Eighteen and a half years

Sebastian is dead. I have felt like I can’t do anything without acknowledging his death, I can’t write anything about my life without talking about this huge fucking loss and how everything is different now. But I haven’t had the strength until now. I mean, let’s be honest – I haven’t been drunk enough to talk about it until now.

And let’s let this just be a one paragraph digression. In the past two years I have done very well at learning how to deal with my feelings without resorting to alcohol. I sit and I process things. But that means processing and feeling becomes the primary response (as it should be) and recording those feelings becomes a distant thought. If you read back through twenty something years of posts on Hubris, you’ll see I speak “my truth” more when I’ve been drinking – and you’ll see that my previous counsellor even kind of encouraged that as a way to actually feel things. So this is somewhat of a conundrum for someone who’s been doing a lot of work to only drink in a more mindful way. And that’s why though Sebastian died in August, I’m only at the point now in February where I feel I can write about it now, and that’s only because I want to write a year in review and all that crap, but I can’t make him just one paragraph in a great big piece. He absolutely deserves his own entry.

Did you meet Sebastian? Here is the first online journal entry when I talk about adopting him on January 26, 2003. He was five weeks old then, more ears than cat, and he fit in the palm of my hand. I brought him home from the pet shop and we sat on the floor in the kitchen and I held him and told him what his name would be. He gave me a brown shower one morning, and I threatened to wax my flatmate’s balls after he stuck a giant “Rock FM” sticker to Seb who didn’t even notice. When Iva moved in with her two female cats, Seb made mounting them motions, even they were all fixed, but we’d still find them all cuddled up on the spare bed in the lounge. He slept with me every night and bit the toes of boys who stayed in my bed overnight.

I can’t write out 18 and a half years of history. You know the basics. I moved back to Wellington at the end of 2003 and had to sedate Sebby for the flight down. My parents loved him when I lived with them – their cat did not. Seb put up with horrible flatmates who didn’t like him in Newtown. I can still hear him crying from the night he got locked up in a warehouse in Newtown and a member of Two Lane Blacktop tried to help me bust him out in the morning and got covered in wood chips for his trouble.

Seb came into his own when I moved to Hataitai with my sister Anji and he had two people totally dedicated to him. He loved Bart and Smoo later when Anji went elsewhere. It was a strange thing to know that I wouldn’t be too surprised to wake up to street signs and blood on the bathroom walls from random drunken boy shenanigans but that they would absolutely feed my little man if I asked them to, and let him in and out when needed.

It’s strange, I lived in Newtown for a couple of years after that but I was so caught up in a stupid boy for a while then that my memories of Sebastian at Immoral Terrace are few and far between. I know I left my bedroom window open for him which meant that someone almost climbed through it one night. I started taking two zopiclone a night (do NOT do that!) at the suggestion of my psychiatrist who later had a breakdown and left the country while I was hooked on sleeping pills witout any clinical notes to support it, so I can only imagine Sebastian enjoyed me sleeping that much, as he loved to crawl up into my left arm pit to cuddle with me.

After Newtown there was a brief stay with my parents again where I learned just how much a cat could be weaponised in a passive aggressive battle – “oh your mother’s still not up to feed you? well I guess I’ll feed you then!” before a six week stay at the Aro end of the Terrace. On the first afternoon i was there, Seb went outside and disappeared under the house, but even though I was worried, I was confident enough that he was bonded to me that he’d come straight back when he was done exploring – and he did.

When I moved into my first ever place by myself, I wondered if I’d have to teach him how to use the cat door that I had especially installed. Nope. That fucking slut had clearly been going in and out of someone else’s house with all the skill and confidence he demonstrated going in and out of the cat door at Scarborough Terrace.

At one stage I wondered where the heck he was spending all his time, and pondered on Twitter if I should attach a camera to his calendar. I received a tweet back from my neighbour – who I didn’t know followed that account – saying all I’d see was the inside of her cupboards. She sent me pics of his butt disappearing into her cabinets to prove it. After his death she sent me a whole cache of pics of him, snuggled with her boyfriend at the time on their bed, interrupting her yoga shoots or sniffing her flat lays of smoothie ingredients. He always was a slut.

And that was the amazing thing about Sebby. He was so chill with everyone. I believe this is because of how many people were coming and going in Volcanic Street when he was a baby – I guess there are benefits to living in what was practically a youth hostel. He was just such a chill dude. Mostly.

Of course in 2012, when Florence showed up and decided to adopt me, Seb had plenty of reason to be less chill. Here was this whole other cat deciding to sleep on HIS bed, to be on HIS human, to take the place in front of HIS heater – and of course that happened around the same time that I started my first grown up relationship when it wasn’t just another cat in my bed but another woman too. He wasn’t happy at first, but then he understood that he was still top dog, and wasn’t nearly as threatened. Sheryl always talked about how important it was for her to charm him., not Florence, since that was who was really in control. There was nothing better than mornings in bed with her, the paper and two cats.

And when there was no more Sheryl, there was still a Sebastian. He was always there for me when I cried – not necessarily running to comfort me outside of his own schedule, but he definitely knew when I was upset. Honestly, fucking hell – imagine you had to see me cry almost all the times I cried in 18 and a half years. Imagine you had to deal with my highs and lows. That cat was a goddamn hero.

When I bought my house in Thorndon, I was happy to let him out first thing when the cat door was installed, because I knew he’d come back to me. Florence used to love jumping out the upstairs window and making her way down to the ground again. One day he followed her and was still stuck on the roof unsure what to do next when I heard her coming back in through the cat flap.

Of course Thorndon meant a dog in the garden and sometimes in the house. I feel bad for Trixie as to how quickly she was whipped by the cats to be afraid of them. Sometimes I would sit in the garden with Seb on one side of me and Florence on the other – both of them very staunch in their dislike for each other – and Trixie would want to come for pats, but couldn’t get past my guardians unless she pushed through the weeds at the back. Sometimes she’d come in to eat the food the cats had snobbed and run out with half a bag of catfood in her mouth – but Lorde help her if Seb or Flo ever saw her and took a swipe.

Too many people in the house continued to be a theme as I took in AirBnB guests to pay for a trip to Mexico. Florence was deaf by then, screaming every morning like Fran Drescher for food and Seb would be bemused by her – like shut up Flo but oh, there’s food happening now? I can dig that. They had chosen their own sides of me to sleep on by then, though things got a little more complicated when Flo started burrowing under the blankets for my warmth and Seb didn’t know.

At this stage I need to write about how he disappeared for six days, and when he showed up again, his back left leg was all bung. But it still makes me cry thinking about how he managed to drag himself home to me though he was basically screaming in pain, so we will just leave it there. I so wish more of you could have met him before his injury. You know how great he was at sitting in a corner so regal and handsome waiting for you to lavish attention and treats on him? Yeah that but times a million.

After Florence died, I think it took him a while to adjust back to having ALL of my attention, but he liked it. At parties, he’d hold court in the corner of the couch, waiting for people to pat him and feed him treats. At Boom popups he’d lie on my bed – having climbed up the little stairs on an extra box – and watch people getting changed, always hoping for treats.

During the first lockdown, when D had a brain aneurism, everything after that didn’t matter, once D was home safe. So this is where we come to second lockdown in August 2021. I was burnt out and grateful for an excuse to pause Boom stuff, and I was happy to just be home and just chill with Sebby. Until I noticed his breathing was a little laboured. I took him for some steamy showers to break up congestion, but that didn’t do anything, so I made him a vet appointment to get some antibiotics.

We were at Level 4 so I couldn’t go into the vet’s with him. I had to put him in his cage – which he got into so patiently, ever since his accident he always knew that that vet meant getting better, even when it meant two kinds of painkiller a day and arthritis shots once a month – and leave it on the bottom of the vet’s stairs, like I was leaving my baby outside a church. But they’d take his temperature and prescribe some antibiotics, he’d be chill, it was fine. Except that it turned out they suspected he had fluid on his lungs and they wanted to scan him. I agreed, and howled in my car. The vet came outside in a mask and told me he thought Seb had lymphoma, and that in a cat his age, there wasn’t really anything they could do, and that he was in a lot of pain. I knew they were saying it was time to say goodbye, but at level 4, I didn’t want to do that without being there. I asked what we could do, and they told me they’d put in a drip and a two metre line, and I could come in wearing a mask and gloves, and hold Sebby for ten minutes under the regulations, and they could give him the drugs from a distance.

How do you say goodbye to someone who’d been there half your life in ten minutes? I’m actually in a way grateful that it happened that way because Seb was inside while I howled in the carpark and bawled my eyes out as they set things up inside. I’m so pleased he didn’t have to see me like that. I hate that I was wearing a mask and gloves when I went in to see him, but he was just lying in his open cage, chilled out, line going into his paw that hurt a bit so I couldn’t pick him up. But I stroked him and told him how proud I was of him, what a good boy he was. I reminded him of how when I first got him and carried him home from the Balmoral shops how we sat on the floor in the kitchen together, and how we had always been so bonded. I wanted to yell WAIT STOP when he was rubbing himself against the side of the cage, still seeking skritches, because how could you kill someone who just still wanted to be scratched under the ears? But I asked the vet to come in, and I stroked Sebastian, and I told him that I loved him, and the vet gave him the sleep and he went limp. My boy. My beautiful beautiful boy.

It was Level 4 in New Zealand, which meant basically nothing but essential services were available, so when I was ready to talk about it – after doing a contactless dropoff of Tom’s birthday cake to Karen and wow if you think Brits are emotionally cold, imagine having to see someone you love when they know something incredibly devastating has happened to you and they can’t touch you – I told the internet that if they wanted to do something productive for me, I’d take donations towards the Sebastian and Florence tattoos I already had booked, since they couldn’t send me flowers. And I said that reminding people I had everything I needed, but also knowing I’d received four bunches of flowers when Flo had died, and knowing how I’d feel if I was in the place of people who loved me and how sometimes it’s nice to throw money at issues. So my friends paid for my cat tattoos – which were the same price as Seb’s final tests and cremation – and that makes them even more special.

When we got to Level 2 my parents brought me a magnolia tree to plant and scatter his ashes under. I just cried a lot. I cried and cried and cried. I’m crying now as I write this, which is right and good, because fuuuuuuuck. That sweet boy meant everything to me.

Soon I will tell you other things about 2021, and I’ll talk to you about Callie and Katie. But I’d held off for far too long telling the story of Sebastian, and I still feel I haven’t done him any justice because I haven’t told a single anecdote – like the tragedy of Will’s ham, for starters. But at least I started. And I’ve got him tattooed on my arm and inside my heart, so there will be stories forever.

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