I opened the steno pad that I used as a diary, scrawled the date in my irregular script, then wrote the words I wrote every night—“I sure miss Dis.” I set my pencil down when my desk blurred through my tears. As I squeezed my lips tight, my afternoon’s walk came into focus.
After getting off the school bus I had dawdled on the ¾ mile walk home, lost in a dream world as I was every day on the walk home. Every now and then I’d attempt to bring my mind to where I was, but I’d duck immediately back into the world in my mind, almost as if pulled by an irresistible force. More often than not I was surprised to eventually find myself at our door. I’d quickly made myself two Swiss cheese sandwiches, gobbled them down, then run into the woods, as I did nearly every afternoon.
Crisscrossing our ten acres, I had called Dis over and over, then crossed the low stone wall into Butler Sanctuary. Wandering aimlessly, yet purposefully, driven by grief and love, I kept calling Dis, willing my cat to come to me. Maybe, maybe if I called her enough and searched far enough, she would come back. When I stood still and closed my eyes, I could see her trotting calmly toward me, her long, black hair bouncing slightly with each stride, the small white comma beside her nose like a smile as she approached… I had been calling Dis most afternoons since the day Papa had driven me farther down Chestnut Ridge Road and we had found Dis beside the road, where she had died after being hit by a car.
As it did every day, my mind replayed that awful afternoon… I had asked Papa to take me out there, expecting to possibly see our somewhat feral cat Bilateral Symmetry, based on the neighbor boy’s description of the cat he had seen hit by a car that morning. As soon as I had gotten on the school bus he had told of the cat’s agonized struggles, of how he begged his mother to take the cat to a vet and how she refused, about how he had had to get on the bus seeing the cat still flipping by the side of the road. I thought of little else all day, and when I got home immediately asked Papa to drive me down the road. As we drove past, I saw the long hair and stiffened in the passenger seat, just managing to force the name “Dis” out of my dry, knotted throat.
Papa picked her stiff body up and placed her in the car. When we got home, we walked down into the woods, where Papa dug a hole by the Rhododendrons. I held Dis. Papa placed her in the hole and filled it in with dirt. I have forgotten most of the kind words Papa said to comfort me while we buried Dis, but the words I remember were him asking if I had noticed that he had placed Dis in the hole with her head uphill. That has always stuck in my mind as the kindest thing he could have done; he made sure she would not lie forever with her head downhill.
I spent almost a year trying to prove that I loved Dis, repeatedly calling her to come to me, writing of how I missed her, longing to somehow find the formula to turn back time and convince her not to leave me, but she never did come back.