After months of seizures, breathing problems, coupage, hand, bottle, and syringe feeding, alopecia, and time spent waiting at different clinics, I finally had Marcy put to sleep just the other week. I’ve lost count of how many vets have looked at her and given opinions ranging from asthma to liver to brain damage. “She closed her eyes before we injected her. Did you see her close her eyes?” my vet asked, as we were waiting for the Euthal to fully enter her tiny vein. I guess we could say she knew, or was waiting. I’d read somewhere that the best way to put a pet to sleep would be in your arms, and this is actually something that the staff at PAWS require for those looking to abandon their pets. I was told I could leave whenever I wanted to, because “you did what you could,” and the trauma could be too much to bear, but I stayed with her anyway. Despite having been warned about a range of movements running from tiny twitches to death rattles and full-blown seizures, she went quietly. That was three weeks ago.
At the time of her death, Marcy could no longer walk and could barely prop herself up long enough to finish her food. Having experienced some degree of self-sufficiency, even for a short while, her tiny face would fill with panic (and probable disgust) when she’d pee in bed and not be able to do anything about it. I don’t think I’ll ever fully comprehend the loneliness that comes with grieving for a pet, and I still find myself spacing out, wondering if all this work to give a kitten a decent shot at life is inversely proportional to my capacity to care about people.
And I’d like to say that isn’t true, but when an old woman came up to my car one morning and I gave her a pack of cookies because that was all I had at the moment, I wasn’t sure if this testified to my own strategy for survival or my greed–or both. It doesn’t take an idiot to see that survival is not an issue in my case. I have–in every sense of the word–been lucky. Despite having dropped a closet door on my toe resulting in a gory procedure whose name I can’t even pronounce, then getting bitten by the same kitten who had to be put to sleep; despite losing my grandmother on Christmas Eve (I’m not suggesting that these events are comparable); I know I’m lucky to have so little to go between having my heart completely broken one moment, and completely full the next.
The Tuesday before I left, I saw six students defend thesis papers for which I’d served as their adviser. After that, they took me out for cake and beer. These are the kinds of things that force me to take back every awful word I’d ever uttered about humanity. At the end of the day, we still work for the good of people; we still uphold the importance of developing self-respect and learning to love despite the many ways in which people can be petty, unreliable, and mean.
Thus, having no time to write; or rather I haven’t posted anything new here in almost three months, but I’m still lurking around, saving things as drafts then abandoning them until my head gets too heavy and my heart gets too full. I realize that any attempt to write in this condition would result in something overtly precious, and reading it would make me want to punch someone in the face; but I also met someone here in Berlin who has obsessively photographed every object he has ever held in his right hand as a method of autobiography. We have our ways of claiming space. Last week was spent with 180 art and criticism students and professionals at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. I’d never been to Europe before this conference, and had been anticipating some level of anxiety at being cooped up indoors for 14 hours a day from Monday to Sunday, but I couldn’t tear myself away from what was happening in there because of how great it felt to be in the presence of a rabidly attentive audience who actually clawed at and wrung out every shred of possible knowledge handed to them (of course there were also people who just liked hearing themselves talk, but that’s beside the point). It was nice to actually talk about art.
Which is weird, because all I do at school, in Manila, is talk about art; and now I’m wondering what the hell I’d been doing wrong all those months that would paint this experience any differently.
This weekend, the first thing I have to do when I get back is stop at the clinic near my apartment and get my last anti-rabies shot done. This was also the last thing I did before leaving for Berlin, making this trip the space between anti-rabies shots, on account of the kitten who I had to put to sleep the Monday before leaving. There’s been so much romance in this blog about travel, but I’m not sure if I ever pointed out how a life in transit is also a life in constant translation. Seeing other places though makes you wonder about the validity of the foreigner label, because sometimes you do feel more at home in places you’re bound to leave at the end of the week. Because as much as I love my family and friends back home, and as much as I miss my cats, there’s always going to be that unease that comes with a hopelessly awkward fit.
I can’t tell if Berlin’s any better because I’ve never lived here. It’s been snowing since I got here and temperatures dip below zero every single night. In the short time I’ve spent here, the place has failed to transition from opportunity to potential (although the rent is surprisingly cheap), and it’s not because there are no cats. It could also be the pace at which things have been going. One of the strands of thought that we tackled at the conference was taken from Alexei Penzin’s “Sleep and Subjectivity in Capitalist Modernity” (this might be David Riff’s translation), which treats sleep as capital, as palimpsest, and as a means of opting out. And this had to be discussed in a conference which required we be deprived of sleep to be able to keep up. Literally, we were kept at HKW from 10 in the morning until 11 at night, with a few breaks in between.
But something about it felt right, like those rare moments where a situation comes with a rhythm that you could have sworn was choreographed just for you, and that’s how these past few days have been. I’ve never lived anywhere else, besides Manila. Which saddens me, because it could also mean that I’ve never felt at home anywhere.