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Albana M.Lifschin: A home for Kathy

I took off my snow boots and put on a pair of slippers that Jean, my hairdresser, keeps behind the outside door and walked upstairs. Jean was on the phone and I got the impression that she was worried about someone who was about to be kicked out of the house.

“She is such a nice creature, so soft, so obedient. My brother loved her so much. Now that he is gone, I don’t know what is going to happen to her.
Please, please, I beg you, give me some time to think…”

As Jean was talking on the phone she pointed to a chair where I could sit.
The chair faced a big mirror. I had her come to my house every other month to shorten my hair. But this time she called me up and asked for me to go to her house. She said that she just had surgery and was going through chemotherapy. In her medical condition she couldn’t go out to her clients.

-I am terribly tired, she said putting a white towel around my shoulders.

I noticed that she had lost a lot of weight and some wrinkles were showing around her mouth. She was wearing a wide belt, covering half her belly, with some big buttons on it.

-You know what it is?- she asked me as she was unzipping her blouse. A thin tube was stuck in her flesh up to her breast. I was shocked to see her breast covered with bandages, like right after a bad accident.

-Look, the medicine drops inside my body through a needle. I have to keep it for two more days, imagine? I have to sleep with it and make sure that it is in a right position all the time. The doctor says that it is to make sure that I am clean of cancer. It should be functioning normally. If I touch any
buttons by mistake, an alarm would go off and I really don’t remember how to shut it off. I am terribly tired because of the therapy. Last night I couldn’t sleep. I am in pain, but I am not allowed to take any medication that contains aspirin. I can hardly stand.

Poor woman! I felt bad for her. She was alone, and surely needed money,otherwise she wouldn’t work in her medical condition.

-How long is the therapy going to last?” I asked her.

-For six months. They promised me that I will be free for the 4th of July,Jean said.

-At least in six months you will be OK,- I said

-But there is more.You have no idea what I have been through these past few days. Just two days ago, I got the bad news from the hospital. My brother had died during a routine checkup. My brother! Fifty five years old and he never complained of anything. Never got sick in his entire life. I asked them what caused his death. They didn’t tell me.
-It will be in his death certificate, they said.
– Where is the death certificate? Where can I get it?
I insisted.
They said I could get it in the funeral home.
-Please come to the hospital.There is a wallet of his here, and a set of keys, they said to me.” Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have more than 150 dollars in my bank account. That’s all. Everything was spent on my surgery.Where am I going to get money to pay for my brother’s burial? John, my neighbor, whose wife died a couple of months ago, went through my mind. He had his wife cremated, because he couldn’t handle the expenses. I feel myself in his shoes. I have no way out but to do the same thing.

I was numb. My face was deformed because of the shock of her pain. I forgot about my hair, or I didn’t care. All of a sudden it didn’t matter anymore.
All I was thinking was about Jean’s tragedy.She went on.
-So, I went to my brother’s apartment. I opened the door and I heard a wining. It was Kathy.
She was lying curled up in the corner of the room. Poor Kathy! She had been there for three days without food, at least since the day my brother left her to go to the hospital. He didn’t know that he wouldn’t come back. I rushed to open the cabinets to find her food; there were a dozen cans of food stashed in there for her. I put some food in her dish and went to look
for the landlord. I told him that my brother passed away but he had a cat that would die too if she would be abandoned. I begged him not to put her out of the apartment while I try to find a new owner for her.
It is so cold. The snow has covered everything, what would happen to her if she was left in the cold with nobody to look after her?”

The landlord responded:
-I am sorry Miss for your misfortune. I really feel your grief, but I have to prepare the apartment for the new tenant, by the end of the month. Everything that is in your brother’s apartment has to be taken out. The cat too. I can’t give you more than three days.

“Oh poor Kathy! If there will be no new home for her she will die in the cold.”

Then all of a sudden Jean turned to me:
-Don’t you want a cat? She is so nice, so sweet. I can’t take care of her in my condition.

I blushed feeling her pain, but I had to say: “No, I don’t.” Then I added:
-But I can talk to my neighbor, Joe. His wife died recently, he is lonely and I would assume that he may appreciate a companion.

-Oh, please do it! Please do it, ASAP, because I have to report to the landlord.
When I got back home, I was lucky to see Joe sitting at the stairs of his apartment. Kindly, I asked him if he would like to have a cat, and started to describe Kathy using exactly the same words as Jean did.

He nodded.
– No dear, no. These animals are so affectionate. They make you
love them like they are people, members of your family. You get so much attached to them and you forget totally that they are just animals. When my Barbara died, her cat remained here and she was a constant reminder of my wife. The cat looked at me like she wanted to talk to me about my grief. Can you believe it? I couldn’t take it anymore. I got rid of her. I couldn’t
stand it.

This story happened a year ago. Now our neighbor Joe has a dog. It is a quiet dog and a handsome one. Joe named him Wednesday, because he found him in the street on a Wednesday. He took him home, and decided to keep him which didn’t surprised me anymore. I wish Kathy found a friend, just like
Wednesday did. I hope she will be a friend to someone that needs her.

Shkurt 2011, Nju Jork