Gizmo pissed on the bathroom rug and for the entire event held eye contact with me.
I am now 33 years old and this story occurred when I was about 25. Eight years have gone by, but it might as well be 60. I am unrecognizable.
I am one of those people who (although I speak very openly about the past), it cannot be gathered by the way I look that I was once a very sick person. I have recovered in such a way that it’s hard to even equate who I was with who I am now.
My story is not unique in its many miracles, it’s just the one I know the best. I know plenty of others who have hit the painful bottom of the barrel, hung onto the bottom rung for dear life and can’t pretend that they didn’t somberly romanticize letting go. Danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. Choose your demon, maybe it’s alcohol, drugs, chronic paralyzing depression, a raging battle with self-image, or paranoia.
Or maybe, as it has been in my case, ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune disorder in which my nerves, bones and mind were thrashed with pain. The joints of my spine inflamed and tender, muscles splinting around the bones to keep my tender joints safe (the sentiment is appreciated, muscles, but I gotta say, you went overboard). Deep purple circles under my eyes from lack of sleep for years, underweight, shaking, sad, anxious, frustrated.
For several years every movement in my frail frame was painful. A breath, if it was too deep. A sharp turn of the car. Pulling on socks. A single step. A hug from a loving friend.
Daily tasks were difficult. Keeping up with laundry when the washer and dryer in the basement of our fourth floor walk-up apartment was a major endeavor. Placing dishes on a shelf in the cupboard above shoulder-height. Hauling up groceries. Brushing my hair. Cleaning the cat litter. These tasks, especially the ones lower on the list of necessity, often fell by the wayside. What I mean to say is the house was a mess.
There was one saving grace in my world at that time and she comes in the form of an incredible fluffy magic alien cat. Her name is Gizmo. Gizmo is half-Persian, one quarter cloud-puff, a sliver of molten silver and a dash of sugar plum fairy dust. Her home planet must be the most beautiful sparkling wonder-world in this entire universe. She is white with silver threads running through her fur and enormous, emerald green eyes surrounded by a ring of black. Gizmo has been born with perfect Kajal eyeliner, enviable by the entire human Persian population. She definitely has zero bones in her body, proven by her ability to melt before your very eyes. She is the softest, most tender, loving creature I have ever come across and ever will again.
Gizmo never left my side. If I was home she was with me, waiting eagerly for me to stop whatever I was doing so that she could get right back to her modus operandi—which is curling up with you—as soon as possible. I luck out in this story because I get to be the “you,” referred to in the last sentence.
This particular morning, which happened to be the afternoon (I stayed in bed a lot at the time), I woke up feeling particularly bad. I had a routine down of rolling over toward the edge of the bed, sliding my legs off the edge, letting my feet hit the floor and slowly unfolding up from a curled position in order to get out of bed. Can I just reiterate that I’m only 25. This is the morning routine of the elderly.
It was a freezing morning (afternoon) in San Francisco. I was disappointed to find out I had to pee. For as long as I could ignore it, I laid in bed postponing the endeavor of getting up. Gizmo, curled up behind my knees under the covers (I slept on my side) was not making it any easier. She can offset a low moment in an instant with one sweet nuzzle. This is a skill cultivated by her alien brothers and sisters on the silver cloud-puff planet, and the high council had elected to send their chosen one to me.
In the small bedroom, evidence of the struggle was all around. Laundry was piled up, the room in disarray. There was even some happy black mold in the corners. I hadn’t emptied the cat litter in quite some time.
As time ran out and the need to get to the bathroom became non-negotiable, I argued with myself and finally got out of bed. Gizmo gave me a mournful look as I interrupted her favorite activity. I hung onto the wall, grabbed the door handle as soon as it was within reach (walking first thing in the afternoon/morning was one of the harder tasks, the inertia of night lets all the pain settle and tighten).
But I get there. I hold the wall and the counter and slowly lower myself onto the toilet. I have to sit unevenly to manage what my hips have chosen to do that morning. But I get there. Somewhat awkward, and somewhat tense, I finally pee.
In this brief moment of relief, in walks Gizmo. In a flash I know what’s about to happen.
No Gizmo. Just wait.
But she can’t wait.
She takes a sniff of her litter box which lives under the sink in the bathroom. She is repulsed. But Gizmo is the most noble and understanding of creatures and she enters anyway. She tries, but can’t do it. She comes back out and arranges herself on the bathroom carpet. She looks at me. There is apology in her eyes. She raises her magnificent tail. And pisses on the rug. She never breaks eye-contact.
I can’t be pissed at Gizmo. She is right not to want to use the soiled litter box. Instead, I start crying. The frustration and grief I hold at bay with all my will, almost all of the time comes pouring out. On the toilet with my cat staring at me as she pees.
I cry but can’t catch the tears or wipe them with toilet paper. I need both hands to hold myself up on the toilet, hips-bones-sacrum-pelvis screaming at the slightest weight or pressure. So the salty tears mix with mucus and slide down my face. It’s the first time I’ve cried in a while. The breaking point announces its arrival and the downpour continues.
Finally, as the tears and pee and snot slow to a stop, I clean myself up, pull up pajama pants. Lower myself to the floor and roll up the carpet. Chuck it in the garbage shoot down the hall. I won’t bother cleaning it. But I do clean the cat litter. And I do make tea. Clean the kitchen slowly. Tidy the bedroom. Clear my mind. My home. And then get back in bed with a book and the magic cat. She curls up with me purring, gazing at me dead on with those huge green eyes, as if to say in her star language:
“It will all be OK Heather. I know it and the universe knows it and you know it, somewhere in your heart, your bones. And I, Gizmo, of silver dreams and cotton candy, am always right, for I know all things.”
And, somehow, I feel better.
Author: Heather Vaughan
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own