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Some Wounds Will Never Heal

Tonight I shut down the television and turned off the stereo. It’s raining, so I thought I’d write a bit on Blood & Chartreuse before I bedded down. Not that I can finish a chapter tonight. But I at least wanted to get it started. The chapter I’m about to write is one in which the central character visits one of his many properties in the Tampa Bay area; a house in a quiet neighborhood in the Tropical Shores community in southern Saint Petersburg that he sometimes uses as a safe house. The occasion for the visit is simply that he needs a place to regroup after being nearly killed.
I mention the back-story because in this chapter something of personal significance to me happens. In this chapter the central character, having been safely ensconced there by a friend, starts planning how he will deal with his many mounting problems. He winds up sitting in a chair on his large, screened-in back porch. And as he’s sitting there, thinking about a number of issues and possibilities, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen in some time comes in through a hole in the screens. It’s a squirrel that the central character raised from a baby and released into the wilds of his backyard. The squirrel discovers him there and comes to say hello, and maybe get a few cashews. The moment is intended as an illustration of this man’s basic humanity, that in spite of being a vampire and having killed thousands of people in the centuries of his existence, he is still, basically, a human being at heart. This squirrel is intended as an homage to my dear Spartacus, my son, the squirrel that Victoria and I saved and brought back from the brink of death. The squirrel that brought so much joy into our lives during the three short months he was with us.
Thinking of this chapter and the significance of the squirrel, I decided to walk out onto the back porch to listen to the rain, and perhaps get my head in the right frame of mind for writing. I turned off the porch light, walked out onto the porch, and stood there near the screens in the darkness, listening to the rain. My thoughts immediately went to Spartacus. And to how empty it feels out there with him gone, knowing I’ll never see him again. I spoke soft words to myself and the Universe, and said, simply, “I miss my son.” Given the chapter that I’m going to be writing, I’m especially aware of his absence.
Within minutes I felt a furry presence brush against my legs. It was Mischa, the outside cat who lives here. The cat who killed Spartacus. Since she killed our boy we haven’t been mean to her. We’re not those kinds of people. We still give Mischa food and water. But neither of us have been able to bring ourselves to pet her. It just seems wrong to do so, knowing what she did. As much as it’s tugged on my conscious that all living creatures desire affection and companionship, I haven’t been able to go there. It’s a line I haven’t been willing to cross. Until now.
Tonight, I felt a softening of the stone. I felt empathy for Mischa, out there alone on the porch. I reached down and scratched her softly on the top of her head. She immediately responded to it, standing up on her hind legs, thrilled by the unexpected affection. To my surprise, I immediately thought of Spartacus, and burst into unexpected tears. On so many levels I felt like I had betrayed him, and sullied his memory, simply by reaching down there are rubbing a cat on the head. It took a few moments to pull myself together. I haven’t cried that hard since the day I put Spartacus’ little body in the ground.
I don’t know what to make of all this, and I certainly don’t expect anyone else to understand why the loss of this little squirrel still torments me so. It’s a pain that I keep secreted away in tight bindings in a dark corner of my mind, because I’ve spent so much time obsessing about the subject. To a lot of heartless people I’m being silly, but I couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about me grieving over Spartacus. He was my friend. In many ways I felt like he was my son. His life was supposed to be long and happy. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t sit out there in the back yard feeding peanuts to the squirrels that I don’t feel a sharp pang of longing for those days I thought I’d spend out there feeding peanuts to Spartacus. I still miss watching him come skittering down the tree when he’d see me out there in the yard, so that he could climb up on my shoulder and stick his cold nose into me ear or play excitedly in my long hair. Sometimes I look up into the trees and pretend that he’s still up there somewhere.
Perhaps this is a loss most people can’t understand. But it’s very real to me. I won’t apologize for it. I’ve had people tell me my whole life that I was silly, or that I was a dreamer, or that I was weird because I solemnly marked the passage of the most insignificant of creatures. But I’ve noticed that those people have most often turned out to be some of the worst human beings I’ve ever known. Anyone who thinks my grieving is silly is most likely missing some part of their basic humanity. The ability to feel this kind of love and empathy for a small, wild creature is the very definition of what makes us human.
If nothing else, in having that moment out there in the dark, crying as I listened to the rain and so pointedly feeling that emptiness, I was reminded of the simple reason for this upcoming chapter in the book. It’s meant to be a moment where this cold-blooded killer reminds himself of what it means to be human, by simply sitting there and enjoying a quiet moment and a few cashews with a little squirrel, whom he considers one of his dearest friends. I intend the squirrel in this book to be an homage to Spartacus, so that he might live on in some small way. I suppose, in the end, what upsets me most is the realization that writing that part of this chapter will be the last real moment I will ever spend with Spartacus, in that it will be a summation of what I felt for him and what I believe he felt for me. I’m transferring that to a fictional character, because that’s a good way to share that relationship with the world. But once it’s done I’ll likely never revisit those raw emotions again.
It’s still raining. I’m sleepy. Somehow I don’t feel like writing anymore. I wish I could go out there and sit in the dark and listen to the rain some more. But I know if I do Mischa will be circling my legs. I’ve already given her all that I can for the day.

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