Solstice

This post is my first from the treehouse where I’ve been living for almost two months. I’m not sure what to say, which is often the case with these things, but I felt moved to write and I follow these impulses. Something always comes of them.

I don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s bright and beautiful and full of people I love who love me . . . and I feel glum and stifled, like all I’m doing is holding on. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I have many moments of joy and beauty and all that. I’ve come a long way from living in utter despair. I love living in a treehouse. I love my family — though we are cut from very different cloths — and the beautiful trees and skies and knowing I’ll probably bump into somebody I know or somebody else friendly and interesting whenever I wander town. I love going to movies alone in a cool theater with kombucha and a small popcorn that has all the stuff on it. Just . . . the overall feeling is one of waiting, of slogging through. I’m in the meantime. It’s a kind of purgatory.

In slightly more than two months, I’ll begin a two-day journey back to Ireland, where I will attend school for a year and perhaps settle in for the long haul. I’m sort of excited, but it’s hard to be exuberant about a place that hardly seemed real when I was there, much less a year, a string of temporary abodes, and many thousands of miles later. It’s hard to see through all the fog. Will it be as good, going back?

(. . . Will it be even better?, she dared to whisper. . . .)

I’m curious about what academia will be like again — how I will prowl among that stripe of thinkers, dreamers, and passionate wordsmiths at this stage in my life and in such a land. . . . I think it will be better than the first time. Much better.

By the time I complete my studies — do you graduate again, with a graduate degree? — I ought to be ready to look for a regular job again, or some semblance thereof. I bet I could work full time at a desk again if I had to, especially in a place as magical as that, and chip away at my debts. Or maybe I’ll hole up in the wildest spot I can find there. With a cat. I could totally see myself as some small Irish town’s token crazy-American writer. Surely a town has lost theirs, or never had one and feels lacking. I have qualifications: I was a small Irish town’s pet Yank for six weeks last year. Those blissful weeks.

Speaking of cats, I went through a whole relationship yesterday: glances culminating in soft feelings, the tentative touches, the “this will never work” stage, followed by falling head over heels, the “surely this can work somehow” stage, and ultimately letting go with a broken heart. It was a kitten. I could have named it Solstice, I realized, being as how that’s the day this all happened, but I didn’t think of the name until today, so it got A354181. I probably still could suggest Solstice. Those people were nice. Maybe they’ll come to Solstice on their own, by the time A354181 is ready for adoption.

Anyway, this kitten had been among my grandma’s feral cats. It was by far the smallest, with eyes so goopy they sometimes stuck shut. Unlike with the other cats, you could sometimes pick it up and pet it. Skinny little thing. Wanted to play with the other kittens but always ended up on the edges of things, shouldered out, looking in. Often huddled face bent in the grass or on the patio, all alone when the others left. My cousin almost accidentally whacked it in the tall grass with a weedeater. It was probably one among a batch of tiny babies that barely escaped my uncle’s lawnmower not long after they were born.

Yesterday, after the weedeater near-miss, the kitten lay alone in the middle of the path to the back garden. It didn’t even seem interested in a piece of ham.

That was it: I called the animal shelter. Yes, they’d take a sickly stray.

I made a little nest in my second-favorite blanket for the baby and set it in the passenger seat. Off we went.

Within the first mile, the bugger of course crawled out of the blanket — luckily toward me, onto the emergency-brake lever. Grateful for an automatic transmission, I had a free hand with which to pick up the ball of . . . skin and bones. What was I to do? I plopped it onto my lap: where it stayed, calm except when we passed a lawnmower or when I fiddled with the controls. I stroked the baby almost constantly, reassuringly. It looked up at me with goopy hopeful-trustful eyes, as if to memorize the face of a kindness it had never known, and my heart melted right out of my chest, all over the kitten, and onto the floor.

I kept driving, though. The little thing clearly needed care I didn’t know how to give, so I couldn’t take it back to the treehouse just yet. Maybe the animal shelter would give me the lowdown on how to care for it.

When I got to the counter, I helpfully offered the intake girl my services in fostering the cat for up to two months . . . ?

No need, she said kindly. It would be fine.

But if it wasn’t adopted . . . ?

It would be adopted.

Oh. Okay.

I arranged my second-favorite blanket in a provided pet carrier and coaxed the little darling into it.

The girl took my number, and someone whisked the carrier away.

Goodbye, little Solstice. You will have a good life now.

I went back out into the parking lot. Hot day. Someone had written “Sadness” in the dust on the back window of the car next to mine. Right.

There was nothing for it but to drive away.

I ended up at the theater and saw The Book of Henry. It’s about a broken little hopeless creature who needs a new chance at life. I cried.