I settled down on the couch to relax and read
with my late afternoon tea and popcorn.

Then you came clawing your way up.
Purring, butting your head against my arm,
you demanded what we both knew was rightfully yours.

I tried to ignore you but I couldn’t.

I tried to roll you over on your back and rub your belly,
but you swiped at me and backed off.
You would have none of it. First things first.
“Okay,” I said, “popcorn!”

You, with the ailing teeth of an old cat, had trained me well,
making it clear that you couldn’t handle big pieces
by spitting them out and
covering the cushion with drool-soaked half-eaten popcorn.

So I broke off a little piece, just the way you liked it,
and set it on the cushion.
It was gone in a flash,
and there you were purring, butting your head against my arm.

It was many little pieces until you were done.
Then you rolled over on your back,
inviting me to place my arm on your furry belly
while you placed your paws around my arm.

Wendy said it best, “It’s not the popcorn; it’s the love.”

That’s how our afternoons went.
Until now.

I bring my tea and popcorn to the living room
with that familiar, half-conscious feeling of excitement
that comes from knowing how excited you will be.

But the room is empty.
Then the dark recognition — you’re not here.
You died yesterday in Wendy’s arms.
We put your furry body, still warm,
in a little box and set it with flowers on the table.

I look at my bowl of popcorn.
Today I don’t want any.
So I put it up on the table, near the flowers
where your box was.
My tears are still hidden,
like a tiny spring high in the hills
that has yet to become a river.

As I drink my tea
while my book sits next to me unopened,
I can hear you purring
and feel your head bumping against me.
No really, I can.

“What do you want?” I say.
And I can feel the answer:
now it’s your turn to feed me my popcorn.
I reach my hand toward the bowl.

It’s not the popcorn; it’s the love.