Before we begin, a bit of housekeeping:
1. I've moved Dang Old Man off Substack entirely and consolidated it with my website into this new Kinjin Story Lab publishing machine running on Ghost.
2. Besides the newsletter, kinjin.co is a whole site you're welcome to explore. I'm still patching leaks but she's shipshape as metaphors go.
3. I've gone two-ish agonizing months without posting a new story, but now you know THIS WHY. I'll be super-regular from here on out.
NOTE: Originally written back in 2014, nearly ten years ago. A lot of you new friends may be reading this for the first time, so I wanted to christen this new ship with a doozy. A 6000-word yahrzeit candle in loving memory of his time on Earth with me.
Fair warning: WOW I cried like a motherfucker today re-reading this.

I started this eulogy one year ago today, a few hours after we left his body behind at the vet’s office, but I… just couldn’t do it. It was a first shot at processing losing him, the third corner of our household triangle. Instead, Lil and I cried. And cried. Walking home, we could feel him in the air around us, sparkling, telling us not to be sad. The hole he left in our lives was huge.

Park Slope, 2005

Today, on the first anniversary of his death, I’m able to recount the tale of his life and how his story was woven into my own. A most magical and wise soul, my dearest friend-grandfather-baby-samurai-co-pilot, Wedge Antilles Goldman.

Miami Beach, 1997

In truth, Wedge found me, lost at age 21 in an apartment complex behind a Wal-Mart in Kendall, Florida. Leaving an all-nighter well after dawn, still-high and already late for work in my dad’s warehouse, my bleary-eyes spotted a fat brown toad crouched in the corner of the stairwell.

But it wasn’t a toad, it was a tiny little kitten, likely born in the parking lot downstairs. He stared up at me with giant green eyes and mewed, leaping onto my sneaker to see if I was down to play. I was just a know-nothing kid, stumbling aimlessly through life on a cocktail of anti-depressents, cheap weed and cheaper hits of acid and Ecstasy; I had no girlfriend, was on the outs with my roommate and I needed a friend. I fantasized about buying a baby ferret off this guy in my film class but couldn’t afford one.

Then this little striped gizmo of a kitten, no bigger than a grapefruit, pounced on my shoe and volunteered for the job, for life. I picked him up and he went belly-up in my arms, purring like a chainsaw. I named him after the Luke Skywalker’s wing-man from Star Wars. We were life-partners for the next nineteen years.

I’d never had a cat before – wasn’t sure I even liked cats – so a few weeks later when Wedge scratched bloody grooves into my brand-new girlfriend’s arm and she suggested I get him declawed, I just did it. My dad recommended a veterinarian who was cheap (read: shady), who cleverly offered to declaw all four paws “for safety”. Knowing nothing, I agreed, only realizing when I picked my drugged-and -mutilated baby from the hospital how barbaric the procedure was. I yelled at the vet, almost punched him in the mouth when I saw little Wedge with bloody bandages around all four paws (and stitches where his little balls had been… a fat payday for the vet). Wedge looked up at me woozily like “what the fuck just happened to me?” and went back to sleep on my armrest. I’ll never forgive myself for my ignorance; declawing cats should be illegal.

Miami Beach, 1998

College ended in a slow fade-out, and Wedge and I moved from my apartment in Coral Gables – which Wedge kept spectacularly flea-infested for a blistering Miami summer by knocking open the window screens at night to wander the neighborhood – to an apartment on South Beach’s most dangerous block.

This was in 1997: there were crack dealers living in the apartments directly above and directly below us, their customers climbing past my window like spiders up the drainpipes all night. I had nothing worth stealing so nobody fucked with us, but there was bad energy in the apartment.

For the first few months there, I had dreams of my bedroom that I didn’t appear in, dreams about the people who lived there before me, and wake up feeling another presence in the room. I’d been reading lots into chaos magic and decided to eat a bag of mushrooms and clean the joint out myself. Sitting on the floor of the apartment as the walls began to breathe along with my ribs, Wedge sat up tall on the bed behind me as a shape emerged from the paint on the walls. This was the first time I’d ever actively done any sort of spell and Wedge intuitively sat over my shoulder, supported with me energy and focus. Together we sealed the bedroom, then the kitchen and living room of this other presence using a combination of chewing gum, yellow highlighters, my blood and oil pastels. The apartment behaved itself until the day we moved out.

One morning, my (human) roommate Michael and I woke up and all the interesting international weirdos we’d made spent a year hanging out with in South Beach were just gone. Something special in the air had gone and it was time to follow it to new adventures. We saved some dough from our bookstore jobs, packed everything into a U-Haul and moved to Brooklyn, arriving on July 4th, 1998 in time to be greeted by rooftop fireworks. I was totally unprepared for New York City on every level: I didn’t have enough money, didn’t have a game plan, didn’t really understand what to expect. That made me grow up fast.

We’d scored a large apartment in a mostly-Polish Greenpoint above a butcher who was also our landlord, and my bedroom smelled of kielbasa. Wedge’s first winter came fast. One late night, after hanging at friend’s place nearby, I was walking home as a blizzard hit. Turning onto my street, I heard a cat crying. Actually I heard Wedge crying – I knew my baby's voice. I looked all over the street for him, cried out to the snow and he cried back, but I couldn’t see him. Then I looked up:

Wedge had gotten out of our third-story window and navigated two blocks’ worth of Brooklyn window-sills and rain-gutters, but either got lost or couldn’t find a spot to turn around. He’d been out there for several hours when he saw me coming down the sidewalk at 2am. His eyes lit up when we made eye contact and I led him back to our building. I had to lean my body halfway out the icy window (and almost slid out myself) before he jumped into my arms, wet and shivering. Curled up that night in a blanket, he alternated between purring against me and sneezing on my chest.

After about a year, we moved out of that apartment on our own, living in Nolita for a month in a share I found in the Village Voice. The new roommate was a computer programmer whose bedroom literally hummed with wooden closets that contained a server farm. He slept on a futon mattress on top of them. He had two pets: a smelly cocker spaniel with leaky eyes and a orange cat that would sneak into my room and piss on my bed if the door was left open even a crack. Wedge hated these guys, and when I’d come home from work, I’d find him high atop the kitchen cabinets, only coming down to be let into our room.

Late one night, the reason why came clear when whimpering sounds came from the other side of my door, low hairball sounds. I slid it open and turned on the light, only to find the cocker spaniel pinning the orange cat to the ground and humping away (they were both males). The dog fucked the cat daily as long as I lived there. The cat didn’t seem to mind either; I mean, he still had his claws… but clearly sharing this 1BR wasn’t going to work in the long-term for Wedge or myself.

I gave the programmer my 30-day notice without having another place to jump to, frantically NYC-house-hunting as the clock ticked down to our homelessness. Bumping into a buddy in the street who I'd met working on a film shoot, he said he actually needed another roommate desperately and asked if I could come out to Brooklyn to check out “the house”. It was a house, in fact, four bedrooms’ worth he shared with his bandmates in the south side of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We moved in with just a few days to spare.

For the next few years, Wedge enjoyed life as an indoor/outdoor cat, coming and going as he pleased. My bedroom was upstairs overlooking the garden and opened onto the roof of a never-finished tool shed that he used to get in and out. My roommates were tall shaggy dudes in the kind of tall shaggy dude rock band that was popular in ‘00. I was a quasi-disciplined and unpublished cartoonist. None of us gave a shit about gardening, so the backyard was untended and overgrown with an old cement stone picnic table and benches in the center of the weeds.

I remember coming home one summer afternoon to find Wedge sitting on that table, ignoring me, his gaze transfixed. I looked across the yard to find the biggest, meanest fightin’ black tomcat in the neighborhood set on his haunches, his eyes locked with Wedge. The tom was in prowling posture, taking slow steps along the fence towards Wedge’s garden territory. I could hear him growling. I was terrified for my boy, being half this tom’s size and without claws even on his back legs, but Wedge didn’t spook, didn’t budge. The tom advanced, nearly in the yard, but Wedge sat upright and calm, green eyes wide. I watched (and felt) them stare at each other for almost an hour, waiting for the violent clash to erupt at any moment that I would certainly get wounded trying to intercede.

But like the samurai, they fought the battle in their minds. The tom’s posture relaxed to match Wedge’s upright calm: RESPECT. When he turned around and walked back across the fence, Wedge’s concentration broke, he turned to me and meowed, inquiring about his lunch. My little kitty was a far greater warrior than I’d given him credit for.

South Slope, 2001

The shaggy rock band guys moved out, my little brother moved in, some roommates came and went. Somewhere in-between, I’d lived alone in the house for a month.

Coming home from work one day, I opened the front door to find Wedge waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. He looked suspicious; his eyes telling me not to go upstairs. I heard noises coming from my room, then a crash: were we getting robbed? There wasn’t much to steal but I took off my shoes, took a large knife from the kitchen and pussyfooted my way upstairs.

Being the summertime, the window was left open for Wedge to live his live freely… and there in my bedroom, laying on my bed, climbing my bookshelves, was a full-on neighborhood cat party in full-swing: ten cats in my room, even that mean black tom from the backyard fence was in the house. They all froze, staring at me when I entered the doorway and lit out through the open window one after the other. Wedge waited a minute and followed me into the bedroom, guiltily. I wondered how many times this had happened before. I didn’t care much, busted or not, it was pretty damn adorable.

We were living in this house with my brother and a female roommate on 9/11, and I watched the Twin Towers fall from the rooftop. City life got weirder from there, though it looked more like today than anything. My job status was reappraised weekly, threatening to be downsized at any moment. While I still had a job, I held beans-and-rice nights at the house for hungry freelancing friends whenever they needed it. The city bounced back quickly but very different and kind of broken.

I’d started writing a new comic series about a real estate agency for haunted houses in Brooklyn, but once the 9/11 panic mellowed, I visited my divorced mom down in Florida and felt those realtor characters much more deeply as being a Miami story. I came back to NY to pack up my part of the house and moved back to Miami for a year or so for me to work on the script and my digital artwork chops.

Bringing Wedge back to Florida meant he could disappear for afternoons before coming home and barfing up lizard feet and heads on the living room floor. He'd spend his days sleeping outside in the sunny grass and his nights with me on the couch, watching me play video games and nuzzling any visiting friends.

But there was no community for artists to make money in pre-Basel Miami, and my NYC savings burned off quickly. Everything stalled and after a year, it was time to move back to Brooklyn.

By the time I stepped out of the airport taxi in front of my brother’s apartment in Midwood, I had my cat carrier, a shoebox of books, a duffle bag of clothing and less than thirty bucks to my name. My brother’s girlfriend had moved in with him and their offer of temporary sanctuary was, you know, temporary from go. I found some work, stayed at my brother’s about a week too long, and found a Craiglist share on Canal Street with a very strange middle-aged stoner with no teeth. He had a cat too, a fatty who did not want Wedge around and went after him whenever he left our bedroom. But Wedge was a warrior and all we lived there in low-key disharmony for six months, surviving the winter in peaceful chaos. I mention this chapter for a simple reason: we were living here when we met Lili.

See, I was single for a long time. Girls I’d bring home would coo at Wedge, he’d enjoy the bonus pets, but he never engaged with anyone I’d dated. He’d sniff them and walk away, show them his asshole and watch us fool around from the windowsill with a bored look on his face. I used to joke with him that he was protecting me from the crazy ones, of which there are loads of in this city.

One night, I went out for Indian food with a Japanese-Brazilian girl I met online named Lili and somehow gotten her to come upstairs to *airquotes* meet my cat. Shameless, I know… but that’s exactly the fuckboi I was then. But Wedge? He melted like butter. And she melted like butter. They fell in love with each other. I’d never seen him act like that with anyone else before. He nuzzled her and actually licked her fingers like a dog. He never licked me. I got jealous.

Naturally, I screwed things up with Lili, as I did with everyone I dated back then. We stopped seeing each other after a few months. Things devolved quickly with the toothless roommate, culminating with my finding his black leather “doctor’s bag” full of sex toys, scalpels, knives… and a loaded pistol. Knife collector? Whatever. Into fetish stuff? Not my business. Loaded gun? This is New York City. But items together in a to-go bag? Serial killer. It was clearly time to move again.

But I didn’t want to have any more roommates; I wanted a home for us. Manhattan simply wasn’t within my financial reach but Brooklyn was cheaper in 2003, and I found a studio off Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope that was tiny and perfect. We moved out like ninjas while the roommate was at work; everything I had fit in the back of a cab. I got us settled with a half-broken thrift-shop futon, organized my clothes away in milkcrates from the corner deli I stopped into for a celebratory bottle of Guinness and some salt-and-vinegar potato chips.

The studio was quiet and we sat there together, just breathing in our new home. Wedge fell asleep on my chest while I read old samurai comics. All was truly right with the world.

Park Slope, 2003

And there were lived, me and Wedge. My comics work started to get noticed as my brother and I self-published a few graphic novel projects together, pulling caffeinated all-nighters to send books out off to press around our day-job schedules. When I had the time, I dated a lot… but Wedge never licked any of their fingers.

One early morning, I was crawling out of some woman's Alphabet City apartment, hungover and hickeyed on the too-bright subway, when I noticed someone looking at me from across the train. It was Lili, from a few paragraphs ago. We chatted and re-exchanged numbers, made plans to grab a clearly-defined “Coffee-As-Friends”.

And we did, staying in touch and becoming slowly closer over several years. She’d come over and watch films or we’d meet in Chinatown and walk around during late hours, we’d complain to each other about the knuckleheads we were both dating, always innocent between us. The tension was there but we liked just being friends. No one was happier than Wedge.

I remember watching Park Chan-Wook's OLD BOY at my place on a bootleg Chinatown DVD with Lili while Wedge just stared at me throughout the film friom the windowsill, his eyes beaming at me: “You idiot, the one you’re looking for is right there in front of you.”

Park Slope, 2004

Idiot indeed. It took until the following November before I admitted my feelings her and mustered up the courage to tell her. The moment I did, the Universe tilted around us. She stayed over and never fully went back home, just stopped by went to pick up fresh clothes. That New Years Eve at my place, I gave her copies of the keys, and by February 1st she moved everything into “our” home.

The apartment was a small 300sq foot studio, tiny even by Brooklyn standards, and what was perfect for a single-artist-and-cat live/work situation was upped to a double live/work, but Lil came with a loft kit. We raised the bed up to the ceiling and her desk and tools were underneath us. Wedge was frustrated the first few hours, cut off from his favorite humans up top before he figured out his own path to the top bunk, leaping from chair to table to mantlepiece to the top bunk. Then it was the three of us, a pyramid of unbreakable steel, warm as the sun, melting winter into spring with our hearts together.

Park Slope, 2006

Sometime in April, Lil and I exchanged rings (she made them) and were married at home with Wedge as our witness. Then we went to City Hall to do the White Man’s Paperwork. In late May, when we went into the municipal chapel for our 90-second civil ceremony, we’d already been wearing our rings for a month.

Park Slope, 2007

Around this time, I’d gotten a publishing contract and a lot of acclaim on my first big webcomic-to-print graphic novel, and we moved to a larger space in South Williamsburg with shady Satmar landlords who’d filled the crumbling building with tenants illegally. The two years we spent there were darkened with rent disputes, leaking ceilings and tenant-strike meetings. My work was getting higher-profile and crazier. The hours and months and years I spent at the drafting table, Wedge dutifully served as my co-pilot, helping me focus, sending me his energies to make sure I could work these stupid hours to make my publishers’ unrealistic deadlines.

South Williamsburg, 2008

Every once in a while though, for no apparent reason, I’d find a turd on my pillow. Assuming it wasn’t my wife (SPOILER: it wasn’t), I’d get angry at him. I thought he was acting out, not getting enough attention from me. Topping that off, the closest laundromat was eight blocks away, which was just awful in the wintertime. I had no idea at the time that it was his way of telling us he didn’t feel well.

South Williamsburg, 2009

After he went almost a week with pooping, we took him to the vet, who dramatically recommended hospitalization to rehydrate him and the possibility of “surgically removing the impacted stool from his colon” if it came to that. Lil was traveling home to Brazil to see her family and Wedge still hadn’t pooped, and we were both terrified. She went to the airport not knowing if this was goodbye or not.

In the morning, I took Wedge to the Vet Hospital in Manhattan and came home with $1200 bill and a bag of feline enemas to try as a last-ditch before an in-patient surgery. The moment he got home from the hospital, he immediately copped a squat in his litter box, let out a constipated yowl and shit a horrific rope of a turd. I was so relieved, I hugged him, not caring that I'd just spent my half of the rent with no idea how to replace it.

The other thing the hospital told me, in non-urgent terms, was that Wedge’s heart was healthy but his kidneys tested as weak. This condition was common in cats of his age (15 years old) and tended to be the “beginning of a slow decline” towards CRF (chronic renal failure), which is ultimately fatal. I took it to heart but he seemed so much better after a few kitty enemas, back to normal even.

South Williamsburg, 2009

Then crazy shit happened: after a few months of peace, our building rent strike heated up again and we were just tired of constantly fighting… with the landlords, with New York City’s never-ending freelance grind, the tension that was bleeding into everything. We needed a break, and decided quite spontaneously to leave town, leave the country. There was a whole world out there after all. First stop would be Miami to spend the holidays with my family, then down to São Paulo to relax and work on my haunted realtor comic, which I’d just sold to the online rights to. The money I'd made (finally) would last us at least two years in Brazil at current exchange rates. What could go wrong? The sky was the limit… right?

I blinked twice and we’d given away or sold 85% of our possessions, I blinked again and we’d stuff a minivan with whatever remained, blinked again and the three of us were in a hotel room a block from the ocean in Dania Beach, Florida with the A/C blasting. Wedge was thrilled the entire drive from Brooklyn to Miami, nestled between us on a pillow for a nonstop 2-day petting session.

I blinked again and we were living in a tiny student apartment in the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade in São Paulo. I blinked again and the U.S. economy crashed, my dollars worth less than half their normal value. By the time we'd moved into a larger apartment in São Paulo , my US/foreign freelance work dwindled down to zero, while my Brazilian working papers never materialized.

Lil went to work with her family to keep us afloat while I stayed home, stubbornly making those haunted-real-estate comics and publishing them to the web. The decade I’d spent building a career was slipping away, and I got really depressed. But Wedge remained my co-pilot, by my side every day for the three years we spent in Brazil. The thing was: his kidneys had really started deteriorating now. His posture changed, he sat on his haunches a lot, was sluggish, looked drunk.

São Paulo, 2011

There was a night where he laid in a puddle under the kitchen counter, panting heavily, looking up at me confused like he couldn't find my face. He was clearly dying.

We jumped in the car and rushed through São Paulo traffic – if you know what that means, you it was herculean – to get him to a vet, who told us: “Yes, of course he’s going to die. Just get a new cat.”

We found a less-dickish vet nearby named Tomás who put Wedge on a weekly regimen of IV ringer lactate solution that we also learned to administer subcutaneously at home. Wedge would get dried-out and sickly-looking when his kidneys were “crashing”, but he’d perk back up after getting his fluids, usually stayed happy for a week or so.

So we kept him alive, with Tomás’ help, for those three years in São Paulo. At one point, I’d visited NYC and brought back a canister of Trader Joe’s Cat Treats. Wedge went crazy for them; they only lasted a month, and I made him a promise: if he made it back to the States with us, he would have those those treats every day for the rest of his life.

São Paulo, 2012

On January 9, 2013, after months of saving and planning, Wedge and I arrived back in NYC. Lil would join us a week later after our Brazilian rental paperwork was finalized (there’s paperwork on every fucking thing down there).

The air travel was tough on him: he was very thirsty after the 15+ hours in transit with a connecting flight in Bogotá, customs at JFK and an hour in a taxi to our friends’ home in Inwood that first night.

Wedge flopped out of his carrier like a noodle and drank several bowls of water before returning to himself… but I could see how rough the travel was on him. The next day, once we’d set up camp at an AirBnB, I was finally able to give him his fluids again… but he looked older already.

Harlem, 2013

The three of us spent a few months bouncing between short-term rentals while trying to get ourselves a proper apartment – New York doesn't want freelancers with lapses in credit history – but we found a 1BR we took over in March. We slowly re-established our groove, and things were going smoothly.

Wedge did get his Trader Joe’s treats every day as promised, perking up when I unscrewed the canister for play-time and chasing the treats across the floor like a kitten until his kidney problems inevitably knocked him down again. We could see the end really was coming this time, and soon. It was something Lil and I discussed all the time: at what point was he just suffering to stay with us?

The year before, we’d visited an old friend of mine in Miami. His old childhood dog was sick and we visited on one of their last days before putting him to sleep. While sitting around their living room chatting over beers, their dog kept keeling over and falling – hard – onto its side just behind the couch we sat on. The meat-sound of the poor dog knocking the wind out of itself over and over again stayed with me, and that night we drove away talking about Wedge, about when would we know the moment when it was time to help him go. At that point, he wasn’t there… and I truly hoped I wouldn’t have to do that. That he’d pass on his own.

But that was the coward’s road.

We watched him, cared for him closely. He ate less, drank more, needed the prescription food we’d been feeding him since Brazil to be hand-mixed into a looser paste. He’d eat a little bit three times a day, his solutions administered every other day, then daily. But he took them all like a champ, cuddling with us in the cold, letting us know how much he loved us daily. His body hurt him, but he wanted to stay with us. And we wanted him to stay.

Crown Heights, 2013

Then summer rolled in. I had to go off to Comic-Con, and a record heat wave hit New York City. I was in breezy sunny San Diego when Lil called me from our sweltering apartment to tell me Wedge had stopped eating completely.

We’d been told by more seasoned pet owners that this was the last sign: your friend is telling you they're ready to go now and is starting the dying process for themselves. She was crying but I was away for days yet. She said Wedge parked himself by the front door and stayed there for days while I was away. She begged him to hold on until I made it home to him.

Crown Heights, 2013

I finally got home on a Monday night. When I got there, Wedge was waiting diligently by the door, a loose bag of fur wrapped around bones, dark circles under his eyes. “He’s been waiting there for days for you. He wanted to say goodbye.” I picked him up, this little stick of a cat, and held him to me. His breath smelled bad too, acrid. These are moments you face with pets. You know you’re going to have to say goodbye; for me and Wedge, we’d been together half my life nearly all of his. For Lil, he was the first pet that she’d intimately bonded with.

I had artwork on my plate that needed to be done, but that next morning, Wedge still hadn’t eaten, and the liquids just weren’t doing anything anymore. I stayed home with him on the bed, my laptop on my chest and Wedge nestled into my armpit. We stayed together like this all day, his hip bones poking into me every time he moved to try to make himself comfortable in a body refused to be.

And that very next day, the “he’ll tell you when they’re ready to go” moment happened. It wasn’t anything dramatic: I went out to the deli for some vegetables, and when I came home, he was sitting in his litterbox. Not using it, just sitting in there in his dried pee. He looked up at me and I felt his eyes drill into me and I heard him in my mind: “I’m done. I’m ready to go now.” I didn’t say anything to Lil until the next day. He still hadn’t eaten.

From an onsite freelance job the next day, I called his old Brooklyn vet and made an appointment to have him “looked at” in the morning, but once I explained the condition he was in, we both knew how this visit was going to end. I hung up, went outside for some air and called Lil to tell her about the appointment. When she got the news, Wedge was sitting in her lap and she started bawling. I told her she at least had the whole day with him to say goodbye, while I was stuck working and would have to wake up early to spend my goodbye time with him. I was working on a TV show at the time, and to top things off, the week’s episode that I had to watch repeatedly for details involved the slow and graphic execution of a prison inmate. My stomach churned violently all day.

When I got back home, Lil was with Wedge on the bed. He was panting, a furry little skeleton, but when I came in, he lit up, turning into an alert kitten again. I cried and nuzzled his stomach and he held my fingers with his paws. He was playful, clear-eyed, and I asked Lil: “Are we… being rash? He seems pretty okay to me now. Maybe we should wait another day or…”

Before the last sentence left my mouth, Wedge got to his feet and moved next to the nightstand on my side, where he tensed up and had diarrhea all over my pillow. I wasn’t mad; I couldn’t be. I just nodded. Message received loud and clear, my love. I spent my last night with Wedge without my pillow, but the three of us all tangled up with each other one last time. It was sad and tense and wonderful.

The morning was a blur, getting him ready. Calling the car service, I felt like the executioner. From the moment I woke up, tears were just streaming down my face, light but never stopping as I stroked him and prepped him and wondered if he understood this was his last day on earth. We rode to the vet’s office in quiet, Wedge with his hand on my hand inside his carrier. Lil and I both approached hysteria in slow-motion.

And the vet’s office? The fucking procedure? I’ve relived that behind my eyes so many times now. It still hurts and I’m not going to go into detail about that. But I will share this one moment: the vet had both her needles prepped and we were seconds away from the end of his life. Lil and I kissed the top of his head, and he sat up straight, like he did years before in the garden, taller than his emaciated frame had in a long time. He opened his green eyes wide and I fell into them, into a warm green sea, the deeper emerald flecks flashing like lighting around me. A vibration entered my eyes, hummed down my face, buzzed inside my ribcage. This was it, this was our real goodbye.

We stared into each other’s souls for a long instant — me and the little kitten I’d cared for his entire life who’d grown old and cared for me for this half of mine — and I could feel him pushing these emotions at me: I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU THANK YOU I LOVE YOU… It wasn’t anything more complicated than that, but there honestly isn’t anything greater or purer than that on this world. And half a second later, his body was there but he was gone.

“I love you I love you Thank you I love you”

There was a credit card slip to sign, talk of “disposal options”… but I was choking down this red rage: rage at the vet, at time, at his shitty little kidneys that kept him from staying with us forever. I hissed through my teeth… but stopped myself. He had an long and extraordinary life, longer than most cats, and two people who loved him intensely. How could I rail against the universe on his behalf? He was the luckiest of street cats; he’d hit the jackpot with me and Lil, shitty kidneys aside.

We left his blue canvas cat carrier (the one he rode to Brazil and back in) on top of a trash can around the corner from the vet’s office and went down to sit in a little park by the East River, where I sobbed harder and deeper than I have ever cried in my life, a wail I failed to produce at either of my grandparent’s funerals roared out of me then like a tidal wave, leaving me exhausted.

After a time, things quieted down some and we walked home, and I could feel him in the air around us, like champagne fizz. And sad as I was, I also felt relieved. Watching his slow deterioration, monitoring him with the constant care, the creeping knowledge that this day was coming started a few years before, and now it had just passed. That tension in my gut could relax. He didn’t hurt anymore, we’d set him free. Of course we did, we loved him. We still do and will forever.

Lil and I stopped at a bar for whiskey and french fries and teary-toasted the incredible life of a magical cat, and the passing of a member of our family. We laughed a little and cried a little more. The sadness ebbed out until we felt we could make it the rest of the way home. But once we got there, everything came crashing back down again. When we opened the door: his kitty fountain was still bubbling and his last canister of uneaten Trader Joe’s treats were still on the kitchen table, that tidal wave of sadness hit us again then, fucking flattened us into snot-dribbling and puffy-eyed puddles… because there was nowhere else to escape the fact that our house was emptier by a third, that our little grandpa-baby was gone.

That first month without Wedge was tough and Lil and I each processed it in our own ways, but every passing month it got easier. A few days after we put him to sleep, I was taking a shower when I saw his green eyes on the veterinarian’s table all around me again, falling into them right there at the end. Of course I was crying, but his eyes, that moment, our THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE I LOVE YOU GOODBYE moment… that was what I wanted to hold on to and take with me through the rest of my days.

We didn’t keep his ashes in the end. The “disposal” options the vet offered us were crude and frankly disgusting, an expensive sentimental option for a belief system I don’t even hold to: when the light leaves, what’s left is just an empty husk. I didn’t want his dead material, I wanted his living essence to be eternal, to memorialize how much he’d meant to me, what he’d taught me along the way about loving and living. An image formed in my mind and I jumped out of the shower and slapped this together in Photoshop:

Photoshop mockup, 2013

Which weeks later became these:

Tattoos, 2013

And now here we are today, one year to the day later. I took this photo just before I sat down to write this. We lit candles and burned incense for him with his remaining favorite Trader Joe's cat treats.

One Year Later, 2014

The week after Wedge left his body, both my work and Lil’s kicked into high gear and neither has slowed down since. And while these last 12 months have flown by, it hasn’t been a blur at all, but with a very conscious, deliberate quickness. A savoring and appreciating everything we touch that comes from knowing that this life is temporary, we are temporary, and the rare moments when we can communicate what much we mean to each other are the most important ones we have.


Section for Cat Lovers:

During Wedge’s later years, I did a lot of concerned-papa reading on Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease to stay on top of changes that were happening as his CRF got worse. I can’t recommend her page enough. What would’ve been terrifying and left me at the mercy of any money-hungry veterinarian instead helped Lil and I navigate and treat Wedge ourselves at home, tweaking his diet and administering fluids that kept him alive and happy for several more years after the first vet told us to put him to down.

Tanya’s Page is a personal and sensitive resource that will help anyone treat cats suffering from CRF from early stages on through its final hours.


And there we are. This is 2024 Dan writing this, red-eyed and snotty after re-reading and re-living our ride together. If you cried and didn't want to, I'm sorry. If you cried with me, we're bonded now. I smile as it hurts now, remember how beautiful it was.

May you all know that love too.

Thanks for coming over to the new spot with me. I'll see you next week.

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