I really wish I didn't have to say this: Charlie died last night.
No, I wasn't there when it happened. However, I feel pretty certain that he died some time around 8 p.m.
I was pedaling home from work when, all of a sudden, I burst into tears. I was crying so deeply that I could barely see in front of me, much less control my front wheel.
I spotted an ATM I sometimes use, opened the door and wheeled my bike in. I sat in a corner of the vestibule, my tears rolling from my cheeks, down my neck and onto the collar of my jacket. I don't know how long I was there and I don't think anyone came in to use the machines, in spite of its location in the middle of a commercial strip that remains busy well into the night.
When I thought I had my crying under control (a completely unrealistic assumption after my operation and years of taking hormones!), I wheeled out of the vestibule and stepped over the bike's top tube. I rode about two blocks before I saw a tortoiseshell calico in a store window. Even though she looked nothing like Charlie, the faucet was turned on once again. And my legs developed the firmness of tapioca pudding.
Fortunately, there was a subway station only another block away. When a middle-aged woman starts crying on New York City transport, some passengers will look away or pretend not to notice (or, perhaps, will actually not notice), others will give you the widest berth they can, and one or two will give her looks of sympathy. Now, if you're a middle-aged woman with a bike and a helmet dangling from the handlebar, some will react as if a giraffe got on the train, or like Agent Scully from the X-Files.
One Latina woman who looked about ten years older than me offered me tissues, which I took.
By the time I got home, Charlie was lying on his side, with his rear legs crossed as if he'd taken a tumble. He may very well have done just that: he was lying on a blanket and sheet I used to leave for him on my sofa, and they--and he--were on the floor. I'm guessing that he might have tried to climb on the couch, and when he clawed the sheet or blanket, they slipped off the cushions. I don't know whether that is what killed him, because he didn't look as if he had wounds caused by such a fall. However, as weak as he was, he may have simply not gotten back up.
Anyway...What's the point of playing detective now? He's gone, and I can't stop crying. He's been in my life for six years. Even though I had two other cats, whom I loved dearly, for much longer, I think I developed a bond with him that I have not developed with any other animal. Part of it has to do with the time of my life in which he accompanied me: He came into my home about two years after I started living as Justine, and was with me through all manner of change in my life. And, he curled up by my side, in my lap, or even on my belly when I was lying down, during those days when I was recovering from my surgery.
That he never showed me anything but affection is all the more remarkable when I consider how he came into my life. My friend Millie rescued him from the street. How such a loving--and handsome--cat ended up on the street is one of those mysteries I'd rather not ponder: If someone abandoned him, I don't want to think about the sort of person who would do such a thing.
When I think about that, I think that in my next life, I'd like to have a farm with a bunch of animals, especially cats. When animals attack each other--something Charlie never did, by the way--they are only doing what they are made or hard-wired (or whatever you want to call it) to do. They are not capriciously cruel, they don't maim or kill for fun or profit, and they don't invade other countries whose citizens never harmed them.
After being, possibly, abandoned on the streets, Charlie was always sweet-natured and never wanted anything more than to be fed, stroked, spoken to gently and cuddled. People sometimes come from far more fortunate circumstances and are pointlessly mean and avaricious. Or they simply think only about their own happiness, others be damned.
As I sit and write this, I have my shoulder bag in my lap. It just doesn't feel right.