I spread a pocketful of cheerful autumn leaves across the dark mahogany tabletop, smoothing the curling edges flat, admiring the precise indentations of the maples, and examining the green stripes and purply spots on the rust-colored beech. I’ve brought in a leathery brown oak leaf, too, and I place it in the middle of the reds and oranges and yellows.

I’m thinking about burying the cat. First I think, at least it’s not the dead of winter, so I won’t have too much trouble digging a deep hole. Then I think of all the critters here in the woods of New Hampshire, and how they might dig her up. I think how unfair: that I would be burdened with another loss so soon after my brother’s passing. Of all the cats I’ve had, this one’s my favorite.

Mayasika

Mayasika

Then she comes downstairs.

She’s not dead, I just thought she might be because she didn’t appear as soon as I came in from my walk. So my mind wandered into worry and then decided to embark on a full expedition. This is how my mind works since my brother died. There’s a low-level anxiety lurking amongst the dendrites and ganglia in my brain, keeping me ever vigilant and ready for the next crisis or tragedy.

Sometimes the bump on my nose must be cancer. Sometimes I know someone is angry with me, but I don’t know who or why; I just know I’m in trouble. Sometimes, my familiar to-do list will bring on a near panic. Sometimes my cat is dead.

Thing is, the worst has happened. And it happened almost ten months ago. But I’ve only just stopped keeping the cell phone by my bed, finally realizing there will be no more nighttime emergencies. I will not be called into action. I no longer have primary responsible for any person’s health or well-being except my own. My mother is dead; my brother is dead.

Given those parameters, everything is fine. I am still alive. My cats are still alive. I’m doing pretty well, really.

I guess it will take time for my tired reptilian brain to come back to center, to stop anticipating disaster. In the meantime, I go for walks in the woods and collect pretty leaves. And I write.

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