(this is annie)

the short happy life of mikan tomlin

Anybody who met Mikan would say he had a big heart. An eternal mama's boy and a sweet purrer, Mikan didn't have a mean bone in his body. He was friendly to everyone, good-natured, amusing, empathic. He was the reason that, even (and especially) if I'd had a bad day, I could at least come home knowing that we'd have each other. I didn't mind my growing reputation as a cat lady, because I loved him purely and knew that he prefered me to all others. He came to me as a sick kitten, I nursed him to health, and he grew up to become a happy, robust cat. We were a great team.

Like I said, he had a big heart. In the end, it was that big heart—an enlarged heart, to be precise—that stopped him. Literally overnight, he went from being a healthy kitty to having raspy breathing. I took him to the veterinarian, who hours later told me that I had a "very sick kitty." An hour later, an hour outside the city at a suburban veterinary specialist, I learned that he was not only a very sick kitty, but one with incurable heart failure. I fell to the ground and wept. Faced with the choice to keep him alive on kitty life support or to let him go peacefully, I chose the latter.

We had a few last moments together, and I told him how much I loved him while he let out abbreviated, staccato purred breaths. When the doctor gave him the final injection, I gently stroked his pretty orange head while his life slipped away. He was not just a wonderful cat, he was a great cat, and I will always treasure his memory.

>> Miki-chan, noble feline and beloved best friend. 2001—2005

kitty health minutiae

I wrote a song about this, but I don't know how to record mp3s. Anyway:

The other week, I had a particularly bad day. I was upset all day long, and all I wanted to do was go home, get into bed, and snuggle with Mikan. So when that opportunity finally arose, I burrowed into the covers while Mikan hopped up onto the blanket. He was sitting kind of funny, sort of hovering. And then I thought, "Oh no! Hovering means urination!" Sure enough, he was doing the whole embarrassed-serene kitty pee face while letting loose on the blanket. I started laughing, because it was a fitting end to a lousy day.

Now, Miki never pees outside of his box. And because I am a hypochondriac, I did some internet research, thinking he might have a UTI. Long story short, I started watching him when he went into the litterbox. He'd just hover and strain, shaking his lower half and ultimately leaving the box dry. When I called the vet, they said to "bring him in immediately." As it turned out, Miki had crystals in his pee, and his urethra got plugged up, and maybe he'd have to go on a kitty catheter. The thought of wee Mikan hooked up to a catheter was too much to bear. Fortunately, he didn't need the catheter, but he also needed constant monitoring. And that is how I wound up staying home alone on Christmas Eve, looking for tiny pee spots in a litterbox. Cue the violins.

Miki stopped peeing again, which meant a trip to the kitty ER. I wish the kitty ER were like a regular ER, except the people working were all cats in O.R. scrubs. When we arrived, Mikan peed in his travel carrier, but it was too late, and he had to have more poking and prodding. I was convinced that Miki was going to need the kitty catheter. Almost six hundred dollars later, the vet said to take him home, keep an eye on him, so on and so forth. I called my parents five times, each time making my sob story more pathetic, until they finally agreed to come to Chicago for Christmas. They did, and my father spent about half the time obsessing over his (healthy) cats at home.

on the bus last night

I'm sitting in the middle seat of the back row of the #66 bus, clutching grocery bags and looking forward to unwinding at home. There's a rotund 12-year-old seated at my two o'clock, a gum-chomping teenager to my right, and a middle-aged man with thinning hair who's sitting across from the kid. The kid shifts in his seat, and a transit card falls to the floor.

"Excuse me," I say. "I think you dropped your bus card."

"No I didn't," the boy says.

"No, it's right there," I say, pointing at the card that's just fallen from his lap. "By your foot."

"I don't need it," he says. "Don't got any money on it no more."

"And you're not going to pick it up?" I ask, leading him on the way you lead on a grouchy toddler.

"Nope," he says. Then he pulls a McDonald's cookie from his coat.

"So you're just going to litter, then," I say, giving him a disapproving look. "That's a shame."

"Shut up," the kid snarls, stuffing cookie into his mouth. I give up and mentally run through the Problems With Kids Today. I also mentally grant the child a name, Jerky Fatso. Jerky Fatso starts tossing cookie pieces onto the floor.

"Hey," says Thinning-Hair, putting his book down for a moment. "Why are you doing that? Why are you making a mess of the bus?"

"Shut up," a sullen Jerky Fatso replies, throwing cookie bits down with more force.

"That's someone's job, you know, cleaning up after you," continues Thinning-Hair.

"Shut up, that they job," says Jerky Fatso, tossing the McDonald's bag down with gusto.

Suddenly, the gum-chomping teenager explodes. "What is the problem with you people? Why you gotta yell at him? He ain't doing nothing wrong!"

Well, actually, littering is not so nice, but instead of pointing that out I say, "I'm not yelling at him. But it's rude to litter. And besides, I started out trying to help him with his fallen bus pass. I wasn't trying to start anything."

"This world ain't perfect, you know," she says.

"Right, but we can change it," says Thinning-Hair as Jerky Fatso sprinkles his crushed cookie on the floor. "Shut up," he says. And that's when all hell breaks loose. The teenager starts talking about how Jerky Fatso isn't doing anything wrong at all, and she bets we've made lots of mistakes in our lives, and why don't we all just go to hell anyway? This bothers Thinning-Hair, who tries to take the high road for about five seconds before telling the chubby-cheeked brat about how he'll be lucky to get a job someday cleaning this bus, that is if he ever gets out of juvi, where he's going to be by the time he's 16. Thinning-Hair continues on for a few moments, Jerky Fatso keeps shut-upping, and the teenage girl opens her copy of Medical Assistant Training. I move to the front of the bus and talk with Polish Chris, who happens to be on the bus two days after I met him.

5. Go see Santa with Mikan. This weekend, Petsmart is having pet photos with Old St. Nick. When I learned of this, my little hamster-brain started working overtime. Could I find a kitty sweater and put Miki in it and then would he sit on the man's lap? The idea was enticing until I found out that the $10 fee includes only two Polaroids. Nobody looks good in Polaroids. For that kind of money, I expect prints and negatives.

4. Make gingerbread people and give them to friends. There was a woman who used to make gingerbread cookies for the neighborhood's children, and I always felt special when I'd see how she decorated mine. The problem is that I am a very clumsy piper, and I can't really give someone their cookie likeness unless it looks wonderful.

3. Buy no presents at all. This one is actually going fairly well. I've bought only four things. The other presents are either handmade or from goody bags. Maybe this makes me very cheap, but I argue it is silly to spend money when you can very well make someone happy without going nuts with the credit card.

2. Send holiday cards. Let's be honest. Every year, I buy cards with great intentions of sending them out. But I don't do it. The cards languish in their boxes, and the festive ice-skating dachshund on their fronts just taunts me: You are a bad friend! You are a terrible person!

1. Avoid that Macca Christmas song. You know the one. It has sleigh bells (natch) and goes, "Simply! Having! A wonderfulChristmastime!" It is my least-favorite modern-day Christmas song. Also, have you ever listened to the lyrics? "Don't cry poor children/ Sing this song"? Sorry you're not getting any presents and your ramshackle house is only 47 degrees inside, but don't cry about it. The song will fix everything! Who knew that Paul McCartney could be so blind to issues of class?

two gents, with tense shifts

When a close connection breaks, what's left over? If you then have a superficial relationship, or perhaps none at all, does your knowledge of that person lose value? Or is it just as strong, merely suspended in an inhospitable past?

The last time I saw Evan was at the Empty Bottle. He was leaning against a brick wall, and I saw him before he saw me. When I greeted him, he looked at me with absolute horror. I introduced him to Phil, and at my apartment after the show, I broke down sobbing in the bathroom. "Ibs dot dat I still lubbim," I sniffled. "I jubst miss our frehdship, you doh? We were bedst frehds and dow dere's nod-dinggggg." Poor Phil looked confused. Fast forward a few months, when I log into Friendster to see that Evan has de-friended me. I wonder what I have done wrong, so after a few weeks I call him to congratulate him on his engagement. "I'm so happy for you and Ann," I tell him, because I am. But he does not sound happy to hear from me, and when I ask what I've done, he says he does not know what I'm talking about. The conversation is awkward and sad and short, and I realize that there has been an irreparable schism.

Months after the Empty Bottle meeting, I'd wind up crying because of Phil. For a couple of weeks, my adrenaline surged whenever I saw a black-haired indie boy on a bicycle; I worried that I'd find him living it up while I was evaluating the merits of getting out of bed each day. Everywhere I went, I'd first check to make sure that he wasn't there, and when that constant process proved exhausting, I just stopped going east of Western. I spent the summer morosely skating around Smith Park, halfheartedly putting food into my mouth at new restaurants, bicycling through empty neighborhoods at night, wandering around museums by myself. I had not felt that alone and abandoned since my grandfather died.

The strange thing is that I think about these two people every day. It's involuntary. I made a heeeeelarious Matlock joke the other day and thought, "Oh, Evan would get a kick out of that." Sometimes I'll see shadows hit the ground a certain way, and I know that if Phil were there, he'd pull out his camera and shoot from a few different angles. And that's where the questions above come in, and how they remain unanswered today.



When people ask what's new, I usually say that I'm working a lot (true) and busying myself with other activities. But I don't have anything monumental to describe. No trips, no life-changing events to reveal. I'm at the age when many of my peers are planning weddings or having children, and within that context it feels inappropriate to say, "Well, Mikan has a scab on his nose right now and I'm terribly worried that he will have a scar and therefore be a less adorable kitty..."

Lately I've just wanted to read a lot. I have loved to read since I was a toddler, and as an adult I find that my interest in books only increases over time. I love the feeling of identifying with a writer, of reading a truth you already knew somewhere in your soul but didn't know how to describe. I love diving into a noir novel or learning about the history of cocaine or imagining what Baudelaire's Paris was like. Maybe it's not healthy to spend so much time escaping into words, but it makes me happy, so I do it anyway. Someday I will be a white-haired woman with creaky joints and muddy eyes, and with my books I will think that not very much has changed over time.

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    it's anniet at gmail.


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