Memor(talit)y

Words by: Dina Ivkovich
Art by: Betty Gu

2nd August, 2020 

8:46am  

I google: how to prepare for your dog’s euthanasia l l l l l l l 

The first article reads: ‘Give your dog a party or “best day” ever!’ 

This advice shouldn’t make me cry, but we’re in the middle of a stage four  lockdown and, now, a vet parking lot. I hold the leash of my dog. She wags her tail at the mask-muffled noise above discussing how her lungs are failing days before we move into a double-storey house.  The irony shouldn’t make me laugh, only it does. In moments of inappropriate laughter, I remind myself that the autonomic emotional response to laugh from tickles is no different from the nerve receptors that trigger when we anticipate hurt. Pain does not live in isolation of itself.  

No less, my parents, boyfriend, and I cry amongst ourselves before deciding which one of us will go in alone. The clinic concedes to letting all four of us in. My mum holds her, and then her body.  

Instead, I should have typed: fuck whoever named a dog with a 10-year life expectancy the ‘Boxer’.  

12th August, 2020 

10:35am 

It’s 20 minutes before the removalists arrive. I find my mum rocking herself at the edge of her bed, still wearing pyjamas. It’s usually worn off by the morning. She refuses to speak, and so the act tells me: she’s overdone it. I want to panic but have to wait my turn today. 

I type: how long does it take for drunkenness to wear off l l l l l l l 

*** 

Later, she’ll ask one of the removalists why he’s bald. He’ll chuckle out the confession that he lost all his hair to trauma a few years ago. He’ll flinch when she goes to pull off his beanie. 

To get a better look, she says; his smile is gone now. 

I watch the paradox of two individuals: one that conceals his hurt beneath clothes that keep him warm, and the other who wears hers like armour, fragile as a wishbone and with the promise of nothing. 

19th August, 2020 

12:45pm 

Mum fell down the stairs again. A nebula forms on her left thigh — the closest thing to outside that she’s seen since we moved in here. She’s laid in bed all week and keeps saying we killed the dog. I tell her to stop calling Dad while he’s at work, but she insists something is wrong with her. I wait until she falls asleep to go and take a shower.  

*** 

I begin to hear the noise of people downstairs. I find my mum’s sister and mother standing in our living room, stroking her hair and tears as she sobs in their hold. I watch until told to make them tea. She then drags them both upstairs, insisting the three of them lie down in bed together. We see these people once every Christmas, so their concern quickly turns to curiosity. Mum’s sister asks why she made the call. Mum pretends to have her weekdays wrong before passing comment on how uncomfortable her sister’s breast implants feel against her back.  

She’s started using a baby voice with them, and I want to scream. Leaving the room, I run into my own and call Dad. He tells me he knows in a tone I only remember hearing once before at age 10. It was Christmas Eve when I found her stash for the first time. 

*** 

I notice myself having to pull hair out of my brush more often now. 

23rd August, 2020 

12:01am  

Egyptians revered them and mummies fear them, yet beyond fiction lies a humbler  explanation to their multiple-lived mystery. Cats have what is called a ‘righting reflex’— the ability to manoeuvre mid-air when falling or dropped from heights as tall as five storeys, all the while landing on their feet. It’s this nonchalant tread away from death that has earned this feline the lore of having nine lives.  

*** 

My cat died three years ago to this day. I go about the annual ritual of patting a close-up photograph of her that survived the move, tracing my fingers over cheekbones, whisker pads and the Monroe-esque mole perched above her mouth.  

I read somewhere that, on average, the surface layers of our skin renew every two weeks. If all our bodily cells did this, we’d have infinite lives. Yet some, like the ones in our brain, fail to do so. Our body shoots gravel up with every step forward as our minds look back on the ether. My mind makes a promise to my fingers. Holding my cat’s body made immortal in laminated print, the resolution of what I feel begins degrading with each passing year, or fortnight. 

Novelist Nicola Yoon writes in 2015: 

“We can have immortality or the memory of touch. But we can’t have both.” *** 

I type: my cat didn’t get all nine of her lives; what now? l l l l l l l 

Google mistakes my search and proceeds to tell me, without joke but certainly not humour, that the hailed all-time ‘worst’ cat food goes by the brand name of ‘9Lives’. 

30th August, 2020 

6:23pm  

Quick! It is Dina’s 21st birthday. She needs help picking a wish: 

a. Her dog to be alive 

b. Her cat to be alive 

c. Her mum to stay alive 

d. For August to not have happened, or for her brain to replace enough cells that she forgets it ever did. 

For her body to exhale and her mind to know peace. Or perhaps pass a petition to at least rename ‘Boxers’ to something else.  

31st August, 2020 

11:51am 

I cried while blowing my candles out last night. I wished that my parents saw the chronic  anaemia and lactose intolerance pulled from my recent blood tests for more than what they  said in  themselves. 

Neither of them knew as I exhaled at the funeral cake of a person I don’t wish to be anymore.

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