It was a cold, rainy morning and I was wearing a flimsy chiffon robe that reminded me of home. I mean, my other home, in America, the place I visited in my dreams. The clock read 4:00 a.m. Posho, my cat, could always sense when I was awake. I knew this because most mornings, I heard her little paws scratching at my door, eager for some morning cuddles, before I could even check the time. This morning was different and no matter how hard I strained, the only sound I could hear was my uneven breathing. I laid in bed for two hours before I willed myself to check on her. After 7 months, I still couldn’t sleep without my solar lamp on and after the robbery that happened a mere 4 days prior, I really didn’t want to leave the comfort of light. I was overcome with a sense of dread. I was afraid of what I would find in the other room, what state she would be in. 6 a.m. is when I opened my bedroom door.
Looking back, I’m thankful for the rain. There were no roosters crowing that morning, or sounds of children playing. I didn’t want to be reminded of life when death was right in front of me. The rain was the backdrop to my pain as I took in the sight of her, collapsed on the couch barely breathing. I refused to believe it at first, that she was dying and in a fit if desperation, I tried to get her to eat, to drink but she couldn’t even move. Finally, I rubbed her matted fur as I watched her take her last breath.
I remember the last time I cuddled with her. Burying my face in her soft fur, feeling her protruding bones, and wishing that if I cuddled her hard enough, if I gave her enough love, she would be healthy again. After losing so much of myself in the robbery, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her too. I didn’t have Posho for very long but there is no way I can adequately explain what she meant to me. She was a physical outlet for all the love inside me, the object of my affection, if you will. In a country where I struggle to be understood every single day, I was able to speak to her in any language I chose – Bengali, English, Uganglish and even Rutooro. She made me feel less alone because she was always there, always waiting for me. She needed me and I needed her and it was this synergistic relationship that I didn’t know I missed that I treasured wholeheartedly.
Posho is now buried in my backyard near three banana trees overlooking a valley. Emily and Marguerite came over on the day that she died and we held a service for her, changing the words of “Taps” from “God is love” to “Posho is love.” They kept me company and we cried together. Word spread throughout the village of Posho’s death and my neighbors and fellow teachers stopped by all day to offer their condolences. Ugandans don’t really believe in pets, but they had gotten used to Posho, which made their sympathy even more comforting.
I went to teach the morning after her death and after a breakdown in the staff room, I was told by one of the teachers that I needed to grieve and take care of myself. It seemed like the only person I had convinced that I was okay was myself. When I went to visit Posho’s grave, I saw that someone had planted the rose I’d lain on her grave and stuck a cross made out of sticks into the ground. This gesture was so emblematically profound that I stood there and cried for a long time – for the love that I lost and for all the love that still surrounds me.