To be the place where you found warmth

Kim, I saw that cat again today, the scraggly wee black and white one you used to put food out for. I hadn’t seen it in ages then I was sitting on the step earlier having a smoke and there it was. It came right over to me and started winding round my ankles and purring like it wanted something. I didn’t have anything to give it except half a biscuit I’d stuck in my pocket before I came outside cause I couldn’t finish it, so I broke it up a bit and set it on the ground. And you know what? The cat ate the fucking biscuit. I didn’t even know cats ate biscuits. Maybe they don’t, in general, but this one did. It wasn’t a chocolate biscuit though, cause I remember you said cats could die if they ate chocolate.

It hadn’t been a bad day up until that point. I’d slept in a bit and had a joint when I woke up so I could eat breakfast—that was the other half of the biscuit—but I was feeling alright. When I saw that cat though, it broke me a wee bit. I’d gone a whole five minutes without thinking about you, then I remembered the first time you seen the cat sitting on our windowsill and you started tapping the window and waving at it, like a cat would know what waving meant. Like it was going to wave back or something. It must have seemed interested though, cause you went out to pet it and it let you pick it up. I know I rolled my eyes at you through the window, but it was the most beautiful thing ever. Not the cat, but seeing you all happy like that.

I think, back then, it wasn’t too unusual for you to be happy, but as time went on and things got worse, I held on so tightly to that memory. It’s like I had this catalogue of your smiles stored away in my head. I still do. Sometimes when I want to torture myself, I look through them all and remember how you’d light up from the inside when you smiled and how the light made everything else look like a mess of grey nothing compared to you. I remember you’d get all embarrassed at how I looked at you then, cause you knew I was saving all the details in my head. You used to tell me I should put my memory to better use, that I was really smart and I could do something more than working in the coffee shop and doing jobs with Hugh. Other people said stuff like that and it pissed me off, but it was OK when you said it cause you didn’t mean it the same way as they did.

You were the smart one though, getting all your exams and going to university. You said everyone always told you that you would, like it was just what was going to happen, no question. I used to think about how you’d be a doctor one day like your parents and I’d still be washing dishes and making cappuccinos and going out in the van with Hugh driving stolen shit around. You would have been an amazing doctor. You were the kindest person I’d ever met. Everything about you was pure sweetness but when the shit hit the fan you were totally calm and in control. I think that’s what made it so hard to see you losing it the way you did near the end, to know you were falling and all I could do was hope I caught you before you hit the ground. I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling like I didn’t do enough or didn’t do the right thing, like if I could have found the perfect thing to say you might not have felt so hopeless and it would have all been alright and you’d still be here. It seems cruel that you were the one who was so good at saving other people and you got stuck with me who couldn’t save you.

After the cat finished the biscuit, I picked it up and sat there for a while, just holding it. I know it wasn’t your cat but it’s weird that it hadn’t been around since before and then it showed up today. Or maybe it had been here and I just hadn’t noticed it. I don’t know. It squirmed around in my arms for a bit and then tried to climb inside my jacket, so I let it. There was something nice about being a source of comfort for something. It kind of made me happy and sad at the same time because it made me think of you and how your feet were always cold and how good it felt to be the place where you found warmth. Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night and expect you to be there. When I remember why you’re not, I can’t get back to sleep and it feels like there’s a pile of bricks on my chest.

I went to the corner shop this evening and bought some cat food.

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