost, until I finally found the Eastside animal shelter. In the back, one little room bled into another little room and then another, all full of cats, not mine, until I came to the last room and looked around the corner and down and said, There you are. And there he was: sitting Spinx-like, black and sleek. I sat down on the ground and he got up, stretched, then came and sat in my lap. I took him home.
Bif Loman was his name. The shelter named him Othello, which I changed to Sambo, but he didn't like it, nor did the black receptionist at the vet when I called to make an appointment (to which I say: read the goddamned story, for Christsake: it's the tale of a smart little Indian boy who outsmarted lions - no racism there, folks). I had him for about a week when I was watching a remake of Death of a Salesman on tv and he was asleep in my lap and I said, softly, 'Bif?' and he woke right up and looked at me. So, Bif it was. Other names he had over the years: Monkilly Man, Noodle Rancher, Not a Medical Doctor, BifLomanClature and Bifwack. I taught him to come to 'Cheese!', whereby I would reward him with said substance and after a while, I could spell it out and he would still come.
It was just him and me for 5 years and I figured out early on that he thought of me in that way. He would perch on the back of the couch and knead my shoulders and then take the back of my neck between his teeth and just hold it. He was also Kato to my Clouseau. He would attack with no provocation, the target usually being my face. It kept me on my toes. We had arguments. One time I had to get in my car and drive around to cool down until the absurdity of it finally kicked in. Like most important cats, I knew him to be much more than what he was. I finally figured out he had Single Cat Syndrome, which results in your cat treating you like another cat, so I added Dinsdale to our family, much to Bif's initial disgust, but they became pals. He would still continue to come up to my lap and knead intensely, which I would endure until he would start a little hip shake thing and then it was, ew, down you go. He slept with me every night, on my right side. He would always come nap with me and I haven't really dreamed the same since he's been gone.
The day before I was to have my final chemo session, his breath became labored and two days later, his heart was failing fast and I had him put to sleep. Chicken Vickie held me together: coming with me to the vet and later, digging a grave for him while I washed his feet and wrapped him in velvet and said my goodbyes. I had no reserves for this: I was on empty and I was devastated. I mourned and wailed for a solid fortnight.
That was exactly a year ago. I still miss him, but time truly is a salve that eases up on that killing, immediate grief that, if sustained, would finish us.
Thank you, Bif, for saving my life. I sure wish I could've saved yours.

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