Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The story of Jenny

When I was 21, I was dating my high school sweetheart. For my birthday, she bought me a little black kitten. I was still living at home then, and knew it would be an uphill battle to keep her. I wanted to call her Alshain, after a feline character in the comic FUSION. I remember my mother saying no, no way... but as the little kitten curled her way around the kitchen table, Mom's heart softened. She balked at the name I'd chosen, and said she was a dainty thing, like Winston Churchill's mother, and said I ought to name her Jenny in accord with that. I was willing to do anything to keep the little thing, so I acquiesced. Jenny she was.

I had Jenny for thirteen and a half years. Most of them, while I was living with my parents. When I moved out on my own in 2000, I got another cat to keep Jenny company (since she was, for the first time, along most of the time while I was out at work). The new cat was Bonnie, a two-year-old who'd recently had a litter. I got her from the pet rescue section of Petsmart (which has found homes for well over a million dogs and cats across North America). Jenny never really liked Bonnie. But still, I don't regret it. As my friends P-Doug and G have told me, having two cats allows each cat to be a "cat" to another. They can't get that out of humans or dogs, which is all Jenny had till then (three humans and two different dogs in her home life...).

I got Jenny when I was still in university. She was with me through two following years of college, where I learned animation. A year and a half of unemployment. Two and a half years of poorly-paid animation shitwork. Another year and a half of unemployment. A year of self-respect-building work in a warehouse thanks to a high school buddy (Alan, I'll never ever forget you). And then my big break into the professional world. I moved out of my parents' home to my own place, just me and Jenny, till I got Bonnie a month or so later.

It was around the time I got Bonnie that just how old Jenny was getting was splashed in my face like cold, cold water. I took them both in for a check-up, and was made to realize, for the first time, that my "little girl" had almost no teeth left but her deep-rooted fangs. Who looks at a cat's teeth? I'd always fed her soft, canned cat food. It rotted her teeth out. God, that wounded me to the soul when I realized that. She was 11 or so then, I think (her birthday was January 17, 1989; I got Bonnie in June of 2000).

Jenny developed a thyroid condition that cost me about $50 a month after that. Her health seemed to eb and flow. I remember one evening, my normally slightly aloof Jenny lying at my feet as I sat the computer. Skinny. She'd lost so much weight. I think I knew in my heart she was saying good-bye. Just after that, one morning in August, 2002, I woke up at 7:13. Walked out to the bathroom. Saw her lying in the spare room (she couldn't get up on my bed anymore). I called to her. Her eyes were open. She didn't respond. I rushed her to the vet, but she was probably already gone when I picked her up. My poor little Jenny. My child. The closest thing to a daughter I'll ever have... The first unconditional love in my life, extinguished. That was August 15, 2002. Thursday.

Four or five days later, Jody's dad called me at work, and told me Jody had cancer.

That was the bitterest week of my life, till Jody actually died himself last June. My God, I stll can't believe Jody's gone... Not even two years after I lost Jenny, and heard the news about his cancer. Jesus. Jesus!

That night, I took Bonnie and deserted my home, and went to my parents' place in Hamilton. Their friend Roger was there. He had lost his wife recently. I remember him sending me out in his car for beer, to a mall I used to walk to as a boy. The following day, we were all back in Toronto, on a cruise of the harbour. It was a weird, disjointed moment of my life.

But anyway, the evening of Thursday, I slept on the couch in their rec room. I couldn't sleep in "my" room at their place, because it reminded me of Jenny from our trips there. I left their big screen TV on all night. Over and over and over and over, Ocean's Eleven played. I seemed to sleep for days. Fitfully. Every time I woke up, the end credits seemed to be playing. The song was 69 Police by David Holmes. To me, that song was always the song of Jenny, streaking Heavenward. One of the longest nights I've ever lived. It was agonizing... the constant realization that I was still living in the same day, then the same 24 hours, in which my most beloved, trusting, adoring little animal had lived, and then ceased.

And then last June, Jody died. Human, speaking, able to express his affection to me in words. Broadsiding me at work. Jesus Christ. Jesus.

It cost me about $400, as I recall, to get Jenny's ashes back, but I did. I had to. She was born in Scarborough. She died in North York, but was taken to a vet in Scarborough. I promised her she would not remain where she was born. I swore to her, as I left her body in that clinical room, that I would bring her home. And I kept that promise. She resides in a pretty little urn on my mantle, such as it is. She has been joined, since June, with a small amount of the ashes of Jody Young, who lived only twice as long as her, though he ought to have outlived her five times over. Side by side, they occupy the holiest place in my home.

I am a sad man this evening. The sweet loves of my 20s, slipped from this world and gone, and I am left with the dry, silent powder that was once them. Their souls are quiet. Not quite silent...their songs still resonate in mine. But so very, sadly softly.

Come visit me, please, beloveds, in my empty, tumbling dreams. Remind me again of the love I've known.

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