This isn't the best picture of my darling Curly Girl, but I just can't face wading through dozens of pictures of her to find a better one right now. I took this the other day because she looked so cute all tucked into the pillows on my bed.
I had a really bad day today. I don't know which of my smart friends here made up this word, but craptastic comes to mind. I thought it was going to be a good day. It started out so well and I was in such a happy mood. I had gotten a lot done over the last couple of days and decided I would spend some time this afternoon watching one of the many awards screener DVDs I'd received. Last night Scott and I watched Scorsese's The Departed -- they sent it out to SAG members -- and today I was looking forward to watching The Painted Veil with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton.
I was in my room on my bed curled up with my little black cat Curly Girl. I put my arm around her, gave her a squeeze, kissed her, and said a silent prayer thanking God for her good health and for keeping her alive for so long. Two years ago she stopped eating and got really thin. We ran every test but we never determined what the problem was. We did everything we could for her and she was frail and sickly for so long, then suddenly she rebounded, got fat and happy and it's been so long now that it's as if none of this ever happened, as if she's been a normal healthy cat all along.
This whole batch of kitties have been sick off and on for most of their lives. I think the woman we rescued their parents from had bred too many cats who were related to each other and this may be why they have always been so sickly. Anyway Curly Girl almost died at least twice in the last two years and every time we thought we were going to lose her we were somehow able to save her. We gave her fluids and medications, vitamins and appetite stimulants. I brought fresh turkey home from the market to entice her to eat and added it to her regular meals for months and months. Then slowly she regained her health and fattened up.
I think I even asked you to pray for her. I remember being at Burning Man two years ago worrying every night about how she was because there's no way to call home when you're out there, and the whole time I was there I kept praying that she would still be alive when Burning Man ended. I was so happy when we left and I was able to call home and Esther told me that she was fine. Then she got an abscess from one of the IV lines we used to give her fluids and she needed surgery and months of careful treatment to heal a wound that looked like it would never heal.
Lately she's been so well but I always remember to thank God for her health. I'm always grateful for the extra time we've had to spend with her. And she sleeps with me every night. Well, a lot of the cats do, but Curly and Nicky burrow under the covers and sleep cuddled up right next to me.
So we were about to watch this move when she suddenly got up and started to meow. It was a weird deep guttural sounding cry that instantly alarmed me. I thought that maybe she was going to throw up because sometimes they'll do this, make strange sounds before they puke. but she kept making this deep sound and was acting really weird. My first instinct was that she was having a stroke. I ran to my closet and changed. Then I came back to my room and saw that she was really doing poorly. She was laying on her side and gasping for air. All of this happened in a matter of minutes. I grabbed my purse, slung it over my shoulder, then picked up Curly and started running. I called out to Esther and asked her to get her carrier. Then we got in the car and rushed to the vet. I held her the whole way and like I did with Jake before he died I would try to breath for her, but it didn't do any good.
By the time we got to the hospital she was gasping for breath, her eyes were wide and staring, she was mostly unconscious, and looked like she was about to die. I quickly pulled into a space, tossed Esther my keys, asked her to close up the car, and ran to the vet. As soon as he saw me he stopped what he was doing and we all rushed into the operating room. They put her on the table on a heating pad and put an oxygen cone over her face to help her breathe. Dr. D. gave her a shot of cortisone just in case that might help but it was clear she was going. She wasn't responding to anything and her eyes started to kind of jerk back and forth. It was horrible.
The doctor and the vet tech said it looked like severe brain trauma but I assured them that nothing had happened; she was doing fine and we were simply laying in bed cuddling when this suddenly came on. They wanted to know if she'd had a fall or if something heavy like a brick had fallen on her that I hadn't noticed. A brick, in my bedroom, without my noticing it?
I had to try to figure out what to do. This is a super small discount vet hospital with a terrific vet who I really like but they have limited resources and I'm usually pretty broke at the end of every month. They needed their operating room for a surgery and I would have to take Curly somewhere else. I had barely scraped the money together for Harry's eye surgery and there was no way I was going to be able to beg borrow or steal the thousands it would take to keep a cat going for the days it might take for her to recover in one of the super expensive animal emergency hospitals around here. I was just hoping I could keep her alive until nightfall when my friend Gary's hospital would open and I could transfer her there for the night and work out some kind of payment arrangements. I sat there on this little stool next to the operating table, holding the oxygen over her mouth and nose, stroking her fur and trying to comfort her by talking to her, tears streaming down my face, and then she stopped breathing. So I picked her up and cradled her against my chest until she was completely gone.
Afterwards I asked them if I could use their phone to call the cat mortuary and made arrangements for her cremation. Then I went back out into the main room and sat stunned in the only chair they have. I couldn't stop crying. No one noticed me but I was embarrassed and I didn't want to impose my grief on anyone else. I couldn't really think straight because it had all happened so fast, without any warning, this day that had begun with such promise had suddenly turned so dark and sad. I kept trying to make myself understand what had happened, kept trying to make sense of the fact that my little Curly Girl wasn't going to be at home when I got there.
A woman came in and stood in front of me blocking my view of the desk. I just wanted to deal with the bill and get the hell out of there but they're always so busy and had already forgotten about me. I was too wrung out to get up and do anything so I just sat there. The woman, an angry, entitled, brunette, who looked like she was in her sixties, was sharply asking questions about a flea prevention medication. She was miffed that the hospital didn't carry the medication she prefers. The poor gal behind the desk is quiet spoken and shy, she was trying to explain why they carry the other brand, but Ms. Friendly wasn't having this. So even though I was dazed with sadness I said, "Excuse me, I've used that medication several times and it really works. It's better than the other one and it's FDA approved. That's why they only sell this one." The woman had turned when I began to speak and deigned to look down her nose at me until I'd finished and then without acknowledging me in any way turned back to the girl behind the desk and barked orders at her. The only other thing I noticed about her was that her clothes looked expensive, super trendy, but casual.
I went back to my haze of grief and forgot all about her, until I spoke with the vet and then was finally free to leave. In the parking lot I noticed that there was some kind of drama going on between this bitchy demanding woman and Judy who owns the pet store adjacent to the hospital. Judy is a sweetheart so I knew she couldn't have done anything to upset her. It had to be this mean woman who was yelling. Then as I got closer I could see that she was gesturing towards my car. My passenger door was open and Esther (my housekeeper/assistant/pal), was sitting there looking upset and confused. I heard Judy say, "I'm sure they're in the vet hospital." Then Mean Bitchy Woman said, "This is unacceptable and outrageous, how can you let someone get away with this?" I walked up to her and said, "What's the problem?" She spat, "This LLLLEXUSSSS, (She seemed to hold particular hostility towards my type of car, the way it rolled off her tongue, with such distaste), is taking up to whole spaces. The nerve of people. Taking up two spaces without any consideration for anyone else." I looked at Esther whose mouth was hanging open, then back at Judy who looked stricken, and then slowly back at this woman. I said, "I'm sorry. My cat was dying. I had to rush her into the hospital and didn't have time to re-park my car. There aren't any other cars here, you have plenty of room, and I'm only a little over the line." With that she narrowed her eyes at me and shouted, "A little?!? "
I was still so foggy and overcome that it was hard to focus. Everything felt a little like it does in a dream, hazy and unreal. I thought that certainly all any normal person would have to do would be to take one look at my puffy tear stained face to know that I hadn't done this on purpose. Any normal person, but she kept going, kept berating me for my terrible misdeed, when there weren't any other cars there. That was the truly bizarre part about it, there were spaces all around us and her car was safely parked in a space with plenty of room on either side of it. My car wasn't even affecting hers, she just didn't like what I had done, and she wanted something done about this NOW! She kept yelling and yelling and yelling at me and then something inside me snapped. I stopped trying to apologize and explain. I looked right at her and screamed, "MY CAT JUST DIED!!!"
I must have thought that this anguished yelp of pain would reach her somehow, but I'd really lost it. It was just too much to lose my friend in this awful and sudden way, to watch her struggle to breathe with her tongue hanging out, and then to hold her limp in my arms while her body reflexively twitched and seized, some primitive part of her brain still sending signals to her body to breathe. And now this, this terrible, unforgiving, demanding, nasty woman, shouting at my friend and then me, all because I'd parked my car over the line in an emergency. I'm telling you I Fucking hate LA. So, I lost it. I completely lost it. She didn't care if my cat died. She didn't want to accept my apologies. She simply didn't care. I had somehow interfered with her life, messed up her perfect orderly world with my tears and my dead cat and my car and she was having no part of it. I remember making one last attempt to reach her, something about having compassion for other people and hadn't she ever been in a situation where she had made a mistake and couldn't she just let this go...and then she called me an inconsiderate bitch and started to walk to her car.
She left me standing there and all I wanted to do was hit her, I was that close. I wanted to follow her to her car and hit her. Like I said, I lost it, but losing it for me doesn't usually involve hitting people. No more rolling over, no more sweet docile peace making behavior, no more concerns about karma and kindness, I just snapped and started swearing. I said, "I'm a bitch? I'M a bitch?? You're the bitch. You're a FUCKING BITCH!" Then she said, "Shut the Fuck up," and "Fuck you," and I said, "No, you shut up," and we started screaming at each other back and forth in this parking lot, making a huge scene, two screeching adult women, until she fled for the safety of her car, slamming shut her door with a flourish and flipping me the bird. I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it. So I got in my car and I left, and this crazy woman followed me, for several blocks, but by then I was able to calm down, but remembering Curly had started to cry again. See what I mean, an utterly craptastic day.
I took Esther home and then went over to my friend Atra's house looking for comfort and a cup of tea.
I called the pet store to apologize to Judy and to explain that I would never have done that if I hadn't been unhinged. Then I called the vet hospital and told them the same thing. The girl on the phone said, "Oh, she's one of our celebrity clients." I said, "Celebrity? Who is she?" My mean monster is this actress. I'm not going to write her name here in order to keep this from popping up in any future Google searches, but the really sad thing about this is that I was once a fan and I didn't even recognize her. She played the sweet character based on Jacqueline Susaan in Valley of the Dolls. Does anyone remember this campy cult classic? She had the most gorgeous face and she was so good that this wildly schlocky film that had made even Patty Duke look bad left her totally unscathed. Critics tore the movie apart but they liked her because she was the good girl, the one with a heart of gold who everyone else abused. I liked her because she was solid and sexy, she had depth and presence, a kind of poise. She was shiny in some way and I was drawn to her. How did she go from being this cool actress who I had liked to this mean person persecuting me in a dirty parking lot?
The only thing that makes sense to me is that I must have needed something to take my mind off my sadness and she needed someone to stand up to her, to wake her up to the fact that the world does not revolve around her and that some people won't be mistreated and ordered around. I mean she had to have been affected in some way by my having stood up to her. Or maybe not. Water off the back of a mean duck.
You know two days ago I was in a parking lot where there weren't any spaces. We were in a hurry, like everyone in this damned city always is, and an elderly woman had done the same thing, parked her car in such a way that she was taking up two spaces. Although I still say there was plenty of room on either side of mine, but never mind that. So I saw this woman and I had this instinctive frustrated reactive moment but I stopped myself and thought about how whenever I judge ANYONE it always rebounds back on me, ALWAYS, so I waited patiently for another space to open up and one did, right next to this elderly lady who was still sitting in her car. When I pulled in to the space she rolled down her window and sweetly said, "I'm sorry. Have I parked badly?" She just melted my heart, so I got out, went over to her passenger window and said, "It's okay honey, we all do this, do you want me to help you re-park your car?" And then I did, and I felt so good about it. I felt good about having turned what could have been a negative moment into something positive, for just a few minutes I made a friend of a stranger and I helped someone.
Now I'm going to watch my movie and try not to think about the fact that Curly isn't here.