My dad’s a veterinarian and I used to work with him quite a bit. He believed in saving animals, if at all possible. He wanted to save all of the animals. “Gotta save em all,” he would say. I asked him if he was adapting the Pokemon slogan, and he was embarrassed to admit that he was. I forgave him.
But, try as we might, we couldn’t save them all. One of the ones we couldn’t save was a cat named, “Lucy”. For a variety of reasons, she’s stuck around with me as a ghost cat companion for several decades. We’ve grown close.
Our relationship is somewhat abusive. I would characterize myself as the victim of the abuse, but the deserving victim. Lucy would place the emphasis on deserving.
Not too long ago, I was walking to work and, since I’d destroyed yet another pair of Apple brand Earpods, was not listening to a podcast or audiobook or music and was therefore alone with my thoughts, which is less than ideal. Lucy appeared walking beside me.
“You’re walking like an arsonist in a village of igloos,” she said. “You look depressed.”
“I’ve been up here for the past 15 minutes,” I said, tapping my forehead.
“Doesn’t the frontal lobe control social awareness?” Lucy said. “I doubt there’s ever been activity up there.”
“No,” I said. “I just mean that I’ve been inside my own mind, and it’s a rough place.”
I stopped on the sidewalk and pointed to my temple.
“Not so good in here,” I said.
I resumed walking.
“This is a motivated depression,” Lucy said. “Your wife probably gave you coffee in a yellow mug and you have to have white.”
“That’s not it,” I said. “I’m fine with any color of mug now.”
“As long as it isn’t aqua. I don’t like the aqua ones.”
“Well, it’s motivated by something,” Lucy said. “Probably a generalized guilt for all the animals who lost their lives to your negligence all those years ago.”
“I didn’t run you over,” I said. “Your real complaint is with the driver of that Kia. We were just putting the pieces back together. We can’t save em all.”
“A Kia,” Lucy said. “Ugh. I can’t believe it was a Kia.”
“Oh, I forgot you were racist,” I said. “I forgot you have a problem with Koreans.”
“I’m not a racist,” Lucy said. “I’m a racial realist.”
“You must not have access to the internet, because that’s code for ‘member of a white supremacist group’.”
“Well,” Lucy continued, “I don’t have a problem with Koreans—I’m annoyed by the fact that I was killed by such an offensive car. A Kia is a car that’s apologizing for being a car. And that kind of weakness disgusts me. Present company included. Anyway, what set you off?”
“I woke up thinking about Orson Welles. He was around 35, I think, when he made Citizen Kane. And I have no Citizen Kane in my near future. I’ve got nothing.”
We passed a donut shop, and Lucy cocked her head toward it, seeing if she could tempt me, or provoke me to have a donut. I ignored her, though I ached for a donut at my very core.
“Well, you have some things in common with Orson Welles,” she said. “You are both disgustingly corpulent. And he staged the War of the Worlds hoax, where you’ve been pretending to be functioning adult for the past 18 years.”
She continued: “But you shouldn’t compare yourself to someone that successful.”
This turn surprised me. Lucy had said something almost encouraging.
“Or . . .” she said, “anyone who’s successful at all. Bernie Madoff or Osama Bin Laden are actually not even good candidates for comparison, because they moments of actual success, whatever you may think of their goals. The failure followed eventually. You’re better off considering yourself opposite a deformed pumpkin whose uneven girth tilted it off of a truck and dashed it against a gravel road and utterly destroyed it, so that it was fit only for the birds of the air to feast upon.”
“You don’t really think that,” I said to Lucy. I approached the door of my office building. “You’re having fun.”
“Think what you like,” Lucy said. “But I’ve been saving this: Orson Welles wasn’t 35 when he made Citizen Kane—he was 25. Have a great day.”
Lucy dematerialized, and I ascended the stairs to my office. I sat down at my desk and stared into nowhere. After an indeterminate amount of time, my phone rang and I began my work day.