The hollowed-out smell of bleach wafted up from the floors, stretching to the ceiling like cleansing ghosts. In between the walls was a thick silence that lacked the sound of the yip-yap barking of Plato’s usual greeting. He lay coiled in a pile of bones and sucked-in flesh, his skin taut and eyes red, the sun shining through the open window like a spotlight on his frail body.
The harshness of the bleach burned my nose and throat and made
my eyes itch.
His copper-penny eyes followed me as I sanitized my small
apartment, the smell of Clorox replacing
the scent of Jasmine, waiting for death to strangle the air.
“Parvo,” the vet said five days prior, and I was confused at first,
because it sounded like nothing more than a game children play. “Is there a cure?” I’d asked hopefully, but he’d looked at me with sympathy, and I knew the
answer. As I left the vet’s, the sky had opened up and cried for Plato.
I finished mopping and sat down on the too-clean floor,
Indian-style. Plato’s ribcage protruded from his body, a scallop-edged accordion
inside his torso. I ran my fingers against his chest, his breath shallow
beneath my fingertips. He let me cry, watching with sympathetic eyes, as if I
were the one with the sickness and he the caretaker.
I reached over, picked him up gently, and sat him on my
lap. His fur was soft, his body pliant. His eyes—brown, deep, and
soulful—searched mine, looking for answers, for comfort, for permission.
I nodded as he licked my palm for the last time.