Continued from yesterday…
The countess, it turns out, was made of music, equal parts Edith Piaf and Joan Jett, opera and rock and roll and lyrical liquid honesty. (“O! I AM HUNGRY. O! I am here. O! I am AWAKE. O! you are gnarly. O! we should print meat. O! New Jersey is CRACKIN’. O! don’t tell New York I said that. O! I AM HUNGRY. Nessun dorma. O! something like that.”)
Even as she acquired baggage — kidney disease; ringworm riots; a most inconvenient cancer — Consetta crammed the air with song. Everything and everyone bloomed around her. Her open suitcases sprouted daffodils.
(She also acquired impressive “saddlebags” on her perfect, perfect, perfect blimpish belly, all the better to tote around all that love.)
Every time she sniffed love in the air — the high note in Eau de Rural NJ, atop hints of “manure morning” and “poor excuse for pizza” — Consetta let it land.
One by one, the planes came in. There was Tux, soft-hearted and sharp-dressed, ready to share his favorite windowsill in a New York minute. There was Dani, that dizzy dingbat who never heard the word “can’t,” whose contortions made the countess laugh. There were the staff and volunteers, a peculiar, patient people, whose songs were silly but whose hearts were strong.
And there — who was that?
Was that a little thunder cloud?
A Central Park pigeon?
Consetta blinked a few times. It was a cat, a subtle smudge in the sunbeam, an unassuming bauble on the beach. It was a Shelley, all cloudy eyes and insight.
It was love at first sight.
From the Met Gala to New York Fashion Week, you’ll not find a specimen as beautiful as Consetta found Shelley. No sooner had they set eyes on each other, than they became inseparable, a two-headed lioness in a constant state of snuggle. To the countess, Shelley was the secret of the universe. To the little pewter worry-stone, Consetta was counselor and comfort and countess and champion.
To our eyes, blessed to behold something so rare and real, theirs was the kind of love that could heal the whole world.
For a time, it appeared that it might do just that. Shelley and Consetta collected a constellation of stars around them on the Community Room window seat, unlikely bedfellows crowding their city-center of love. Even catstraphobic Frankie could be found in the Consetta-Shelley suburbs.
All of us — both species — brought our baggage and our bumbling and our burdens. All of us — odd and elegant — were welcomed by noble Consetta and humble Shelley.
All of us — no exceptions — remembered that we’re mutants, and we’re maddening, and we’re magnificent, and we’re safely home at Tabby’s Place. This is the city that celebrates you and counts you a countess the moment you become ours. This is the kingdom where you can’t lose your title, no matter how weird or needy or New Jersey you may be.
This is the place where we thought we would never lose Consetta.
Her reign had been unbroken by so many peasant rebellions, from ringworm to kidney disease, that she seemed as invincible as Queen Elizabeth, as rock and roll, as New York City itself. Surely a countess so loved, so noble, so elegant, would shine as long as the skyline, or at least as long as we and Shelley needed her. Surely her cancer would respect her authority, as everyone else did, and submit to her songs forever.
But on Thanksgiving Day, Consetta made it clear that her flight had arrived. Our gratitude puddled in grief, as we gave our elegant lady love’s last gift and gently let her go.
To be honest, as I type these words, we’re all struggling to let her go.
We can’t let go of the love that she gave us, the countess-comfort of cherishing us for who we are.
We can’t let go of the bond she shared with Shelley, a glimpse of something too glorious for this world.
We can’t let go of the feeling that Consetta cast her lot with us “little people,” but she made us all — both species — bigger people.
We can’t let go, because even across the veil, Consetta isn’t letting go. And she isn’t letting us go back to the way we were before she came.
Just as Shelley’s vision is stronger than her hazy eyes, our bonds are bigger than the Big Apple, bigger than the bounds of this life.
We’re permitted unlimited carry-ons to bring the love we’ve received.
We’re allowed to embrace each other beyond sight and touch.
We’re not allowed to sleep — that’s Consetta’s favorite aria, “Nessun Dorma“: “none shall sleep” — not when we can be awake to each other in our aches and our elegance.
The countess of the Community Room has given us her formal decree: we get to keep her as our constant, connected and cherished forever. The opera will never stop.
Consetta, you are the splendor of our city, the toast of our town. Your reign will be unbroken, even though we can’t say the same for our hearts. Your Shelley will be safe in our sheltering love. (We promise to comfort her constantly.)
On behalf of New York and New Jersey and everyone you made feel brand-new, we give you our thanks and our undying devotion, beloved countess. Sing on.