Prose: “An Experiment” by Hallin Burgan

Friday, 2/21:

I have decided to conduct an experiment. In order to answer the gravest of questions, one requires the surest of methods. Before I begin (and before you begin to read my report) it is necessary to lay out a few “ground rules,” so to speak. An experiment requires strict parameters in order to arrive at the proper conclusions, as I’m sure the Reader will understand:

     1) This experiment involves my cat, Jasmine (a beautiful calico), and my relationship with her. Anything that occurs outside of that is necessarily omitted from this report, as it has no bearing whatsoever on the results of the experiment.

     2) My personal history and Jasmine’s personal history are not relevant and will therefore not be included in this report.

     3) Anything and everything that I deem relevant to the experiment will be dutifully recorded in this report. It will be written, rather than verbally recorded, for the sake of clarity and necessary continuity, as the evolution of the particulars of my diction may, in some unforeseen way, have bearing on this experiment’s conclusion.

     4) Unlike other experiments, this one is necessarily fluid. Adapting an experiment or applying further constraints in response to one’s circumstances is common practice in the scientific community. If the Reader doubts this, it would serve them well to conduct prior research on experimental practices within the field; to arrive at my report without such knowledge would only prove that the Reader was reaching beyond their intellectual limits, and I have no patience for those who would criticize my practices while out of their own depth. Do not fret, scientifically literate Reader, this is not contradictory to my earlier statement that an experiment “requires strict parameters.” This experiment is strictly fluid.

     4a) I have no hypothesis, no independent or dependent variable, no control group. The experiment is not double blind. I understand that, by proper definition, this makes my efforts definitively non-experimental (“demonstration” or “proof-of-concept” would perhaps be more appropriate labels [REVISE—TOO FORWARD]), but I find the word “experiment” more striking. Do not fret, Reader, I hold no delusions about what I do.

     4b) It is important to note that Jasmine typically eats three meals a day (8am, 1pm, 6pm) and has grown used to this schedule in her old age. I am unable to predict how quickly I will be able to alter her feeding schedule, hence the necessary fluidity of the experiment.

     Though I am sure there will be plenty of evidence to undoubtedly confirm this for the Reader later, I feel it is responsible of me to state it from the outset: I love Jasmine. It is important that the Reader understand and accept this now. And, what is more, Jasmine loves me. I don’t doubt that the catalyst for this experiment (which will be dictated shortly) is evidence enough of this fact, and the Reader would do well to accept this just as surely, otherwise I imagine the Reader will remain distracted throughout the length of this report, and Jasmine deserves better than that.           

     The experiment will begin tomorrow. I can assure you that I will maintain a proper diet and exercising schedule throughout the length of the experiment, as soundness of mind is undoubtedly crucial. I will consume no drugs, prescription or otherwise, and no alcohol. Both of these would dull the senses and sway my observations—to do this in the midst of the experiment would be nothing short of heretical. Stay vigilant, dear Reader, and I will do the same. Every detail matters.

     After making dinner this evening, I decided to watch a film while eating on the living room sofa. Jasmine, in the meantime, napped in the reading room chair. What particular film I had the pleasure of viewing does not matter, it does not pertain to the experiment, it entails no conclusions. Rather, it is what happened nearly halfway through the film that is vital: Jasmine woke up. She hopped down from the reading room chair and squatted near the kitchen entryway, then meowed loudly at me—her dinner was long overdue. Now, it is important that the Reader understand that I am a proud cinephile, and that is why I did not entertain Jasmine’s request for food. I ignored her (this should in no way cast doubts in the Reader’s mind as to how deeply I love Jasmine; rather, it should confirm to the Reader that Jasmine and I are dear friends, and that she understood the seriousness of the activity in which I was engaged). Eventually, after only a minute or two, she stopped meowing.

     It is this moment, this precise moment when she stopped, that concerns me. What made her stop in that moment? What fired through the synapses of that primal, feline brain? I have my present suspicions, but something struck me in that moment: a sharp pang of spontaneous, academic inspiration.

     After waiting a few more minutes by the kitchen, she strolled over to the couch and jumped up on my lap; and there she stayed until long after the film was over. She was hungry, and yet she was laying on my lap. Something within her led to the casual decision to seek the comfort and love of my lap rather than further insistence on practical nourishment. She chose love and affection over food. (This moment should provide the Reader with the substantive proof that Jasmine does, in fact, love me, and thus while I may speak of the love between us later in this report, I will make no further effort to prove this love. Sustained doubt on this subject would be, I believe, disingenuous on the Reader’s part.)

     While Jasmine rested on my lap, I drafted the above guidelines for the experiment, the severity and importance of which weighed (and presently weigh) heavy on my heart, but I found it strangely comforting.

Saturday, 2/22:

     I woke in the early morning to Jasmine, who spent the night curled up by my right hip (resting her head on my stomach), standing just outside the door of my bedroom. She knew, she could sense through some instinctual, internal clock, that it was time for her breakfast. But this would mark the first day of the experiment, the first alteration of her feeding schedule—breakfast at 10am and dinner at 4pm, no lunch. I expected that this would be a difficult change for her, as I imagine that her body has set its own internal rhythm in accordance with her mealtimes, but I knew she would be able to move past it; I was always the one who fed her (REVISE—IMPLYING PERSONAL HISTORY), and I knew she trusted me because of it. I was sure that once her meal was over, she would stroll right over to me and rest on my lap. But her breakfast would have to wait. I set myself to brushing my teeth. Personal hygiene is tantamount.

     Perhaps, as it is blatantly relevant to the experiment, I should take the time to describe her physical features, as to give the Reader a more complete sense of her beauty:

  • Jasmine’s coat is 25% white, with the remaining 75% being a healthy mix of interlocking orange and black patches.
  • The most notable white patches are her feet (each paw is purely white, like she’s wearing two pairs of ankle-socks) and her neck and the underside of her chin. The latter large white patch resembles a handkerchief tucked into one’s collar, and it extends up under her chin to claim the bottom-left side of her face. It gives the observer a sense of elegance.
  • Her body, though spotted with white, is mainly covered by an interlocking, waving pattern of orange and black. In the way she walks, she seems aware of and content with her beauty.
  • She is getting quite old, and her frame has consequently shrunk—veterinarians have assured me that her skinniness is expected for her age and that there is no reason to believe it is unhealthy, though it makes me think back to when she had more energy, when she would run around the yard and the house with us without breaking a sweat, when she and my boy would have little races, and she would always climb the stairs much faster than he possibly could. (REVISE—HISTORY NOT NEEDED).

     I read in the reading room chair after I ate my breakfast, at which point Jasmine usually naps in the sun below me, but she stood in the hallway, frustration creeping into her eyes. Her whole body jolted with each meow, and I could tell she was beginning to get quite upset. Though thankfully she didn’t need to meow for too long; when the clock struck ten I immediately stood and filled her bowl. She meowed impatiently at me, and I just smiled back. She and I are old friends, and so we find ourselves able to communicate so much through so little words. Her meow told me she was happy—my smile told her I was glad. And that’s all it took. She set herself to eating her meal.

     Her soft food must be mixed with pumpkin puree for the sake of her digestion—her stomach is immensely sensitive, and I have to clean up her vomit nearly every day. She has weak eyes, too, so I had to pick her up and set her in front of the bowl. She wouldn’t have known there was food in it otherwise. I sympathize with her age, as I imagine many of her physical difficulties foreshadow my own. I find beauty and sadness in that, but she’s a tough old girl, and I imagine she would resent pity.

     In the late mornings, Jasmine likes to stand out on the back deck and scan the backyard, and she began meowing for me to open the sliding glass door as soon as she finished her food. I humored her and let her outside.

     We are in an age which is conducive to extensive research, and thankfully this has allowed me to understand some of the internal mechanisms behind Jasmine’s behavior. Apparently, she likes to spend her mornings outside because felines are immensely territorial creatures, and Jasmine is scanning her territory for possible intruders. For whatever reason, I find this explanation rather humorous, almost like Jasmine is an old lady sitting on her porch in a rocking chair, waving her newspaper in anger at the teenagers that get too close to the edge of her lawn (REVISE—UNPROFESSIONAL). Sometimes it seems to me that our knowledge of animal psychology is more advanced than our knowledge of human psychology. Observe any behavior from any animal and, with the click of a button, access your favorite search engine and behold an appropriate diagnosis; but when it comes to observing one of your own kind, someone that you may have even known for years, someone that you may even have lived with (REVISE—UNHEALTHY EXAMPLE), the science of psychology crosses its arms and rambles on about such and such condition, or genetic mutations, behavioral drifts, or such and such personality types. It almost strikes one as absurd.

     When I let her back inside, she picked a sunny spot in the reading room and laid down, asleep almost immediately. I suppose the heat makes her sleepy. I took the rest of the morning and early afternoon to read in my chair next to her; I am an uncharacteristically slow reader at times (it is my curse, I suppose), but I was doing well this day: I was speeding through at about one page every one and a half minutes. Jasmine slept peacefully, and every time the sun moved a little, she stood and shifted over.

     Then came time for her lunch. She woke up lazily and, probably sensing some vague, troubling absence in her stomach, she stood and meowed aggressively up at me. This did not surprise me, as she was always better at sensing the approach of her lunchtime than I was. I stood my ground, simply folding my book closed, and looked back at her. She took this to mean that I was about to stand up, and she took a few quick shuffles toward her bowl, then looked back (frustrated, no doubt) and meowed for me to follow. I opened up my lap to her, inviting her to jump up; to emphasize my invitation, I patted my thighs.

     Dear Reader, I would be lying if I said I didn’t doubt for just a moment that she would join me, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t meet this doubt with a healthy bit of terror. I became momentarily convinced that she would not budge, that she would continue to meow at me, that her love for me would fade away and she would jump up on the counter and tear open her bag of food. But none of that happened. After only a minute or so, she trotted over and jumped up on my lap, those giddy, rumbling purrs escaping her. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I teared up at that. Pretty soon she seemed to forget about her lost meal, and she fell asleep so beautifully.

     I’ve tried to make it a habit to go on walks after lunch each day. It is a healthy practice; it clears the mind, helps one think straight, or, even if one isn’t in the mood for thinking, they can just focus on the pendulous movement of their legs. I like to walk for around three miles. Just like my reading, I was breezing through the walk that day: I did four miles before I even noticed. I was delighted when I noticed; “it must be the experiment,” I thought. “It’s waking me up.” The solitude of early retirement has left me otherwise lethargic (REVISE—UNNECESSARY CLARIFICATION), I was happy to feel real energy seeping into my body again, and Jasmine’s recent display of love was still on my mind. But she was hungry when I walked back in, meowing and pleading for me to feed her; I saw that it was almost four, and I didn’t see any harm in feeding her just a few minutes early. I love her after all.

     Again, I mixed in some pumpkin puree with her soft food and placed the bowl in its usual spot by the sliding door that connects to the back deck; I noticed that, in my absence, she had vomited on the kitchen tile. I didn’t find myself surprised or particularly upset (I’ve never understood pet-owners that find themselves upset at such things), I just bent right down and wiped it up. As she ate, I gave her back some soft, gentle pets. After a moment of this, she gave me a frustrated meow—she hates to be disturbed while she is eating. I cleaned her litterbox, which I keep tucked into a corner of the laundry room, and made my dinner.

     It feels odd to think of things in such ways, but I have known Jasmine for over fourteen years now. I remember the day I met her so well it’s as if it was the day my child was born. I remember it was during one of the harshest snowstorms I had ever experienced, and my wife and I spent the entirety of a few days bundled up inside as the roads closed down. And one of those mornings, a beautiful little stranger showed up on the back deck, shivering, malnourished. I fell in love with that calico kitten right then and there; my wife protested, but I insisted we bring her in. I suppose my best friend showed up on that wintery day in the form of that little stranger, and that is a beautiful thing. But not all unexpected little strangers are so easy to love so quickly. And it wouldn’t be fair for a wife to expect them to be, would it? (REVISE—HISTORY NOT NEEDED).

Sunday: 2/23

     Jasmine still meowed at me to feed her at her usual times. Again, I ignored her (much to my own discomfort and sadness) until ten in the morning or four in the afternoon. She spent the day in a vaguely upset mood, and I could tell that she avoided my eyeline more than usual and sat with her back to me whenever I refused to feed her at her accustomed times. I sat out on the deck with her for the latter half of the morning, stroking her back softly. Before going back inside, she nuzzled her head into the crook of my elbow. The change of schedule has undoubtedly upset her, but it seems to me that she still trusts me, and that is something I cherish. She still joined me in the living room and reading room whenever I sat down, hopping up onto my lap when she wasn’t upset, and that made me smile. She’s an old girl, but she’s still spry. I take great comfort in that.

Tuesday: 2/25

     Tuesday was essentially the same as the day before. I fed her at her new times, sat with her in the reading room as she napped, and I played with her a bit in the afternoon instead of going on my walk. She’s an old cat (and an old soul in many ways: calm, observant, patient), but she’s still got some speed to her. I found some old cat toys and gave her something to chase after, but a plastic grocery bag was always her favorite. How we all laughed when she ran inside them. It seemed our playtime tired her out quite thoroughly, as she fell asleep on my bed even before I went to brush my teeth. I pet her lightly before turning off the light.

Wednesday: 2/26

     I woke up feeling like shit, one of my depressive bouts coming on strong. Right away, I had to grind up a fluoxetine tablet and mix it in with some green tea. That brought it down, and I could finally look at Jasmine without feeling ashamed.

     I woke up with a slight headache in the morning, perhaps due to mild stress or to lack of consistent exercise (which is why I consider exercise so important; not only does it produce the necessary physical effects, but it also has a profound capacity to sober one’s mind). The experiment—its necessity, its importance—has been weighing heavily on me, and because of this I have found it difficult to go out on my daily walks. Jasmine meowed hungrily at me for her breakfast, but I made myself take a few Advil tablets with a cup of green tea before heading out on a brisk walk. The wind chill cut into my naked face, but I drove myself forward with rigor, thinking of the experiment all the while.

     I have shifted her mealtimes once again: I gave her a small portion at noon and another at 2pm. She was a little more agitated throughout the day and spent longer meowing at me for her food. Though she was more insistent, she was also more tired and spent the majority of her day napping next to me. She must sense the experiment at work, too. I am convinced this must be the case. I’m convinced that she understands how important this all is, how important it is that I know. Sometimes, when she lays on my lap, she gazes up into my eyes and blinks slowly at me. I can see an awareness in her eyes when she does this, and I could almost cry.

Thursday: 2/27

     The revised schedule pertains. Jasmine is becoming noticeably more tired; she didn’t insist on more food as much this day. It stormed for a few hours in the afternoon, and she spent most of the day napping on the basement couch.

     Through my own personal research, I am able to understand exactly what is going on inside Jasmine at this moment of the experiment. Because of her decreased food intake, her body is moving fat from her reserves to her liver in order to convert them into lipoproteins (as obligate carnivores, all felines require an immense amount of protein to keep their system functional). Her liver is unable to process this fat efficiently and is beginning to swell. She depends on her liver to process red blood cells, and it can no longer keep up. Without intervention, her liver will become overburdened and fail.

     To be truthful, I have begun to question my own intentions with this experiment, and my intentions with writing this report. I don’t intend to harm Jasmine, who is truly my best and only friend, but I know that I am harming her, actively harming her, and that all I must do to stop this from reaching the point of no return is to give her some food, of which I have plenty. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I stand frozen in front of her food bowl as she meows at me. I can’t, I have to know; I don’t know what it is that I must know, but I know whatever I’m getting at with this experiment is vitally important to me. (REVISE—STAY ON TASK).

     This is a sad truth. I expect I will miss her horribly when this is all over.

Friday: 2/28

     I have been wondering what Jasmine would grow up to be if she were a human, and I cannot help but settle on the image of a sailboat captain braving tempestuous ocean waves, or as an astronaut flying through the void unaided except for her personal propulsion unit, or as a daring film director revitalizing the transcendental style. Of course, these images are certainly unrealistic (bordering, even, on the absurd), but for whatever reason they make me terribly sad. (REVISE—RELEVANCE?) Despite it all, I know Jasmine loves me.

     She must love me—this is a matter of brute necessity now—otherwise she wouldn’t trust me enough to alter her feeding schedule this drastically. She loves me as if I were a cat—or, rather, as if she were a human. She would always pick my lap to sit on over the other members of my family, without fail, and that must amount to at least an extremely close, trusting friendship, if not love (REVISE—IMPLYING PERSONAL HISTORY).

     I have modified the schedule once again. She now receives a single meal at 1pm.

Saturday: 2/29

     It seems that tomorrow may be the final alteration of the schedule, an alteration that will remain until the experiment reaches its conclusion, as sad as that fact truly is.

     I took the day to clear my head, to focus on calming things, like the sound of the wind against the kitchen window, or the rhythm of Jasmine’s calm purring. As I move into the final stage of the experiment, I know that clearness and soundness of mind is, beyond all reasonable doubt, imperative. I spent time on personal meditation.

     After Jasmine finished her food (she finished it very quickly), she meowed at me louder and more insistently than she ever had before. She ran between the kitchen and the living room, meowing for me to follow her. Her meows sounded more violent and desperate than I had ever heard before, almost like she was accusing me of something. I carried out the same operations as usual—ignoring her or sitting down near her favorite napping spot—but I failed to placate her. Eventually, she hopped up onto the kitchen counter where she knows I keep her food and tried to tear the bag open. I rushed in after her, knowing that the experiment would be compromised if she succeeded. I had to wrench it out of her claws, but she managed to tear the bag open just slightly; I knew she could probably smell her food through the opening. She bit my hand (not out of hatred, I assume, but out of frustration or general irritation).

     What am I saying? What is wrong with me? As I write this I have Jasmine locked away in the laundry room where she is clawing at the doorframe, meowing so violently you can hear it throughout the whole house. My heart is pounding so fast it feels like it’s trying to break through my chest cavity, and I still have to clean up my vomit off the floor. I just couldn’t take it—she bit me and I think her love for me is all gone and I spewed all over the floor before I even noticed. But, Oh God she tried to eat it off the tile and I had to swat her away from it and lock her by the laundry machine. Oh God I feel like I’m dying. (REVISE—INAPPROPRIATE).

     I made a brief trip to the restroom and disinfected my bite wound, then waited for Jasmine to calm down, and eventually she did, her meows beginning to sound more sad than angry. After moving her food to a more secure location (and after clearing the counter of all food, including the ginger and garlic I typically leave there), I picked her up and brought her to the couch; though she was still upset, she curled up into me after a few minutes and purred lightly until she fell asleep. Her purring seemed to me like an apology, like she was sorry for biting me. I forgave her and kissed her head, then held her tight until she fell asleep.

     I’m so sorry, Jasmine, but the experiment must continue. It absolutely must. (REVISE—SUPERFLUOUS).

Sunday: 3/1

     She called me late last night, wanting to talk about custody. I told her that I had just as much of a right to see my son as her, that I haven’t seen him for months now and that’s not what we agreed on. She said she has a new lawyer, a good one. I bet her fucking father paid for it, and that asshole never liked me.

     I didn’t know what to say (and what could I say?). I just thought of Andy, I thought of how young and fragile he had always seemed to me, how I finally came around to really loving him, how precious he finally was. But she said it was too late. One of us got to keep the boy and the other got to keep an old cat, but Andy still loves me, I know that has to be true (REVISE—IRRELEVANT).

     I have noticed that I occasionally abuse the log-like nature of this report, and while that is disappointing, it is an issue I can always amend through revision.

     The experiment has moved into its final stage: Jasmine will receive no meal this day, and this will continue until the experiment’s conclusion. My schedule, too, has undergone an important alteration—while at the outset of the experiment I noted that I should keep a consistent exercising schedule, I now feel this would be counterproductive. After all, the subject of the experiment requires strict observation, especially in its most fateful moments. While this is a matter of absolute, practical necessity, I also love Jasmine deeply, and I believe these final few days are best spent with her.

     She meowed at me quite fiercely around noon and, while every fiber and tissue of my being strained for me to feed her, I stood my ground.  She meowed at me for nearly an hour, every meow becoming more and more desperate. It truly scared me, those meows, all of the love absent from them; I found myself flinching at each one, my whole body recoiling. I suppose she must have been terribly tired after that. In anger, or disappointment, maybe, she went into the bedroom and hid under the ottoman for the better part of the afternoon. I sat there with her the entire time with my back against the bed frame, and there were many moments when I came close to weeping. Some part of me became convinced that she would stay there until the experiment’s conclusion, that her love for me was all used up, that she would never forgive me for my negligence and cruelty (REVISE—MISUSE OF “CRUELTY”).

     It had begun to get dark outside, and the shadows in the room had deepened by the time she came out from under the ottoman. She hobbled straight over to me and nuzzled her head into my chest—it struck me in that moment that she still loved me, that she understood the experiment’s importance. I unfolded her favorite blanket on the bed and set her down onto it, then folded it around her. She seemed so happy to be wrapped up in that blanket next to me, and I lightly scratched the top of her head until she fell asleep.

     It seems odd, but I felt as if the experiment itself bent down and whispered in my ear at that moment, and I felt, in a way I hadn’t yet felt before, that I understood what I was getting at with all of this. All of Jasmine’s love swept by me in an instant, and I cried with relief. (REVISE—UNNECESSARY DETAIL).

Monday: 3/2

     It has occurred to me that, though I have mentioned it briefly, I have not yet adequately described what Jasmine’s purring sounds like.

     Sometimes she will begin purring even before she jumps up onto my lap. It will begin as a light, excited thing, and then, once she has settled into a comfortable position, it will become deep and rolling. It’s a tremendously calming sound, and I can remember many times when it raised my mood on a poor day; many times, I’m convinced that she purrs on my lap precisely because she knows I’m having a poor day, and it is her attempt at comfort (and that thought alone is comfort enough). Sometimes, in these moments, she’ll stand and lick my face before settling again into a new position, and the cycle of purring will begin all over again: first, excited and childlike, then deep and mellow. (REVISE—MISPLACED DESCRIPTION).

     Jasmine has begun to find it hard to walk around, and when she does, she does so with her head flexed downward, as if her neck doesn’t have the strength to hold it up any longer. I was scared that she would collapse and hurt herself if she jumped down from the bed, so I picked her up and walked her over to her bowl of water in the kitchen, then, when she was no longer thirsty, I picked her up again and carried her into a sunny spot on the reading room carpet. I decided that I would sit with her and pet her for as long as she wanted. She fell asleep as I was petting her but would occasionally wake and look up at me.

     I could see that she was drooling, though she didn’t seem aware of it, and the corners of her mouth appeared tired and slack; and I could see a confused sadness in her eyes, which had begun to develop a yellowish tint (jaundice—to be expected). She still seemed so beautiful to me, though I suppose anything you love necessarily seems beautiful.

     It surprised me that Jasmine didn’t meow for me to feed her even once; she just rested in the sunny spot on the reading room floor, and I moved her along with the spot every time it shifted, as it seemed she wasn’t able to move herself. When night came on, I brought her onto the couch and watched a film with her. Her purrs were lighter than usual, and that was pretty, in its own sad way. At the end of the night, right after I ate my dinner, I carried her into the bedroom and she curled up again by my hip. I kept my hand on the soft fur of her thinning belly, feeling an odd peace deep within myself.

Tuesday: 3/3

     As I crossed the hallway into the kitchen, intent on making myself breakfast, I saw Jasmine walking toward the reading room carpet, her nose nearly touching the ground because of her slouching shoulders. All at once, her legs gave out, driving her face into the hardwood floor, where she collapsed on her stomach and rolled over. My heart leapt out to her, and when I walked over to see if she was hurt, she meowed at me weakly. I could hear a sad plea in her meow—she could no longer move, and her eyes were filled with such tired pain. I comforted her; I soothed her. Her love for me was visible, it was written plainly in her slack muscles.

     I set her down onto the reading room chair and pet her until she was able to fall asleep (she has begun to fall asleep much more quickly now due to her exhaustion), then went into the kitchen to cook.

     When I returned, I immediately checked on Jasmine’s condition, and I found that she had been plagued by nausea and diarrhea when I was cooking, as suggested by the vomit and feces in the chair. (Though the deterioration of Jasmine’s liver seems to be progressing rather quickly and would certainly fall on the faster side of the possible rates of hepatic lipidosis development, it is certainly not unusual; if this report were to be viewed by a skilled veterinarian, they would not be surprised.) My first concern was that Jasmine had choked on her own vomit, but I quickly came to understand that she was still alive. My second concern was that she was uncomfortable, as I could clearly hear in her barely audible meow when she realized I was in the room. My third concern was that the chair was irreparably stained. I don’t give a shit about the chair, just please make it stop, I can’t do this anymore I love her so much just let this all be over (REVISE—UNSOBER THOUGHT). I think it is important to note that the fact that this was my third concern, and not my first or second, only provides more proof that I love Jasmine, as it is a chair that is quite important to me.

     I cleaned Jasmine up and laid her down on the reading room carpet in her favorite blanket, and she gave me the softest purrs I have ever heard; they were so quiet I had to rest my ear against her chest in order to hear them. She stayed there for the remainder of the day. I decided to spend the night there with her. In case she was struck with another bout of nausea or diarrhea, I placed a plastic lining under her and wrapped her up in the blanket on top of it, then I brought out two blankets, a duvet, and my pillow and laid down next to her.

     I love my best friend, and I can’t imagine life without her. I’m sure she still loves me, too, but I hope I can see it in her eyes just one last time before the end. Just one last time.

Wednesday: 3/4

     I woke up with a slight headache and an upset stomach, and I saw that Jasmine was already awake, looking up at me from under heavy eyelids. With the sun rays glinting off her fur, it looked to me like she was glowing. I told her right then, verbally, that I loved her. She gave me a weak meow in return. I assumed that I was dehydrated, and I assumed that she must have been dehydrated as well.

     I scooped her up by her belly and set her down in front of her water bowl in the kitchen, then I set to making myself breakfast.

     As I opened the refrigerator, I looked down at Jasmine in front of her water bowl. She was looking up at me, and it seemed that all of her weakness had escaped her: her neck was high and poised, her shoulders were taut, and her eyes lacked exhaustion. I felt like I was looking at that little stranger on the back deck, and I wanted to take her in all over again. I wanted to warm her, feed her. I saw in her eyes how she would grow to love the sunbeams on the reading room carpet, how she would fall asleep with me each night, how she would curl up on my lap and purr in that beautiful way she always did. I saw it all in that instant, and I saw how she was always that little calico kitten to me. And then I was back in the kitchen with her—she was looking back up into me, and I swore that I could see the same thoughts swimming through her. We looked into each other, and as I looked into her eyes, I saw not only love and sadness, but also forgiveness. I watched her forgive me with her eyes, and I gave her a teary smile. It struck me again, my absolute, unconditional love for her, and I looked back to finish preparing my breakfast.

     When I was done and looked back at Jasmine, I saw she had collapsed onto her side. It didn’t take long for me to understand that she had discontinued breathing, and I deduced, without much effort, that there was nothing to be done, that she had passed. I held her gently in my arms, and I cried for all the love I had for her, and for how special she had made me feel in all our time together.

     And to my surprise, I found myself thinking of Andy; and I felt immense shame in that moment, and I found myself feeling terribly sorry for him.

Hallin Burgan graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the Spring of 2021, where he majored in Media and Cinema Studies and minored in Creative Writing and Philosophy. Currently residing in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, he plans to teach under a teaching fellowship at Culver Academies beginning in the fall of 2022.