“She’s so widdle!” I used to squeal, cradling your huddled body in my cupped hands, bowing my head to breathe you in. You slept so deeply I had to double check to make sure you were still breathing. Sometimes I’d slide my hands under you while you slumbered, taking my time; I’d lift you without waking you and shove you in Matty’s face, forcing him to marvel at how fragile and precious and perfect and absolutely tiny you were. I always called you tiny, even when you grew so plump you got stuck on the lip of your kennel when you tried to clamber out of it. Your stomach grew before your legs did. I’d offer you my hands, palms up, and you’d step into them and climb up my arm to shove yourself in the crook of my neck.
When I couldn’t find you, I panicked. If you weren’t in your kennel at work, it was safe for me to assume that someone was holding you — you brought joy to everyone around you, and nobody could resist holding you or taking pictures of you — but I searched for you anyway, trying to be subtle. I worried constantly about losing you — in the living room, under the chair, in the couch, tucked behind the trash can or bookcase; in the bedsheets, in your kennel, between the pillows — because you were so small and your world was so big.
I broke all of my rules for you. “Don’t give the kitten a name you’d want to use for your own pet someday; don’t post pictures of the kitten online until she makes it past the bottle-feeding stage; don’t call her yours because she isn’t, not really, and it’ll make it harder on you later when you have to give her up.” I was reckless and willful. I couldn’t bear to think about adopting you out to someone who I didn’t know personally. I couldn’t bear to think about adopting you out, period. I knew I was ready to go to war for you. I prepared arguments and retorts in my head before they ever needed to be spoken; at the top of the list was, “She’s too little!” Too little for vaccinations or flea medication; too little to be spayed; too little to eat solid food adeptly.
And when I held you for the last time, I remember thinking, “God, she’s so little.” You were featherlight and infinitesimal, and when I placed you finally in the tender embrace of people I love and trust, I remember feeling the weight of my own hands as they fell empty to my sides and realizing that this emptiness is a blooming exit wound that goes on forever and the ache is wider than my outstretched arms.