by Andrea Hollander
published in Kosmos Journal, Autumn 2021
My friend tells me in a text that his cat has stopped eating. She’s in her last week, he writes, and while I am reading this, another text chirps in: Or last days, it says. I consider calling him. I’ve been where he is—on the precipice of such grief, the kind that people who don’t have pets dismiss. Shouldn’t we find a better word? Pets, as if all they’re for is us to stroke their warm bodies, welcome them onto our blankets where at night they settle on our cold feet or against our backs or, the lucky ones, our necks or chests. But she still gives me a purr, the next text says, though I’ve yet to answer his first. And I begin to understand he does not need to have even one word from me. He taps each letter with his thumbs or a forefinger and imagines me on the other end, as if this were a phone conversation and he can hear each breath I take. Or he imagines we are at our favorite café, sitting side by side, as we might have if there had been no pandemic, and he can feel through his own body even the way my heart speeds up as he speaks. And I would hear the way his voice breaks at each syllable. But we would not be at the café. We’d be in his apartment sitting cross-legged on the beige carpet, the bright afternoon slowing down, his cocoa-colored cat curled in his lap, wheezing, then quieting, the two of us not speaking, but petting and petting her soft, still, unresisting fur.