Erin Lyndal Martin
Sappho came from nowhere, just appeared by the swingset at the Montessori school where Emily taught. Sappho had adopted Emily and her students, who liked the name Luna for a cat as black as a moonless night. Luna’s favorite thing turned out to be nipples. Now we call her Sappho. Sappho is going back to nowhere, and her every cry is a desperate cling to home.
Sappho probably thought Emily was crouching down to cuddle her, but instead Emily lifted her up and crammed her tail first into the plastic box, shoving back her tiny velvet head while I slammed the metal gate in place and latched it against her whiskers.
The crate wobbles on the stoop. Sappho is ready to go back in the house even though it keeps getting emptier. There is no longer any Beatrix Potter porcelain that Emily’s mother sent, no blue painting Emily had done of a Romanesque woman, no generous pours of Malbec. Sappho and I are the last things to go before Emily moves away. And Ilan, the cat that technically belongs to Emily’s ex-husband. Emily has left a dozen messages for him to get his cat, but he never calls back.
Right now I am Emily’s ally, her other human on this mission. I think how she’s had six months to prepare for this. She’s known that long that she got the job over a thousand miles away in Texas. She’s known that her new house there doesn’t allow pets, and she didn’t look at even one place that does. All she’s done to rehome them is to call me today and ask if I’ll help her go to the Humane Society.
I scrape my key against the cement between the bricks while we wait for Ilan to reappear. He’s run off into the brambles behind Emily’s house.
Calling his name does no good. He knew this day was coming. Everybody did. Except me. Sappho is screaming, and this moment closes in on me. Emily’s front door is open. I can hear the Cinematic Orchestra album she’s been obsessed with for ages: This is a place where I don’t feel alone / This is a place where I feel at home / Cause, I built a home / for you / for me.
Truthfully, I can’t remember how we finally got Ilan to cooperate, how I came to be sitting in Emily’s passenger seat. The same song is playing in her car now. I can’t remember how long it was after we set out that Emily asked me if I knew where the Humane Society was because she had no idea.
We followed signs for a dog shelter, and when we showed up, each of us carrying a cat, it seemed like we had the wrong kind of animals in so many ways. Our cats had names.
I kept trying to stop crying. Emily hadn’t cried at all yet.
In the end, we really were at the wrong place. We weren’t at the Humane Society, which was half an hour away and had a long waiting list to donate animals. I had hoped this might grant all of us a stay, might mean another night eating cherries on Emily’s bed, but she said she had to hit the ground running. That exact phrase, repeated a few times, and then suddenly hugging me very tight. She touched my forehead with hers. “You’re going to be fine,” she said, steadying me with her arms, and I felt the metal gate close against my own face.
Erin Lyndal Martin is a creative writer, music journalist, and visual artist. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Essay Daily, PANK, Lemonhound, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.