Hosted by Cora

Hosted by Cora

The world is broken, bitter, and thorny.

The world is a honeycomb, dripping in mercy.

I say we split the deck. A cat can play from either side.

I do not need to inform you of the thorns.

If you are old enough to read these words, you have wounded and been wounded. You have offered bouquets that left scars. You have bitten into cookies “sweetened” with salt.

Death has dealt losses you scarcely survived, but here you are, hosting life for another game night.

Here you are, the honored guest of a new day.

Here you are, looking a great deal like Cora.

You may not have white chin hairs long enough to braid. You may not have eyes like exoplanets, green as the first of spring. Your ears may not be marbled with evidence of blood glucose checks.

Still, the resemblance is striking.

Like you, Cora inhabits a body that plans strange parties. The hostess has provided abundant coconut, a snowy fringe for Cora’s perfect face. But she also invited a belching freeloader we will call Bifford, who happens to be Cora’s pancreas.

Bifford shows up to the Oscars in threadbare sweatpants. Bifford cheats at Candy Land and War. Bifford rummages through the fridge and eats mayonnaise with his finger. Bifford is unconscious on the floor an hour after everyone leaves.

Bifford does not produce insulin, but he brings his personal deck of problems. He spikes Cora’s blood glucose over seven hundred. He chucks out ketones like inappropriate stories.

He cheated Cora out of the only home she knew, dealing her a seat on the cold metal table from which cats do not return.

Bifford convinced Cora’s family that the game was over. But life had an ace up its sleeve.

It is generally a good guideline that a sick cat may eat, but she will not play. If you can engage her with the wand toy, or the catnip effigy of a stegosaurus, that is a good sign. Cora was too sick to scamper, but she raised her head. There was a courageous vet tech and a bold invitation.

It may have been printed in Comic Sans, but it was bold.

“Come, play with us.”

“Come, be our guest.”

“Come, become beloved.”

“Hosted by: Tabby’s Place.”

Roulette was cancelled, permanently. The shaggy stranger sat at the head of a better table.

We’ve been busy trying to behead Bifford ever since, smoothing Cora’s craggy blood sugars and flushing out all memories of grief. Bifford plays dirty, dragging Cora’s kidneys into a bitter game called acute renal failure.

Meanwhile, Cora plays with her own BG strips and the twangy harps in our chests. Cora plays it where it lays, and wins every time.

Cora plays it cool when we claim we are the hosts of this party.

Cora looks an awful lot like you, if you were a medium-haired elder cat who speaks Italian.

If you spoke Italian, you would know that the word for “host” is also the word for “guest.” Ospite roots in the same tree as “hospitality” and “respite.” Ospite is the wheel that spins until everyone is laughing out loud, and no one knows who is giving and who is receiving, and no one cares about anything except each other.

Cora cares for every “other” she meets. She will permit you to give her insulin, give her kisses, give her a stirring performance of “Mr. Boombastic.” She will permit you to do anything except remain an “other.”

Cora cares for “others” like a grandmother, because loving a person is the only way to love your life. We care for Cora, because loving a person (of which cats are the preeminent example) is the only way to win back everything you’ve lost.

We will lose again before the day is out. Biffords, disagreements, wars, and weariness arrive uninvited.

But, if we host and guest each other, we can bear it. We can play on, even if our chin hairs tremble. The world is scary, but the invitation is open.

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