If you read my last post, you know my cats were the only thing that kept me from walking into the ocean and never coming back when my first and only freelance client called during my trip to Kauai to tell me he didn’t need me anymore because his partner was dissolving their partnership.
Eight weeks after I returned home, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, God took my cat, Titus, suddenly and unexpectedly as I got ready to leave my condo for the $9.25/hour pharmacy technician position I’d been forced to take because no one else was hiring and I didn’t have the faintest clue how to find new freelance clients.
Neighbors on either side of me heard me yell, “NO! NO! Titus! Wake up!” as I picked him up and tried to get him to snap out of what I’d hoped was just a seizure, having had a diabetic and epileptic brother who’d suffered grand mal seizures for 28 years. But a few seconds after he’d let out the loud, “Rowl!” that got my attention, his pupils dilated and his tongue lolled out the side of his mouth.
Sobbing to the point of hyperventilation, I called the ex who’d been shopping at PetSmart with me 10 years earlier when a woman from a local cat rescue told me that Westlake’s animal warden was going to euthanize him the next day if I didn’t adopt him. The poor thing had sat in a crate beneath a table all day as children and their families fawned over kittens. No one wanted him.
After I signed some papers, took him home, and pored over the booklet of baby names my mom had used to choose my name, I called him Titus, which meant “saved,” according to Similac.
“I can’t understand you,” my ex said when I told him what happened.
I repeated myself as clearly as I could but couldn’t stop crying.
When he finally got that Titus had died, he asked what happened.
“I don’t know!” I said. “He was fine!”
And that’s when I got angry.
I placed Titus in the box my favorite boots had come in, watched his buddy, Apollo, lick the carpeting where he’d died, set Titus in the kitchen, and drove to work because I couldn’t afford to lose another job on my second day of training. Between calls to vets, trying to find one that would still be open when I got home from work the day before a holiday, I swore at God and told him I was done with him.
“Do whatever the hell you want to me,” I said. “I don’t f_cking care anymore. Titus was a good cat. He did not deserve to go out like that.”
For months, I held a grudge because that’s what Clevelanders do best. But much like my thought about committing suicide on Kauai, my anger at God had been building since childhood, when my father began beating and choking my mom.
Bishop T.D. Jakes would say I had a crack in my foundation.
“My momma was a big investor in real estate,” he said during one sermon. “[S]he bought a lot of property, and she’d be takin’ me around property and say, ‘Now, baby, just because the paint’s peeling doesn’t mean it’s not a good deal. It doesn’t take that much to repaint it. If the windows are leaky, you can get new windows — don’t worry about that too much.’ And she’d back up and be looking at the roof and say, ‘Look at that roof and let me see. You can’t really tell for sure whether the roof is good by how it looks. When it’s raining, you can tell whether it’s leaking or not. So you might buy something and find out you’ve got a roof leak and you’ve gotta replace the roof. That’s kind of expensive,’ she said, ‘but that’s not really dangerous.’ She said, ‘But always check that foundation.’ I can remember it like it was yesterday.
“I said, ‘Momma, so how can I check the foundation?’
“She said, ‘Baby, look for cracks.’ She said, ‘That crack is a warning that something in that foundation is about to burst and it’s only a matter of time before everything else that you’ve got up here is gonna come down because there’s a crack in the basement.’
“When you talk about hanging on by a thread, it is hard to admit that you don’t just have roof problems or window problems. … You’ve got some stuff in that basement that if you don’t get down in there and get that out, everything else you built, bought, own, drive, do, fight for every day ain’t gonna matter if that foundation gives way.”
Nearly four years later, I became homeless and wound up sleeping on the floor of a former coworker’s basement with my two cats.