The picture is Jack, who slept in the crook of my left arm for ten years. Jack was a comfort and a kind of friend in some hard times. Jack is dead. My ex had both our cats euthanized a couple of weeks ago. I only found this out yesterday. Two days ago I got a call from a hospital. They’d taken a week to track me down. I moved out of our house in March, escaping from an abusive alcoholic wife.

I moved to a cheap place that does not allow pets. Once not long before when I had a doctor’s appointment, she said “I hope you die.” Twenty times in one afternoon, I counted, with variants like “please die” That wasn’t her, that was the alcohol speaking.Neighbors had not seen her for a few days, so they called the cops to do a welfare check. They found her on the floor, incoherent. They had her taken to the hospital. I still do not know details, but it looks like she will only be released to an assisted living facility. I have not yet had the courage to visit. It will be awful.I went to her house–it’s a rental. It was appalling.

Dozens of bags of garbage, a mummified guinea pig in its cage, flies and maggots everywhere. She seems to have fallen apart. This is about the smartest person I have ever known, a superb writer and editor. Alcohol has killed her talent. I don’t know what killed our love, it was there once, long ago. I cleaned the place up. My feelings are pity mixed with anger. I have prayed that I be able to find compassion and forgiveness. So far I have not.I found out about Jack when I went through her laptop looking for ways to contact her friends and tell them what has happened. The cats were both 17, and developing kidney problems.I don’t mean this to be a recital of melancholy. Part of what I’m saying here is that the smaller lives that intertwine with our own suffer with us when things fall apart. I’m lucky, I escaped hell–I’m not exaggerating–and now am starting over. My freelance writing is getting some success, and I have growing friendships and am loved now more fully than I have ever been before. But all I’ve got of Jack is photos on my phone. And memories of a small, insistent presence on my left as I dozed off to sleep.

Missed Jack.

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