She wasn’t a person. When I carried her home from the Humane Society, with her little nose running from a cold she had been fighting, only 10 weeks old and burrowed under my chin, I joked with my friend that a cat was all I could handle. I wasn’t cut out to parent anything other than a cat, and as I talked about how she was the easier choice for my selfish life, she slept on my shoulder, dripping cat boogers onto me, not understanding my language.

She wasn’t a person when she would pad up to me while I was impossibly sad, her huge green eyes searching my face and mine seeing hers, full of thoughts neither of us would ever know.  She would bump her cheek against mine, and let her soft black and white cheek rest against my wet one, never asking or guessing why I was leaking all over her fur that she worked so hard to maintain.

She wasn’t a person, and I know. A person would have protested against their best friend bringing in an obnoxious piece of chaos to the family. They would have thrown up their hands and been like “fuck this piece of shit puppy, why won’t it leave me alone.” They would have walked away, or had a reasonable conversation with me about it. She sat stoically the first time Jones went up to her and poked his nose into her face. They started to play cautiously, and before long they were sitting on the back of the couch together while I was on the porch, keeping an eye on me to make sure I didn’t bring any more new elements into their lives.

Then, because she was not a person, she expressed her displeasure about the new puppy biting her tail by squatting on the bed and peeing on the white duvet as I stared in disbelief. As though she knew it wasn’t his fault – he was just a stupid dog. It was fucking brilliant revenge. I admired her. She knew it. After a couple weeks of that, I had to throw out the duvet. She stuck her cheek next to mine and purred. I kept the bedroom door closed. I would have talked to a person about it. As it was, I had to accept what she was at face value, and keep going. As someone who likes to talk about their feelings a lot to move forward, it was excellent practice at independent problem solving.

She wasn’t a person, because she was wild. She would slip out the back door of the new apartment, drawn out by the smells and the sounds and primal pull. For hours she would sneak into worlds I’ll never know, and when I called her name, would bound back to me and into my arms, her fur woven with sticks and dirt that would miraculously disappear and show up in the dog’s mouth.

A person would have sought couple’s counseling for us. They would have explained they needed personal space, and me constantly picking them up and cradling them and burying my head into their stomach was not helping them flourish. That my endless need for affection was suffocating. They would not have stretched out patiently, gotten bored of it, walked away, and come back moments later because I had my hand outstretched and calling, “Stevie, Stevie, come back.”

No person I know could have coped with me while it was just the two of us in 450 square feet, dishes piling up, my life in constant transition. Me coming home late, or leaving for a whole day. Sometimes not leaving the house or doing any work – sitting and staring and then cleaning obsessively and then watching Netflix until 3 AM. They would have left, and rightfully so. They would not have greeted me at the door, pushing against my legs, staking a claim on my lap for hours to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere.

When I decided to get her, two beers in at the Mt. Si Tavern one weekday afternoon, I wondered how I would choose from all the little faces looking out at me from their cages. When I had to choose between the beautiful and standoffish gray kittens, and her, all sniffling and snuggly, I saw her with me for a very long time. She looked back at me and knew only the moment in front of her, and slept under my chin as the mountain that took me to her receded from view.

She was not a person. If she was, whoever hit her late on Friday night after she had snuck out would have stopped. There would have been an investigation, court dates, retribution. There would have been a funeral, endless casseroles, a will. I would have been able to take a week in the mountains, screaming and crying and being numb. She would not have been in double wrapped in a plastic bag and a paper bag from QFC as I carried her body, so much heavier than it used to be, to the vet. There would not have been just one sheet of paper to sign her life away on, no chihuahua jumping at my ankles in green fluorescent light as I chose what kind of urn I wanted her back in. 

If she was a person she could have left me something. Words. Or a keepsake. She left without words, or forethought, and she left me with only the impractical, life altering love of a creature I never understood, who never much wanted to be understood either. 

I had to wait for the vet assistant to take her from me. I sat on a hard bench, the bags holding her in my lap, and I held her up to my chest and under my chin, feeling her softness under the hard paper like a memory I was holding in my hands.

In the days that have followed, people have shown up for me with flowers and food and kindness and love. And I love them. I take their kindness and hold it inside of me, and it rests just next to a hole that can’t be filled. A blown out and smoking corner that is raw and damaged and untouchable, at least for a person.