My Best Friend

There's Lindsey and Vanessa, who put me in their weddings. There's Megan and Katie, who visited me wherever I lived. There's Renuka and Erin, who got me through long days working with jackasses. There's Elizabeth and Sarah, who got me through high school and college. But my best friend is a four-legged, gray and white curmudgeon named Raygen.

Raygen Lynn Poopyhead Banana, unofficial name, with affection. May 4, 2001 to December 6, 2016

According to internet calculators, that's 15 yrs, 7 mos, 2 days or 5695 days or 492 million seconds. 8.2 million minutes. 136,680 hours, 813 weeks and 4 days.  Real talk - fifteen years is a long damn time. Things that have happened since he was born: September 11, Bush Presidency, Obama Presidency, Trump election (he dodged a bullet there). Katrina. The entire runs of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Smallville, American Idol. He's older than the first Harry Potter film or Moulin Rouge. In his lifetime, he got to see Kate and Leo get Oscars.

Raygen was the graduation gift for a nerdy fourteen year old, saw her graduate high school and then college. Just before his ninth birthday, he moved across the country with her to be an engineer in Portland, then a business analyst in Indianapolis. He waved goodbye as the awkward fourteen year old went to Germany as a twenty-nine-year old adult.

He got me through high school, college, all of my twenties. Fifteen years, literally half my life. And it will never be the same. Thanks, best friend.

Raygen was my third attempt at a middle school graduation present. Growing up, there were always cats. Some made it in the house and became 'inside cats', others stayed outside, barn cats who made homes under cars and porches. For my graduation, I wanted a real, indoor cat. One that would be mine.

First, there was Cinnamon. She was the cutest of a litter from my grandfather's cat. She was calico and little and adorable. Much ado was made of selecting her name. She lasted a few weeks before she got caught in the back door, a heavy, thick thing that was the end of more than one pet. Her back was broken and she was later put down by my father.

Next up, Gizmo, a black kitten, a cast-off of one of my mother's colleagues' cats. There was something gremlin-like about the ears and Gizmo was quickly applied. He lasted a week or so before adding to the pet cemetery.

Additional ways pets met their ends: run over in the road (lots of trucks and farming equipment goes by our house) is most common. There's the back door and my grandma's long driveway. Most unique - transporting an armful of kittens to my grandmother's, one got caught under the seat and was destroyed via car mechanisms.

It is now making sense how truly miraculous Raygen's fifteen years really were.

Raygen. Pronounced like the President. I was fourteen when I named him. Having recently discovered horror films and inaccurately guessing his gender, Raygen was named after the main character in the film The Exorcist, with a sincere butchering of the spelling. Cue continuous explanation from this liberal that the name isn't political. Once I realized what a piece of shit Raegan was and what he stood for, I considered for a brief moment, I considered changing the name. But Raygen was Raygen. It did lead to a short family trend in naming our cats after Presidents, including a Kennedy, a Polk, and an Eleanor Roosevelt (Ellie for short).

 As mentioned earlier, this guy really saw me through everything. High school, college. When I moved to Portland after college, he came with me, sitting in the back of my uncle's semi truck. He did not like cars, so this was asking a lot. After a little over a year in Portland, it was time to go back to the Midwest. This time, he flew. With my grandpa and brother. This required drugs. Check out the below picture for a stoned Raygen.

The trip did not go well. Raygen had enough drugs to get him through twenty-four hours, plenty of time for the flight from Portland to Denver, then Denver to St. Louis. Me, sitting in Portland, at work and waiting for my last day and final move, thought everything was fine. Here is what actually happened: Drugged Raygen makes it to Denver without problem. Then Denver to St. Louis is cancelled. Brother and Grandpa spend the night in Denver, hiding the cat as he is not allowed in the hotel. Drugs wear off. Raygen is not happy. Then, they book a flight from Denver to Atlanta. No drugs mean Raygen meows the entire flight. They have a flight from Atlanta to St. Louis that is continually delayed until uncle makes plans to drive to Atlanta. Eventually, they make it to St. Louis but at least we'll always have drugged Raygen pictures. And a bond between pet and human that meant that Raygen was, literally years later, always a little afraid of Uncle Milton and Grandpa Jim.

There was High School Raygen and College Raygen and Portland Raygen. My favorite? Indianapolis Raygen. Five years, just me and him in a suburban apartment. He was my laptop buddy, couch buddy, pillow buddy. He stole blankets and beds. He had his own bathroom. Last year, in a fit of boredom and restlessness, I did something I had always planned to do - got a tattoo. An outline of a cat, with an R built in. For the guy himself. Today, I'm glad I have it. That fucker left a mark.

He liked chicken and pepperoni and, recently, eggs. He liked milk but it made him sick. He was very much an only child. He didn't like car rides or water. When he took a bath, he made a very unique noise that sounded a lot like my name. He liked looking out the window and taking up as much of my bed as possible. He had his places - at my parents, the back of the couch and the kitchen counter, no matter how many ways my mom tried to keep him off it. At my apartment, it was that spot between me and the edge of the bed, next to me on the couch. He chased the red light but was indifferent to cat beds or cat toys - he would find his bed and his fun wherever he wanted to, thank you very much. He would rub up against your face and nose boop you. He was balding on the top of his head. He wasn't a perfect pet but he was mine and I was his and we had a very nice life together.

What's left? I'm looking into a fancy urn from Etsy for the remains. But I've got about a thousand pictures and some very important videos I'll treasure - meowing, purring, doing that weird thing where he chases the carpet. This is it, this is him, what he's reduced to now.

It's been a few days. I feel like the election - there's before and after. It feels like it was always going to go this way. I want to keep this grief, protect it. He was mine and this grief is mine. Intimate and sore but there. Being abroad, there's a certain remove from his death. But I think, instead of a band-aid, it will be more fits and starts. Unpacking next month and finding his toys. Driving by his vet or his pharmacist once I'm in Indiana. Going past his food in the Target pet aisle.

Solace - for our family pets, he lasted a long time and had a peaceful death. I got to say goodbye, a few moments on the phone that I'll cherish hours before he died. He had his own apartment in Indiana for a few years. The last months of his death, the best care of concerned nurses in my mother and grandmother.

And 2016, what a bitch. He saw the end of Bowie and Prince and Castro. And at least he doesn't have to deal with a fucking Trump presidency. He sat there with me with wine on the couch as we watched Obama win reelection, was next to me in bed for the end of Walter White. Sat on my lap or next to me on the apartment balcony while we read every word of the rambling Song of Ice and Fire series.

I've got a thousand pictures to go through, a dozen videos, and fifteen years of memories. He was a good cat, a good pet, a good friend. I'll remember him and miss him always. Thanks, Raygen, for fifteen incredible years.