Monday, 9 June 2008


On Thursday night, feeling awfully sorry for myself, I typed the words ‘PABLO – BELOVED BLACK CAT – CASH REWARD OFFERED FOR HIS SAFE RETURN’ into a blank Word document. I added my phone number and a photograph of Pablo. Then I pressed ctrl and P, keyed in 20 copies and pressed ‘print’. As I picked up the first sheet to examine it, my mobile phone began to squeal.


It was Ron, next door neighbour in Herne Hill, owner of three discoloured teeth and one fabulously untended garden which was until recently Pablo’s favourite stomping ground and miniature jungle kingdom. I’d already talked to him about Pablo going missing post-move. He had kindly checked his garden and promised to keep his eyes peeled. So when I heard his voice, I was optimistic.

Ron explained that he was with a young man called Tony. Tony had been going door to door in the area asking if anyone owned a black cat. He’d eventually been pointed towards Ron’s building. When Ron said yes, his ex-neighbour was missing a black cat, Tony burst into tears.

‘I’ve got some bad news,’ Ron said. My heart sank and my stomach turned. He passed me over to Tony.

‘He just ran straight out in front of my car,’ Tony explained. ‘There was nothing I could do.’

Tony was a cat person. He felt terrible. I felt bad for him. But I felt sick for Pablo.

I drove back to my old house. I shook Tony’s hand. There was nothing he could do.

‘It’s OK,’ I told him. ‘It wasn’t your fault.’

‘I’ve got four cats,’ he said. ‘I know how it is. I’m so, so sorry.’

Tony showed me to his car. He’d placed Pablo in the boot. His car was a Skoda.

A fucking Skoda.

Pablo deserved better than that.

I was surprised by how light he seemed. At first I thought maybe he was lighter because the life had leaked out of his body; because the weight of his soul had departed. Then I realised he’d probably lost a bit of weight in the few days he was missing, roaming around Herne Hill wondering where his life had gone. A shock ran through me. Pity and anger and shame. I tried not to blame myself. I’m still trying not to blame myself. But I do blame myself. At least partially.

I’d never held a dead body before. I touched my mother’s face before they put her in the ground but I didn’t feel much.

I loved Pablo much more than I loved my mother. Probably because Pablo showed me much more love than my mother ever did. It was easy to love Pablo. It was impossible to love my mother. She made it impossible.

His body was still warm.

It had been a clean hit, thank God. He ran into the front wheel with a thud. None of his insides were outside - I don’t think I would’ve been able to face that – but there was blood on his face, already dried. I couldn’t tell where it had come from exactly. I closed his eyes, the way they do in films, with soldiers.

I wrapped him in his favourite blanket and placed him on the passenger seat of my car.

Stalled at the traffic lights near Dulwich Park, I looked down at the blanket and let out a low groan.

I missed Sally.


A couple of weeks ago, Sally and I ended up having quite a heated argument about her taking photos of me. ‘I really thought you’d be into it,’ she said.

‘Well, I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m really not.’

‘Well, why not?’ she wanted to know, and it pissed me off that she seemed to feel some sense of entitlement. Like I was some art project she had paid for with her body.

‘Because you make me feel like a freak show,’ I said.

‘But I think you’re beautiful,’ she said. ‘In your own way,’ she added.

I made a face. My face said, ‘Thanks for that. You certainly know how to make a person feel like shit.’ Then my mouth said it.

‘But I mean it!’ she cried.

‘I know you mean it!’ I cried back. ‘That really doesn’t help matters.’

‘But you don’t understand,’ she said, still digging a dirty great hole for our relationship. ‘For me you have a kind of anti-beauty that’s very attractive.’

‘Jesus, Sally. There’s no difference between that and morbid fascination. I am not an art project! I am a human being!’ I smiled but I was pissed off. ‘Seriously. You really do make me feel like a freak show.’

‘Well, you are a bit of a freak show,’ she said. ‘And that’s part of the attraction.’

I didn’t know how to react to this. I felt like Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise when she says, ‘Damn, Jimmy. What did you do, take some kinda pill that makes you say all the right stuff?’ Only in reverse. I just shook my head.

After which, things became rather strained between us, and as if by mutual, albeit tacit agreement, we began to see a little less of each other. Then we met up for a late dinner on Wednesday night, then back to mine. Everything seemed great. We laughed a lot and touched a lot and everything seemed easy again.

It’s amazing how quickly you can start feeling really optimistic again, no matter how wrong things might be underneath. If indeed they are wrong underneath. You never really know.

Or do you? Maybe you do. I don't.

At 4am I opened my eyes and Sally was sitting cross-legged, wide awake in the middle of my bed, her body twisted away from me. She had a little white vest on. She looked like a dream. My bedside lamp was on, blinding me. I squinted, shaded my eyes. ‘Are you OK?’ I asked. She turned off the light, lay down and pulled the sheet over her body. She said she was fine. Told me to go back to sleep.

I didn’t believe her. ‘What’s up?’ I said.

‘I had a bad dream,’ she said.

‘Poor baby,’ I said, snuggling up to her and experiencing a wave of tenderness. There’s a song by Counting Crows with the line, ‘And every tine she sneezes, I believe it’s love’. It was that kind of moment. Like she’d sneezed all over me. She turned her body away from mine and I positioned myself behind her. ‘What was it about?’ I asked. And just as I did, something fell from the bed to the floor. I jumped. Sally didn’t move, but her not moving was so precise, so deliberate, that it had more impact than if she’d jumped to her feet. ‘What was that?’ I said. I reached across Sally, turned on the light, angled it away from my face and sat up.

Sally continued not to move. ‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘Just my camera.’

I looked at her. She continued to face away from me but I sensed her eyes were open, waiting.

‘Were you taking pictures of me?’ I asked.

She turned to face me, looking furtive, guilty. Or not. I don’t know.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she said. ‘God, you’re paranoid.’

‘Sally. Why were you sitting up in the middle of the night with your camera and a light shining onto my face?’

‘I told you, I had a bad dream. I couldn’t sleep.’

I shook my head. I did a lot of head-shaking with Sally.

‘What?’ she snapped. ‘I was awake and I was looking through photos on my camera.’ I stared at her. She stared back. ‘You’re being weird,’ she said. My mouth fell open.

‘Me?!’ I was aghast. ‘Let me see the camera then.’

‘You’re joking, right?’

‘You’ve showed me photos on your camera before. Show me again.’

‘So you don’t trust me?’

‘Sally. You look guilty. You look like you’re lying to me. And you must admit, it looks pretty suspicious.’

‘I’m not lying and I don’t care how it looks.’

‘So show me. What have you got to hide?”

‘This is ridiculous.’

‘I agree entirely,’ I said. ‘This is utterly ridiculous. You’re behaving like a child.’

‘Oh, fuck off.’

And with that, she got out of bed, pulled on her clothes, picked up her camera and left.

To my shame, I did a little pleading. ‘Please don’t go, Sally’ I said, and I sounded pathetic. I followed her downstairs, wanting to stop her, physically. I tugged at her elbow. She reacted like I’d stabbed at her with a cattle prod and glowered at me. I felt guilty.

She said she wasn’t going to stay where she wasn’t trusted. I said I did trust her. Honest.

She left.

When the front door closed, I came back to my bedroom and picked up my watch from the bedside table. It was a quarter to four. How was she going to get home? I got back into bed.

I picked up my phone. I put it down.

Then I picked it up again and started texting.

Then I shook my head, cancelled the message and threw my phone across the room.

I turned off the light.

I thought how she often flicked through the images on her camera and realised that her explanation was entirely plausible. Why the fuck would she want to take photographs of me anyway? She was right. I was entirely paranoid.

I thought about how I’d never met even got the chance to have her mum cure me of my heliophobia.

I thought how her eyes had flashed hatred when I grabbed at her arm, like she expected me to hit her, and she was daring me.

I thought how we didn't really know each other at all. I should never have touched her.

And now she was gone. With or without stolen snapshots. It didn’t matter. I felt stupid, like I’d fucked everything up.

I looked around the room, staring through the darkness.

I missed Pablo.

I placed the palms of my hands over my ears and pushed my fingernails into the scalp at the back of head until it really, really hurt.

Maybe he’d come back tomorrow.

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Tim Footman said...

So sorry to hear this, Bête. In some ways, the grief you feel for an animal can feel worse, because society doesn't allow you to grieve as deeply.

oatmeal girl said...

i'm horribly, horribly sorry.

my old cat died five years ago. can it be that long? it feels like less. I got new kittens right away. i love them tremendously. but i still grieve for the old one, and his presence has never left the house.

people make all sorts of comments about cats. that they are so independent. that they are the center of their universe. but when you need them, they know it.

i'm sorry about Sally. i'm really sorry about Pablo. loss is hard.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to Pablo.

As for Sally, perhaps it's too early to comment, perhaps there will be another blog from you in a few days saying "it's all back on again" (I've been there).

Meanwhile, thanks to one of my weight loss blogging cyber friends I have tonight found out about a rare fruit:

I'm not Ugli -- I'm Uniq !!!!*

*By inference: they are boring with rigidly uniform features -- dull, dull, dull.

(If you already knew about the Uniq Fruit, also known as the Ugli Fruit, then I apologise for imparting information that you already knew, but this was new to me.)

savannah said...

you have my condolences, sugar. it's been 14 years since our rottweiler died and i still miss her. xox

Carolina said...

Having lost my golden retriever, whom I loved more than anything on this planet, you have my deepest sympathy for Pablo. The loss of a pet is equally as painful as any other loss; I'm crying for you. I also hope the Sally thing resolves well for you.

Valerie said...

What is it about loss that piles upon loss? It's completely unfair and unreasonable.

My heart aches for you. Losing a cat is absolutely dreadful. When everything else is in upheaval too, you start looking around for any reason not to scream.

Personally I vote for screaming...

Anyway, we're out here listening if you do.

Sharon said...

I started reading your journal, blog, whatever you like to call it, a few weeks ago. As I read this last entry, my beloved cat that has moved across the country with me 5 times in the past 14 years is lying on the floor, a feeding tube surgically implanted in her neck in a last-ditch effort to cure the disease that is ravaging her. As you might guess... I'm crying. I'm going to go lie on the floor with her.

P.S. Thanks for what you write.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

sorry for your loss, our pets become family and as you said, more than family sometimes. heartwrenching.

as far as the other. dunno, as a woman ... if I hadn't taken a photo I'd probably have shown you the camera and then made you pay ... in spades. all rather odd indeed, don't beat yourself up about it. and as another commenter said, it may sort itself out yet.

Artful Kisser said...

My previous comment seems terribly inappropriate now. My deepest sympathies La Bete. Animals can be our staunchest friends in those moments when we truly need one and that's truly awful timing. I'm terribly sorry.

Hopefully problems with Sally will resolve. The beginnings of relationships are always hard to navigate. Though I do think you have every right to say you're uncomfortable with being treated like a subject - and it honestly doesn't sound as though she's taken your feelings about that on board - but I dunno nuffink...


Inwardly Confused said...

I am sorry your cat died.

Runaround Sue said...

damn, I'm sorry. I felt so sure he was going to come back safe and sound, and sounds like you could do with some unconditional, furry love right now :0(

Anonymous said...

I'm so, so sorry.

It's so hard when pets die. It's not fair that they are so much more fragile and have such a smaller life-span than us.

Misssy M said...

I am so sorry to hear about Pablo. I lost my wee cat, Molly over a year ago. She was twelve and had a stroke. I cried more at her little garden funeral than I did for any of my grandparents. Which at first I thought was odd but then it seemed obvious- Molly was in my life 24 hours a day. And not going up the stairs and seeing her little head peek out the banister rails to greet me took a lot of getting used to.

I know it sounds heartless but I echo Oatmeal Girl's advice. Getting a kitten will help you get over what happened to Pablo. I waited a month then got two, mainly to help my son get over Molly, as he was inconsolable.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for you dear..

Unknown said...

RIP Pablo.

Anonymous said...

I'm so, so sorry. My little dog has had major surgery this week, and the fear that she might not make it home from the vet has been appalling. I'm so sorry that Pablo never made it back to you. Be gentle with yourself while you're grieving.

oatmeal girl said...

missy m, i wasn't necessarily recommending getting a kitten right away, just mentioning that i myself had. we all grieve in our own ways.

i couldn't be without the furry love. but it didn't stop the pain.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm so so sorry to hear this. Like you I have a mother who makes herself impossible to love and cats, well now a cat who are impossible not to. I'll be thinking of you. Bendy Girl x

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, my childhood cat was run over. It sounds stupid that one of my biggest fears is one of my cats getting run over, but it's just horrible. I can't see a cat near the road without going hot and cold and sticking my fingers in my ears.
And i'm sorry about your relationship too, I hope it gets reconciled x

Alan said...

Really sorry to hear about Pablo, as a recent arrival here I have much reading of your archives to complete, but your pain at loosing him in this way is evident.

Anonymous said...

So, so sorry to hear this.My heart goes out to you.RIP Pablo.

Anonymous said...

Mind-bogglingly self absorbed middle class students with artistic pretensions. Throw a stick in any London park and you'll hit ten of them. I wonder if NotKeith ever warned you about Sally? Unfortunately, you were just her pet project for a few weeks. Sorry, Stan, really. I can't be your only reader who had figured that one out from pretty much your first mention of her. And she was definitely taking pictures of you - don't even doubt that for a second.

RIP Pablo.

Larry Teabag said...

Horrible - my condolences. (On the cat, not the stroppy woman.)

Angela-la-la said...

So, so sorry about Pablo.

Barb McMahon and Alan Mailloux said...

It took two tries to read this post - it's just so raw and painful. I'm so, so sorry about Pablo and about Sally.

Lean on your friends. Let yourself be supported.

Rygantron said...

My chest hurts. Truly.

I am so sorry, Bete.

EB said...

I'm so sorry. I've lost cats that way before, it's fucking awful.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh god Bete, I am so sorry, I too have lost animals and boyfriends but never at the same time. it must be just awful for you.
My heart's with you, words cannot console you.

Anonymous said...

wow - that was beautiful. very sorry for your loss. x

Anonymous said...

Oh Bete, I'm so sorry. You made us love Pablo too.

Anonymous said...

A poignant and beautifully written post. Your choice of words really evokes your pain and nobody, but nobody can take that talent from you. A horrible week indeed and only time will make it more manageable. I'm not pleased with Sally, though.....

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about Pablo. For such small creatures, they leave an awfully big gap in your life when they go.

Hope things resolve themselves with Sally too, but, to be honest, her behaviour sounds very odd and I would question how much respect she actually has for your feelings.

Delores x

Roszs said...

Sorry about the cat, Bete...

I think Sally's being very fucking weird though. Even if she wasn't taking photos (and I'm certainly not convinced!) then she should have the maturity to realise why you might have thought she was and understood why you freaked out.

Maybe its resolved itself by now though one way or another. Hope so x

Anonymous said...

As I went to bed last night and was drifting off to sleep it occured to me that when I look at my photos on my camera in the dark of the night, I don't turn any lights on. Because the LCD screen of the camera LIGHTS ITSELF.
I also don't turn lights on because I respect that someone else is sleeping. I have bad dreams too. And insomnia. But wake someone else up because of it... What is she, 12?

The oldest trick in the book, that, ducking when the finger is pointed at you and pointing it right back. She sounds mean, that one. Mean and spoilt. Couldn't get her own way, eh?

Don't buckle, Bete. Stand your ground.

Anonymous said...


Truly sorry to hear of your loss Bete. Sometimes a brand new replacement kitten can heal wounds amazingly. Take care.


Anonymous said...

Oh Bête, I'm so sorry about Pablo. I was sure he'd turn up.

I know it's awful now, but it will get better, and at least you know what happened to him and that he didn't suffer too much.

One of my cats went missing once and even though it was years ago I still wonder what happened to him and if he's still alive and if someone's being cruel to him. I think it's better to know for sure and to know that he's beyond suffering.

You really shouldn't blame yourself - it sounds like you did everything right. Cats are just independent little sods and there's nothing you can do about it. Sometimes they do just go awandering.

As for Sally, well, I'm wary of saying too much in case your next post is a triumphant one about her apologetic return. But she sounds vile.

I'm assuming she knows about your history and that you already have prior experience of being filmed without your consent. If so, then she should have understood your concerns and let you reassure yourself by looking at the damn phone.

The fact that she didn't, and pulled the old 'how can you not trust me?' bullshit, suggests to me that she's either incredibly insensitive and lacking in basic human empathy, or that, yes, she was in fact taking photos of you while you were sleeping. My vote is for both I'm afraid. Sorry Bête.

Tell Keith to give you a big hug from me.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend Pablo but I am sure that he had one last grand adventure in many a garden before the end. My condolences, really.

I am also sorry for the loss of your friend Sally, although it is early and things could still work themselves out for you and her. They could already be sorted out as I am writing this, but regardless as to whether or not my comment is a bit late:

What would you have done if she showed you the camera and there were pictures of you, would you have chosen to end it due to the fact that, she took pictures without your permission?

It seems to me that maybe you wouldn't have, since you went after her not knowing if she had or hadn't taken them and asked her to stay.

In any case, you had every right to question her honesty because she was acting suspicious and, well- dishonest. I'm with several of the other readers in saying that it's not fair that she pulled the "you don't trust me card" and if she hadn't been snapping pictures then she just should have showed you the camera. Then if you were wrong and she wasn't snapping flicks of you, well then - you'd have some apologizing to do...lots of appeasing and apologizing, but I don't think it would be anything to end a relationship over.

Hmmm... I'm just wondering; did Sally want to display the pictures she took of you or did she just want to photograph you, and share her expertise and the experience with you? You know, as something you two have done together? If she wasn't going to display them, then what's the big deal? Sally Likes you, Sally Likes Photography, Sally wants photographs of you.... but if she was going to publicly display them- that's a different story all together.

As always, I appreciate your talent for the written word and look forward to more and hope that in the mean time, life deems fit to dole out some bits of sunshine your way.

DJ Kirkby said...

Fuck! Repeat endlessly....xoxo

Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry about Pablo.

Anonymous said...

What can I say that hasn't been said? I feel sick that you lost Pablo! As much as my cats drives me nuts I'll be heartbroken if anything happens to them.
As for Sally, well I'm afraid I agree with several others. I think she's lying and pulling the defensive to twist it onto you. If I'm wrong, I'll gladly suck it up. It's crap, I know, and nothing any of say is going to make any difference. Get drunk, cry, talk Keith into the ground and eventually, you will feel better. Take your time :o) xxx

Anonymous said...

I am so terribly sorry.

La Bête said...

Thank you all so much. Reading your comments over the last few days has been truly amazing. I am humbled and really thankful.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, I've just caught up on this week's entries. I am so so sorry for your loss, having been a cat owner for a fair wee while I know only too well how much it hurts when you lose one of the little bastards.

I hope you're in a position to get another cat soon. Chin up and best foot forward

Anonymous said...

P.S. Sally = psycho behaviour. Steer clear!