It’s been a little more than a month since I moved out of New York City. I’m still living in Austin, still retired. Did I tell you I retired? It’s temporary, but basically it’s like this: I got this book advance a few years ago and I never stopped working my diner job. I wrote the book and it’s been published (it’s called Slice Harvester, buy it from the cool local bookstore if you want, or just pay an oogle to steal one from Barnes & Noble for you, it’s on a major label and there’s no way I’ll ever make enough to see any royalties), and I’ve moved to Austin and now I’m retired for the time being, which is partially code for “I don’t have a job yet” but also code for “I’m not trying that hard to find one.”
Things have been great! Aside from Austin’s two MAJOR flaws (no bagels, no rap radio), it’s really cool here. I go swimming all the time in natural bodies of water, I eat super well, I live with and am building a life with someone I love a ton and who does cool work and who I’m inspired by and stoked on just about every day.
And my cats, despite my fears that they would be truly scared, have taken the whole move in stride and seem to really feel at home in the new place. See, not only have I never moved out of New York before, but until two years ago I lived in the same apartment for almost a decade. Sal and Growler (the cats in question) lived in one other apartment for like six months when they were tiny kittens, but basically they had spent their entire lives up until that move in the first apartment, and let me tell you, they freaked out about leaving. I’ve had them since they were a few days old and during the first week they both would try and drink milk out of my nipples while I slept and I’m a big softy already but basically I mom them way too hard and get super worried about their well-being in ways that are probably about projecting because I’m unwilling to acknowledge that I need to be nurtured and cared for and I refuse to ask for that so I put it all on them.
ANYWAY, my cats. They live in Texas and they’re stoked. They live with two dogs and don’t care, which is crazy to me because the handful of times dogs came over to my apartment in New York they freaked out. These dogs are cool, though. Becca has a dog named Gus—who is a big, floppy, bloodhound with dwarfism so he has a giant body and little tiny legs—and our roommate Melody has a Chihuahua named Ace who just wants to hang out all the time.
So like two or three weeks ago Becca’s friend found a stray. She just wandered into his house and his dog was freaking out so we said we’d hang on to her for a couple days until we could figure out what to do to keep her out of a kill shelter. She’s a smaller pit mix and she was a real chiller. We named her Kira after Kira Roessler from Black Flag because we’re punks.
I was stressed about the cats, but they were fine. Kira was curious about them but seemed to leave them be if they would hiss or hide for two long. Having a new dog was kind of a pain in the ass or whatever—she would wake us up in the middle of the night or like, crap on the floor, (Puppy Shit, literally and figuratively)—but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.
Then the day before Halloween, we came home from some errands and like, five minutes after we let Kira out of her crate I heard this crazy sound and Kira was in me and Becca’s closet with Growler in her actual mouth and she wasn’t biting hard or trying to hurt her because if she had been Growler woulda been toast, she was just trying to play. But Growler didn’t wanna play and was in fact terrified and we got Kira off her and back in her crate and I picked Growler up and she was so limp and scared in my arms and covered in piss because she pissed herself, and I just lost it.
I kept it together long enough to wash Growler off, make sure she wasn’t hurt, just scared. I wrapped her in a blanket and hid her somewhere away from the dog where she could relax and decompress, and then I sat down on the bed and I couldn’t even think I was so checked out. Becca came in to see if I was okay and I could barely talk beyond apologizing that I didn’t want to go to the Halloween party we had planned on going to that night. She made it clear that I had nothing to be sorry for and tried her best to talk to me, but I was incredibly unreceptive to communication.
She went to the party after I told her I needed to be alone and I just lay there and stared at the ceiling for a while. Eventually I started walking around the room and then I started walking around the rest of the apartment and then I sat down on the couch and watched TV. Barely functional.
It seemed like everything was wrong. I wasn’t regretting moving to Austin, or taking in Kira, those things seemed incidental. It was more like, everything in my life had been wrong. I realized it was the four year anniversary of when I quit drinking and I wondered what the point even was, because if I was wasted at I least wouldn’t give a shit about any of it. I used booze for years to create a barrier between myself and my emotions. Even after four years off the stuff, feeling them can still be jarring.
Eventually I eased up a bit, realizing I wasn’t gonna feel better any time soon. Better not to fight it. I decided to explicitly name the things that were bothering me, articulate my interiority, something I wouldn’t have done four years ago. I was shaken because a living thing I love and who’s well-being I feel responsible for was put into a dangerous and scary situation that I had been unable to defend them from. I felt like a failure as a mother and protector. I felt an acute awareness of the fragility of life. I sat with those feelings, something else I wouldn’t have done four years ago.
Becca got home, we went to sleep. In the morning I woke up feeling fine. That was five or six days ago now and the shit feeling is barely a memory, but it was an unpleasant reminder of how I felt for a long time. I haven’t felt like that for a while, I thought I had gotten immune to it or grown out of it or whatever. But the truth is that my sense of well-being is incredibly precarious and I actually work really hard to keep myself not feeling like shit each day. So I wanna thank Kira the Dog for pulling the floor out from under me and reminding me of all the work that it takes to keep it there. It’s been four years since I’ve quit drinking and I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of myself.