“You’ve got moxie, my girl. Always had. You’re going to be just fine.” Grammy Elle squeezes my hand, but there isn’t much pressure behind it. There couldn’t be. She was only in her late seventies, but cancer was proving too much for her. The doctors gave her a week at most, but she and I both knew this would be our last moment together.
I smile at the woman who raised me, who was my everything after my mother decided she wasn’t up for raising a child. I smile and try not to cry because I know she doesn’t want me to. I’ve always wanted to please my grandmother and this time I wasn’t going to veer from that tradition.
Grammy Elle tries to smile back, but a pain catches her, causing her to wince and take in a ragged breath. She reaches for the morphine button but her hand falls before it gets that far. The hand I’m hold gives one more feeble grasp before it too falls slack.
When the flatline sounds on the monitor, I simply let go of the hand of the only person I had ever cared about and grab the sleeping bag I had used each night I stayed with her. Walking away, I don’t even look back as nurses were rushing in around me. There was no point. Grammy Elle was gone and there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it.
The walk to the home I had shared with Grammy Elle was long, but I see none of the familiar sites that rest between the house and the hospice. I had walked the way so many times that I knew it by heart but this time I see nothing.
There is no thought in my mind as I enter the house. The smell of lilac hits me and I begin crying, though I’m not sure if I’m crying for Grammy Elle or myself. I know I can’t survive without her, no matter what she said. I wasn’t ready to be on my own.
Though I have nowhere to go, I know I can’t stay in the house full of memories. For the second time that day, I walk out of a room without looking back.
I don’t know where I’m going. The city rushes around me, full of people who seem to have a plan and people to go home to. I have nothing now that Grammy Elle is gone. She was wrong about me having moxie. My spirit is empty, my heart broken.
Walking seems my only course of action. The world moves around me but I don’t see it. I can only see the blur of the gray sidewalk, each step looking like the last. Each step leading me to nowhere I care about.
I only stop when I can no longer take another step, whether that be from grief or fatigue, I couldn’t tell you. I only know there came a moment when, instead of taking another step, I kneel down on the cold pavement.
I simply sit with my back against the brick, not looking at anyone the way they’re obviously trying to not be obviously not looking at me. I know what they must think. It’s been two days since I had a proper shower because it’s been been two days since I left Grammy Elle’s side to go home for one. I look like I belong on the street. Maybe I do. Maybe without Grammy Elle, there is nothing better for me.
My mother apparently thought I wasn’t worth much. These people agree with her after all these years. I only existed for one person and that person is gone for good. I could do nothing for her. I was worthless to the one person who ever imagined there was worth in me.
After a moment or so, I notice that no one is bothering to look at me anymore. No glances in my direction, not even those calculated ones. I realize exactly what is going on. I no longer exist. No one sees me anymore. I am another piece of trash on the ground.
The screech pulls me out of my fugue. It’s a tiny sound, but clearly one of pain. I look up in time to see a small gray striped kitten with a white belly get stepped on yet again. It yelps and tries to get out of the way of the feet coming from every direction.
I can’t move. I can only see this kitten skirting from one pair of legs to the other, It doesn’t take long to see that it’s trying to get someone to notice it. It’s lost and so small. From the way it’s limping, I can also tell it’s hurt, possibly from one of the numerous kicks it’s receiving from the uncaring people.
The kitten sees me, staring straight at me with it’s tiny golden eyes. I swear I see a change come over it. The kitten looks to the right and left and then makes a mad dash straight into my lap. It narrowly avoids several more kicks but it makes it.
The kitten begins to climb up my shirt and I have to pick it up to avoid the tiny claws. When I look the kitten over, I can see a few bits of dried blood in it’s fur and notice that it’s limping paw is probably broken. It stares at me and I see more strength in this lost kitten than I’ve ever had.
The kitten begins to purr as I hold it close. Despite what it’s been through, this kitten has courage and trust that I will take care of it.
Standing, I know where to go now. The kitten needs food and somewhere safe to sleep. More importantly, it needs me.
My grandmother was right. I had Moxie. I was going to be just fine.