“Quiet has weight; it has a heartbeat; it carries sounds that once were and amplifies the soft sighs of footsteps now gone. It draws attention to empty corners, little nooks that will now gather dust, and it wraps around memories in a grief-painted ribbon. It echoes at night, steals sleep, and begs to be filled with things fingertips will never again touch.”
~Me, at 4 am on one of the many nights sleep evaded me this week
I have an adult-life-long history of insomnia. It’s usually one or two nights of being awake until 3-4 am, followed by several nights of almost normal sleep, but this last week has been brutal. I’m getting roughly 4 hours, and not all at once. I know it’s largely owed to grief; I’ve had pets before and been there as they’ve left us, but I’ve never been hit this hard by their loss.
I don’t know if it’s because we lost Buddah and Max so close to each other, or because it was Buddah and Max, but I feel it so much more this time.
I hear the quiet. I find myself listening for paw steps in the hallway. Every time I go past Max’s bedroom I glance in and I automatically look to the one spot he seemed to favor. When I’m sitting in the living room, I find myself looking to the right, to the other room, to the places he lounged most often. When I walk from the back of the house to the front, I catch myself looking to the top of the Tardis, where I often saw little black ears poking up.
I have no expectation of seeing them. It’s habit. I’m so used to listening for the cadence of paw steps that tell me if Max is heading my way and is fine, or if he’s limping his way to the litter box. Creaks make me turn my head because they sound like Buddah tracking litter-dusted paws across my desk and up the bookcases. And at night, my brain expects the sound of Max in the next room, on the back of his sofa, his paws scraping across the wall, waiting for him to begin singing because it’s night and that’s what he did.
It’s not like I’ve forgotten they’re gone. But the listening is a habit, and one I don’t think I’ll shake soon.
That habit has amplified the quiet. And the quiet has amplified the insomnia.
It’s a process. I’m fine. It’s one of those get through it to get over it kind of things, and I know there’s place I’ll reach where the quiet won’t feel so big.
But…it also makes me dread losing a person, because if I’m grieving this hard over cats? I don’t even want to go there and can’t imagine how completely horrific it is for those who have lost someone especially close to them.
New rule: no one else dies before I do. And since I intend on sticking around until I’m so old I fart dust, they’re stuck here for a while.