Aurora entered the sphere when I was firmly lodged in a completely different world.
My then-husband and I were living up in the Bay Area and I was working as a graphic designer. Good LORD. That was a long time ago.
We had lucked into a beautiful cabin the woods whose day job was being the guesthouse of a much larger house that held three Chinese kids and their mom, who, in exchange for us tutoring her children, gave us really great rent and amazing home-cooked meals.
I mean, after we worked with these three kids (who were hilarious and brilliant) she would ask us to stay to dinner, and since we’d already been lifting our noses in the air and sneaking glances at her tossing green beans into a wok, she rarely got to finish her question.
YES. YES YES YES we will stay to dinner.
We’d had Olivia for about a year, I think, and felt badly that she was the lone feline. So we acquired a tiny black-and-white ball of fur to be her friend and companion. Like, friends. Like, nice to each other.
In the nearly 14 years that Aurora and Olivia lived together, not once – not even for a blink – did they get along. Let me restate that: Olivia never liked Aurora. I’m fairly sure that Aurora would have been game for curling up together, mutual grooming, gossip and advice over a good kill, but Olivia just never got used to the idea that she was no longer an only cat.
Right now, Olivia is sitting behind me, sulking. It’s one of her favorite moods.
With C gone, I’ve been making frequent trips to NYC. A couple trips ago, I said to my friend M that I just had this feeling that Aurora was going to die while I was gone.
See, for the past year or so, Aurora had been slowly disappearing. The last time I took her to the vet, she had dwindled to a mere seven pounds. But she didn’t seem to be suffering, and she certainly never complained. She just got lighter and lighter and every time I picked her up my heart would pause a moment.
We had been administering some medication for one of her eyes that had clouded and refused to clear. She always sat patiently while I squeezed the drops into her eye, and tried not to crush her little self.
And as she became smaller, she also became more affectionate. She’d always been a walk-her-wild-lone kind of kitty…friendly to all but not a lap-sitter. She adopted a favorite spot at the end of a chaise and sat in the sun for hours, soaking.
With the advent of Arlo, Aurora was dignified, but made it clear that a puppy was not particularly in her best interest. She tolerated him, but stated in no uncertain hissing terms that goofiness was not to occur near her.
In the few days before I left for New York, I noticed that Arlo would approach Aurora carefully, sniff her, and then lie down next to her. And surprisingly, Aurora wouldn’t so much as raise a paw.
It was then, I think, that I began to understand. And that’s when I told M that I thought Aurora might be waiting for me to go. How animals do that, you know. Wait for you to go. M listened in the way that a dear friend does, and I left for my trip 3,000 miles east.
I’ve never had much of a peace with death. I find its inexorableness infuriating. In my rational brain I can solve the equation of dust to dust and all that, but in the flesh and pulse of the real world, I grind my teeth and gnash and snarl.
Fuck you, thing that doesn’t ever ask permission.
When I came home a couple days later, I opened the front door and stood in the hall, holding my breath. I had fought the dread all the way from the parking lot, and was in a kind of floating hyper-awareness. The loft was very quiet. Arlo had been staying with M, so he set to sniffing around and settling in.
I walked to where Aurora usually rested, and she wasn’t there. I remember feeling sort of wooden as I turned around.
And there she was, lying on her side, looking asleep, but very much not.
Even though Aurora may never have thought of it this way, it felt that this last kindness, this waiting for me to go, was her way of claiming death. Animals seem to have great relief in leaving this world without a sense of regret, and I think what moved me most in that moment was the knowledge that I couldn’t thank her.
But I tried, anyway, and once again was faced with the frustration of realizing that the beauty of some things is that they will always feel unfulfilled.
Aurora made me laugh, a lot. She was talkative, had a dry sense of humor, and pink pads on her paws. She was game for anything, adapted quickly, and always answered questions.
I’d like to thank her for being a great cat. But I’ll always be a little mad at her for disappearing.
Aurora the Cat