The guy was a mess. Everyone’s first thought, upon seeing him, was “Poor Fucking Guy”. Yea… he was a wreck, haggard, beaten up, seasoned, filthy. You knew he had been around the block one too many times but yet… he lingered… on that same block. You couldn’t help but wonder why (or for what reason) he was still hanging around. Most of the time he looked like death and yet, he just wouldn’t die. No, he didn’t go quietly into that good night. He wanted to be loved, until the very last moment of his life. You could sense that he had some intrinsic wisdom of the power of affection and he sought it out every chance he got. His name was Willy. He didn’t die from starvation or an infected eye or the multiple battle scars he inherited from the streets. He didn’t even die from the cancer he was recently diagnosed with… No, none of these things killed him… I did. But, I also loved him. And this is our story…
His body told the tale of a tragic but, mighty journey. His eyes illustrated the adventurous life he had led as “The lone wolf of San Fernando Valley”. A one eyed pirate who relished in the shade, fought alley demons, found shelter in the rubbish, foraged for food, fought the tumultuous automotive storms of Lankershim Blvd and found a family. With all that said, his weathered body always showed such signs of life. If you knew Willy, it was as if for however fucked up his life was, somewhere between all of the neglect and abandonment he had experienced… he understood the greatness of life and he wanted to share it… with us. Most might say it was a “Sad Life” he lead but, I don’t know about that… Willy was free and that’s a lot more than a lot of us will ever be able to say about our time here. Willy was determined to live out all 9 of his lives… and that he did.
I called him Olive because he had green eyes. They weren’t normal green eyes either… they were a new hue of omnipotent green that you’ve never seen. And some days, they weren’t green at all. They were yellow – but whatever color they chose for the day, they were always a shade of love. They made you see things clearer. They begged you to stop and demanded you take them in… they were magnificent and they were his. They taught you something about the magnitude of a moment and they would thrust you into a present state of reality (or being) so pure, and genuinely rare in this life, that he couldn’t help but be acknowledged as beautiful.
Olive was a lover. He was also an old decrepit man that had the face of years of wear and tear written all over them. I can only assume he was abandoned young and partially taken in by a wench who attempted to care for him but, it was never enough. She failed at protecting him so, he became ours, we called him “Olive” and, I loved him. He never got enough of anything in this life. He spent his life cheating death. Yet, he still had hope and he radiated this hope with a driving force of optimism that… right around every corner was the potential for feasts and fields. And, it made one stop and wonder… how’d he get so wise? It was clear that he had no friends, no friends at all. They all fucking stole from him… most days he went hungry but, what they could never take from him was his pride. He was not ashamed of his scars. In fact, he didn’t even know they existed. He was blind to his own frailties… he knew nothing of his own ugliness and he didn’t give a shit. He had no choice but to run… to survive… to keep on being alive…
He refused to be gone and he refused to be unseen. When we met Olive, he had just gotten beaten up by the neighborhood bullies, excommunicated from his tribe as the “outsider” and left to fend for himself. He chose us. He found us… two houses down from a home he was no longer welcome and that’s where he stayed for the next 10 years… as a fixture of our family. He guarded our home and its inhabitants by way of the front door. He ruled our entryway like the emperor of the North Hollywood slums and there he stayed. He was there to greet us when we came and went. Guests passed first through Olive before coming inside – some of them were empathetic and others… well… they couldn’t bare it. Strangers passed and gawked. They would approach him and instantly shy away from reaching out because, well… he had one good eye. The other was… well… still on his face but, barely. “What is wrong with him?” they would ask. The neighbors all had theories about how his eye got like that… some people said a witch cursed him, others believed the hateful neighbors 4 houses down poisoned his meat but, mostly no one really cared about how he got disfigured. He was too gross to care about. He wasn’t theirs and they weren’t his so, what did it matter? No one wanted him… but he still wanted to be here. And, I became his friend.
Five years ago, I stumbled upon the home Olive abandoned and on this visit, I learned that he had been given a name… it was “Willy”. We called him One Eyed Willy from then on…
I did not metaphorically kill the cat. I really did. I killed Willy with my car. And, It was devastating. After 10 years of bonding with him and genuinely being his friend… I ended his life, unintentionally. Something in me died with him that day. I am not all that certain that Willy didn’t choose his own fate. He was smart and very wise to our comings and goings… he had lived with us for 10 years, after all. There will always be a part of me that questions whether or not he consciously chose not to move away when he heard my engine ignite that day but, the reality of my carelessness is still an open wound. He was growing weaker and weaker and it was becoming apparent that his time to transition into another realm of being was rapidly approaching but, I wasn’t absolutely sure he was ready. On the other side of that coin, I was absolutely sure that I wasn’t ready for him to be gone. I refused to take the bait an unsympathetic veterinarian offered early this year when he diagnosed Willy with cancer and suggested I put him down. I was no fool, I knew he was not going to magically recover from this but, I also felt that there was still more love to be offered and I wanted to make sure he felt every ounce of that love, when he left this form because, I felt so strongly that he didn’t get enough of it… here.
Instead of putting him down that day, I had him groomed. He looked like a King… clean and deemed “lovable” for one fucking day of his life. And, it was such a beautiful sight! Perhaps my wishes for Willy are the same ones I have for myself. I wanted so badly for him to go on his own terms, just as he had lived… doing his own damn thing. He came and went when he pleased… he slept where he wanted, he demanded love when he wanted, offered it as much as was accepted and I wanted him to be able to die as nature intended not when it became harder to see him decline. I was not willing to consciously take his life but, I inevitably did. This is my coping mechanism, to write. And, this is just one way I feel I can honor his life and how much he touched me… by simply sharing his tale.
We never let Willy into our home. He waited at the front door, wanting nothing more than to crawl into our arms and feel the warmth of safety “inside” but, because of the responsibilities we had to properly tend to our other animals, we could never give that to Willy. We cared for him with as much as we had to offer by nourishing his belly and heart through love, outside. I acknowledged Willy every single fucking day not always because I was called to care but, sometimes because I had no other choice. He would often set up shop napping on top of my car whereabouts I was inclined to give him a decent petting before urging him off— most days ( like I mentioned ) he was the one insisting on the love. He wanted to feel connected as much as possible… up until the very end. And, I hope I will strive for that very same thing.
We all greet death in our own way — we can’t write or manipulate it before it is experienced — it comes to us (and our loved ones) and it will be what it will be. We cannot control it… our only choice is simply what we will make of it. The content of our “story” is determined by where we choose to invest ourselves while we are a part of the living. While we are learning to be human, how to care, how to cope with loss and how to love… We can only hope to make a few loving friends along the journey and treat them with kindness, as they travel on their way, too! In acknowledging, loving and caring for ourselves and others— we give everyone the opportunity to be seen, to be felt and to connect. And, in those connections we amplify the meaning of our lives. In essence, life is meaningless… we are the ones who give it meaning. How we have extended ourselves… made ourselves vulnerable … shared the stuff of our hearts, with others… that is the “stuff that matters”. And, Willy… this mattered, to me. You mattered, to me.
You were a part of this family and my heart is broken but, I have begun accepting this by acknowledging that remembering how you lived is of much more importance than focusing on how you died. I killed you and I am sorry but, the truth is… I couldn’t have loved you more… My sweet, Olive.
It doesn’t always have to have a happy ending to be important or meaningful. One things for damn sure… Life is in the details. It is in that which we take for granted and, that which we aren’t easily attracted to– those are the moments that grow us. It is in those harsh experiences where we realize we have little or no control over anything but, we learn to accept it. It is in acknowledging the importance of relationships in our lives (as they evolve) and as they teach us to really see each other. It is in embracing the reality of the ugly things that break us down, to build us up again… to figure out how to turn towards the beauty. It is in the experience of feeling so completely alone (friendless and hopeless) that we begin to actually feel again. It is how we learn to honor and celebrate the small stuff as much as the big stuff because… in that state of appreciation and celebration we can begin to see life and our place in it so much clearer. It ain’t always pretty but, when it’s honest and real it transforms all of this nothingness into a whole lot of something. And this experience has made me feel something, and for that I am very grateful.