This is Mr. Burrows, my kitten named after the ever brilliant, and remarkably talented, best-selling author, Augusten Burroughs. This is the story of how the two of them helped save my life.
Now feline Mr. Burrows, whom the kids like to call Gussy, came to my home in January. ShirleyJacksonCat was always crying and was used to living with another cat before I adopted her. No amount of attention she received stopped her persistent meowing,and so I told the girls that they could pick out a kitten. We went to a pet fair shortly after Christmas, and they had two little kittens: Mickey and Donald. Donald had a cold and so wasn’t available for immediate adoption; Mickey, the SPCA guy told me, was healthy. The next morning, however, his eyes were shut with goop, and he didn’t seem to be eating. The following day, which was a Sunday, I felt he needed to go the emergency vet.
Three hundred dollars and four medications later, Mr. Burrows came back to my house to recoup, and it was around this time that my idea for the colony came to me.
I told the girls they could name him, but that he had to be a famous author. My suggestions were: Francis, after Frank McCourt, Augusten after the aforementioned writer, or (and this was a stretch) Johnny Cash. “We could call him Mr. Cash”, I told the girls. He is, after all, a tuxedo cat, so I felt that was kind of perfect because he literally is the man in black. Sierra argued that Johnny Cash wasn’t a writer. I argued that he was a song writer, and that counts. Also “Walk The Line” is my favorite movie.
When they settled on Augusten, I was not at all disappointed though I was a bit apprehensive. A flashback of the film “Julie and Julia” popped into my mind. Shirley Jackson is dead, therefore I can pretend she loves and supports me as a writer. Augusten Burroughs is alive- he could hate it, or ignore it, or both. Chances are he’ll never read it, but a lot of times when chances are one way in my life, they tend to go the other way , so I was a bit unnerved. But since I credit reading Augusten Burroughs’s books with saving my life several times over- the most recent instance, last fall when I was left, by my ex, without a place to live, a broken heart, and a very confused head, and since I promised the girls they could pick, I said “sure, but we will spell it differently to avoid being offensive.”
When I found a new apartment, and started trying to write again, I started to reread “Dry.” Moving was horrific. I hired some fly-by-night movers who stole my televisions, and broke half of my furniture by throwing it fully constructed into the moving van. About a million people about a million times said, ” well things can’t get any worse.” By the 999,999th time I heard that, I wanted to bite the person’s tongue myself. I opened a tenth anniversary copy of “Dry” and read that it was written in real time. Mr. Burroughs described writing it “because he didn’t know what else to do with himself.Either, he could write,or he could go to bed at 5:30.” (Quotes are paraphrased). Sounded familiar. I remember thinking “I’m not alone.” I had read the book before, but I’d thumb through it rereading some of his craziest moments, and I would say to myself, “if he got up from there, I can get up from here.”
A couple weeks later after my oldest left to study abroad, I was painting the kitchen and designing the blog. Things were going to be ok. Mr. Burrows had made a habit of hiding under my bed, and in climbing under to get him, I discovered a bag that I shoved under there when I moved. I opened it to see what was in it. I had recently lost my laptop in New York, which is another story for another day, so I was elated that inside of it was my ipad. Hallelujah.
It was snowing, and I was still having significant trouble sleeping. I had ordered the one Augusten Burroughs book that I had never read from amazon, but “This is How” never came. I wasn’t, at the time, really an e-reader, and I still love a touchable book, but I was feeling pretty low and I had the ipad, so I bought it. I needed it that minute.
The next morning, I was lying in bed looking out at the snow, and thinking I’m going to get a lot of work done. My phone dinged indicating a received text message. My brother had been found dead.
I don’t think I can adequately describe what I felt at that moment. I jumped out of bed, and ran around just screaming and crying. I think I was hitting my legs wildly, for what reason I don’t even know, but if I had to speculate, I would say to make sure they were still there, and that I wasn’t in the midst of a fake nightmare, but rather a real one.
Eventually one of my friends said, ” I’m going to come and get you.” I held on to the cats,and I opened “This is How”, and waited. The thought, maybe this is from my brother, who always ordered everything from Amazon, comforted me. And that is how I survived that day, many of the days that came before it, and it is how I will survive the days to come: believing that for every force of evil, every bad event, every terrible coincidence, there is a higher power of good that creates the reverse, and you can see it and follow it, if you chose to read into things that way, and I do.