I didn't think I'd last a year here. I didn't think I'd survive a month, to be honest, and a year seemed so impossible that it wasn't even worth contemplating.
But I did it. I survived a year.
More than a year, technically. A year was August 1st. But now is when it really feels like it's been a year.
Maybe it's because I'm so deeply entrenched in school work and all attendant school things. Maybe it's because I cannot help but contrast where I was last year with where I am this year. So many things are different. That so much could change in one year seems almost unreal, and I keep waiting for the bubble to pop, the dream to end, for someone to catch me out, and tell me that it's really not real, it's just a simulacrum, and what's really real is that androids do dream of electric sheep.
It's a juggling act, this whole school thing. I keep waiting for the balls to drop, because it seems like they must. It isn't possible to keep doing this. But then someone throws in another ball, and instead of it causing panic and fear, it's just exhilarating, and I keep juggling, the new ball seamlessly going round and round and round with the others, all flashing colors and infinity trapped and balanced in my hands.
I'm doing too much right now, and I know it. But I don't care. I love it.
So last night I was walking home from the bus stop. It was late, about 9:00. I was on the phone with my mother, and we were talking about stuff. Life. My sister's soon-to-be-over pregnancy, at the end of which I'll get another nephew. My dad's birding trip. My brother coming out to visit me in December. All my little projects and daily triumphs and failures. Y'know. Life.
I turn from one street onto another, and pause. There's a stranger standing on the opposite corner. It's an odd corner on which to stand. It's more a curve than a corner. Why stand there? Then I shake myself, and realize that it's a stupid question. Why not stand there?
I walk past the stranger, who is just a darker shadow among the tree shadows. Can't see the stranger's face - he's wearing a black hoodie - but I see sparkling flashes where his eyes must be. He doesn't move as I do. Doesn't turn to face me. I may as well not exist.
I'm past him now, down the street, still talking to my mother, not thinking much about him. He was just an odd figure standing on the street corner. No reason to think more about him. Just someone waiting for someone, something.
Later in the evening I'm watching my two cats play. Well, mostly, I'm watching my five-month-old kitten rending a roll of paper towels which he had managed to wrestle into submission, and then occasionally stop rending, dart over to my three-year-old non-kitten, attack her, and dart back to the paper towels. Eventful.
And it occurred to me, as I watched Julius with the paper towels, why I feel now like it's been a year. And it's none of the good things I had thought. None of the positive changes I'd made in my life. None of the good things that have happened to me.
No, not marbles. Those were lost a long time ago.
Nard. Or, more accurately, Nardley Boo Rugh. My cat. My Doodle-Noodle. My Noodles. My Doo. My Nard.
It still hurts so much that I can't talk about it, or even think about it, without crying. I had Nard for 10 years. My fluffy Nardabeast. And last year, October 16th, he ran out the door in a strange bid for freedom, and I haven't seen him since.
I called a pet detective. Twice. Yes, they exist. No, not Ace Ventura. I bought a wildlife camera and monitored the areas the pet detective had determined might contain him. I went out twice a day, every day, for four months, with food and my computer to check the data. I set traps. On November 4th, I got a picture of him running in front of the camera, but that was it. The last proof I had that Nard was still alive.
And I remember, the night he went away, a man standing on the corner in a black sweatshirt. Just standing.
It must be the devil, because when your heart breaks, and refuses to heal, because part of it is cold, shivering, wet, scared, hungry, and longing for home - who else would be standing on the corner, waiting for you? Waiting to remind you of the part that you lost, and the night you sat there, with the door wide open, the cold air blowing through the apartment, sobbing, because you knew, somehow, that he wasn't coming home. Who else would remind you of all those prayers you made, all those times you asked God to send him home, safe and unharmed, and how they went unanswered night after night? Who else would remind you of the day you strove to forget? Who else would remind you of the worst thing of all, hope, the hope, the long-buried hope, the desperate hope that he might come home, that one day there he'd be, sitting on the mat, waiting to be let in.
I thought I'd stopped hoping. I thought I had convinced myself that I wouldn't see him again. But I was tempted, tonight, to sit there with the door open, just in case. Just in case it wasn't the devil. Just in case it was something else, someone else, and he'd come home tonight, just walk in the door, tail held high, and leap into my lap and start purring and demanding food and love, in that order.
But I didn't. Because I knew he wouldn't.
Only the devil makes you hope for things that never come. So I must have met the devil last night.
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