The First Stage of Grief is Denial
I still do not know how conscious it was, the day I started pretending.
Whether I couldn’t see or didn’t want to. Whether those things are
It was her eyes I noticed first, milky and blurred and no longer a
piercing yellow-green, as they were. As a cat’s eyes should be.
But this did not stop me from rousing her to dress her for the day
in my doll’s lemon-bright calico, the way she always hated, and
carting her around my girlish bedroom in a stroller. Although she
went along rather stiffly, she didn’t resist it now. In fact, she never
again clawed or scratched at my hands, not even in the bath.
This, I will admit, I enjoyed. How calm she was now, how agreeable.
How easily she would quiet into sleep when I tucked her into bed
In time, there grew a certain smell I couldn’t wash away. I doused
her in my mother’s perfume, its own kind of stench, I secretly
thought, but it did what perfume is meant to, cover the truth
When the decomposition began, my work became harder, more
feverish. The skin and fur on her face began to shrink back around her
mouth, exposing her teeth, which I painted with lipstick in a smile.
The odor grew louder until it filled the room, and I fought it back
with the force of lilacs and candles and freshly baked cookies, which
she ate with great reluctance with our afternoon tea.
I see it now, and grieve. How hard we will try to make something
stay. The lengths we will go to keep a dead thing alive.