So I just had one of those moments. You know the kind, people. You know what’s coming, don’t you.
Yep. One of those tragi-comic moments that is SO bad it is kind of hysterical. Now, in truth, hysteria can go either way, you know: happy or sad, laughing or crying, or all of the above.
This story, my friends, is all of the above. It is most definitely hysterical, though, and I know this because I have snot dangling from my nose right now. First it was hysterically crying dangling snot, and then it transformed, in a moment, before my very, well, nose, into the hysterically laughing variety of dangling snot.
So, I’ll set the scene.
OK, in a word: pandemic. Like of epic proportions. Like, global even. A global pandemic wreaking catastrophic, one could almost say apocalyptic, havoc across the planet. Devastating deaths, abysmal health outcomes, seismic shocks to the health care systems and economies of, you know, the whole world. Got it?
K. Moving on.
My cat, which, mind you, is not the same cat that I had when I first started writing on this ole blog almost exactly a year ago (still a grieving kitty momma over here, y’all) – well, this kitty just like her predecessor, likes to go outside although she is an indoor cat. But she has a momma who is really sweet (COUGH: PUSHOVER) and devised a whole cockamamie way to let kitty be both an indoor and an outdoor cat. (I mean, come on, someone should be getting what they want right now, amirite?).
So, picture this: a kitty harness that is pink, and the 50 foot leash that is also pink, tied around one of the big yellow support columns of my apartment building. (COUGH: TACKY AF)
You with me?
K. Picture this now: it is a rainy day here, and kitty momma has had a morning full of bad news. Not only because of, you know, the news, but also her impending job loss, and as she learned just this morning, a big ole NOPE after what she thought was a winning job interview. Turns out, a lot of colleges are clean outta cash and about to go into a death spiral. Almost like there is a lethal virus going around or something.
Anyway, kitty is meowing to go outside and sit, as one is wont to do, in her little pink harness on her little pink leash and watch the world go by.
I let her out and the quiet is blissful. And I don’t know about you, but after 41 zoom calls this week overheated my laptop this morning and I had to bow out of the afternoon’s meetings, sorry not sorry!, I took my gift of freedom, and set about to do some things on my list. Like swapping out a different color band for my Fitbit.
You know, for fun.
Are you with me? This is fun, people.
Anyway, while the Fitbit band pops right out, the other color band doesn’t fit. And I cannot seem to get the original band back on.
I am at it for 20 minutes, (COUGH: CHEKHOV’S GUN), during which time, there are some choice words coming out of my mouth. I mean, I need this Fitbit! It provides critical data! You know, like: how bad my sleep is lately, how many steps I have taken while pacing my lonely apartment, how many minutes I got my heart rate up while seizure-dancing my anxiety out after things like Department Virtual Trivia Night. It even shows how my heart rate settles when I do soothing things like letting my cat ride around the apartment on my–
Wait, my cat! It has been awfully quiet out there, now that I think of it.
Just then, I hear rustling and squeaking and the pattering of paws racing about. (RUT ROH).
I drop Fitbit and band on the bed and peak out the door. Oh No. Nope. God damnit! I race outside, barefoot, to find kitty proudly striding toward me with a chipmunk in her mouth.
I run over to her, banging my big toe on the way, screaming, “DROP IT! DROP IT!!” I go in for her jaws, trying to pry them open, but MY GOD, my cat is stronger than I am! (COUGH: LOSER!)
The poor little chipmunk is in her fierce grip. His little heart is beating near out of his chest. His little eyes are blinking. His little pink belly all exposed.
DROP HIM, CHLOE!!! DROP HIM!!!
Finally, I manage to unclench her jaws and the chipmunk drops to the ground. I am holding kitty, and kitty and I both look down at him. I with horror, she with a more LEMME-AT-‘IM vibe.
He is lying there in the dirt and is clearly in shock. He is not moving, except for his little black eyes and his little racing heart.
I am standing there on the patio and am clearly in shock. I am not moving, except for the squirming little kitty in the little pink harness under my arm.
Oh my god, Mr. Chipmunk. I am so sorry. I am so so sorry.
My mind races, my cat squirms, a growing existential dread rising up in my chest.
I look at the chipmunk. Should I have let kitty “finish the job”?
My damn bleeding heart. I had picked kitty up before I could think, because, well, the bleeding heart mandate is, of course: first, do no harm. Had I let her “finish the job” it would at least have been my heart that would have been bleeding, and not Mr. Chippie’s. Better yet, I could have not put her out there in the first place, unsupervised, and Mr. Chippie could have had a dandy little day.
What kind of liberal am I?
I realize I am still holding kitty and so, in point of fact, am only working to further terrorize Mr. Chippie, who has this menacing monster dangling over his poor little dying face.
Right. Sorry, Mr. Chippie!
I realize, I have said this out loud. (Note to self: try not to talk to yourself when neighbors can hear you.)
I whisk kitty inside and drop her, probably somewhat rudely, on the floor (I know, she was only doing her job, and as of right now, she’s the only one in this family that has a job, so….)
Pulling back the curtain, I look woefully outside. I cannot stand it anymore and go back out to survey the damage.
Leaning over the railing I see Mr. Chippie has left the scene. Oh no. This has happened before. They recover from their quaking shock just enough to flee, only to show up later, dead, ten yards away.
“Mr. Chippie, I am so sorry, I am so so sorry,” I say this out loud again, with great feeling this time, neighbors be damned. (Yeah, I know. Quarantining alone for 8 weeks and losing your job and seeing friends get sick and watching the industry in which you have spent your entire career in slow-motion systemic collapse can make a person talk to themselves sometimes. I am just, you know, adjusting.) (COUGH: CRAZY)
But damn. True compassion would have been to put the poor little guy out of his misery, his shockingly innocent misery, his through-no-fault-of-his-own-but-very-sudden-existential-decline sort of misery. It’s just, I know myself. I could never do that. I mean, I am not a monster — OHMYGOD, I AM A MONSTER. That is actually EXACTLY what I am.
I make it back inside and shut the door just in time to crumple to the floor out of sight. I let myself cry for a minute, a long drip of snot hangs from my nose.
I am a monster now. That’s all there is to it.
But damnitall, I am not gonna be a monster who lets herself just sit here all boo-hoo slumped over on the floor and calling it a day. Nope. I am going to be, at the very least, a productive monster.
I drag myself up to the bed, push aside my still-burning laptop, and set to work again on the Fitbit band.
You know, for fun.
But the god-damned mother-f*cking band Just.Won’t.Go.In —
That is when I break a nail. A thumb nail. You know what I’m talking about, I know you do. That thing where the nail has broken so sharply and so far down that you just know you’re going to have a sore thumb for days once you clip the whole thing off.
I look down at my dangling nail, and for a while I cannot move.
I wipe at my nose with the hand of my soon-to-be sore thumb (DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE!), and that’s when the nail catches. On my pandemic face mask, of course, which I had forgotten was still dutifully affixed with rubber bands but sort of hanging down around my neck. (I know, not my nose and mouth. WE CAN’T ALL BE WINNERS.)
This is not going to defeat me. Oh no. Nope. Not today. IT’S JUST A BROKEN NAIL. What, are you going to CRY over a BROKEN NAIL? (COUGH: YUP.)
Nope. Not today.
I look down at my still-excited, pacing kitty, and for a minute, I do not notice it.
What is that anyway?
There is something dangling from my cat’s butt.
Not today, people.
It is a dangling poo.
Yep. You guessed it: This is the moment.
This is the moment when the dangling nail, the dangling unemployment, the dangling poo, the dangling death of a chipmunk, the dangling lives and livelihoods of us all, it just becomes Too.Much.
I take a beat and then, reluctantly, grab a Lysol wipe – it is probably quite literally worth more than my Fitbit – and start chasing my kitty around the apartment trying to nab the dangling poo.
And here we arrive at another moment. It starts out small, my friends. But soon the laughter is rising from deep within my chest. I am giggling so much a snort escapes. Oops! That surprises me, and makes me laugh even more.
Now I cannot seem to stop.
I am, at this point – one could say confidently, clinically even – hysterical. (COUGH: CRAZY)
Mr. Chippie, if you can hear me now and this is among your last moments on earth, I tell you this, and I tell you this out loud: Thank you. Thank you for your heroic sacrifice. You will not have died in vain. It is a cruel world, and I am but a monster among monsters in it. And yet, you have provided us all, in the end, a good story.
A story that is – one could even say – hysterical.
So there you have it.
Now I must take leave of you all to go clip my nail, toss the poo, and maybe get this little COUGH checked out.