I Prefer a Team to a Spouse - Christina Campbell
If you are single and live alone, you need to be prepared to deal with random catastrophes. Generally, I handle stuff ok. Like the time I returned from a long workday, opened the front door, and wondered to myself, “Why is it raining inside the house?” (Answer: Spontaneous toilet tank crack.) I managed the flood just fine. But recently I encountered a problem I couldn’t manage at all. So I had to call in Team Christina.
Dr. Peter McGraw of Solo and Craig Wynne of The Happy Bachelor have talked about how single people have “teams.” Dr. Bella DePaulo has said that married people have The One, but singles have The Ones. I have been assembling an ad-hoc Team Christina during the two decades I’ve lived in Northern Virginia. Mostly my Team was just for hanging out, sharing Netflix shows, and reassuring me that my author photos didn’t make me look like a serial killer. The latent power of Team Christina only became clear when I found my sweet little cat dead in the basement window well.
Perhaps saying “my” cat is not accurate. Zorro was feral. He and his brother Oreo belonged only to themselves, although they were pleased to take breakfast and dinner from me for eight years. I never touched Zorro once, but I did have physical contact with Oreo, because he liked to slash at my hand when I gave him food. These black-and-white brats lived in a little wooden house on my deck that I’d insulated myself. I filled it with fresh straw every winter. In the mornings, they sunned themselves in my fancy zero-G chair, as I headed to work to make money to feed their ungrateful butts. When Zorro stopped showing up for food, I put notes on twenty neighbors’ doors asking them to check their sheds. I posted messages on NextDoor. I looked under my deck. Multiple times. As the days passed, I started to smell garbage when the hot summer wind shifted.
I did not associate the smell with Zorro’s disappearance. I checked to see if my compost had gone bad. I peeked over the neighbor’s fence to see if they had left trash out. A week after Zorro disappeared, I wondered if the stink came from a malfunction in the sump pump. While I knelt by the pump, the wind shifted, and I caught the odor coming from the window well. In retrospect, I knew what I would find before I looked. But I was still not prepared for that matted black-and-white fur, that one little back paw with the little nails. The window well is partly hidden by a semi-opaque plastic cover, so I was saved from seeing the full week-in-the-heat wreckage of Zorro’s earth-suit. But I saw enough. I wailed, a wail that didn’t stop the whole time I was running into the house, searching for my phone, and dialing Team Christina’s Feline Emergency Unit (FEU).
The FEU comprised my friend Betsy and her husband Bob (who have three fur kids) and my catsitter Larilyn (who has one fur kid the size of three fur kids). First, I called Betsy and said, “OMG OMG OMG,” and she said, “We’re coming. Bob just has to get together the stuff he needs.” My boggled mind was astounded that Bob knew what “stuff” was “needed” to dislodge and dispense with a very dead body. Apparently, Betsy and Bob owned this mystical stuff that could dislodge and dispense with a very dead body.
When I called Larilyn, I told her not to come because she’d known Zorro personally, but she said that was exactly the reason she was coming. To keep calm while I waited for the FEU, I contacted the Team Christina Remote Feline Emergency Unit. That means I called my sister and parents, who live far away and also love cats. They reassured me Zorro’s death wasn’t my fault and that he’d had a long good life. They kept me calm until Bob and Betsy arrived with their magic equipment (a shovel). Larilyn showed up with lime. Did you know lime can absorb (or transmogrify) the smell of dead flesh? I did not know that. This factoid seemed to be common knowledge to all of Team Christina FEU, however. They assembled in my backyard and took control, while I stood there sniffling and immobile. I was stunned because Zorro had been rotting under my nose for a week, and I was stunned because apparently I had multiple friends for whom corpse disposal was second nature.
Team Christina FEU buried Zorro next to the fence. I was able to say goodbye by dropping a handful of kibble next to his sweet little jawbone. We decorated the grave with fresh flowers, courtesy of Betsy and Bob's body disposal kit. Because of Team Christina's support, by the next day I was back to my usual self: Christina, Army of One.
Christina, Army of One, was able to deal with the flies now partying in the basement. Apparently the baby flies had migrated from Zorro through the window casing into my laundry room. Before I brought out the bug spray, I smacked three of them dead with my bare hands. WHAM WHAM WHAM! That’s for Zorro, you dirty buzzy bastards!
When I was living with my domestic partner, he tried to support me during emotional crises, but he really didn’t know how, and his first instinct was to withdraw. When my indoor cat Alvin accidentally went outside and was lost overnight, I was in tears in the living room, and my partner went to bed as if it were a normal evening. His hugs felt stiff and wrong, although I wouldn’t have admitted that back then. As a single person, I get more support and solutions out of Team Christina than I ever did from my ex. Such was made clear during Zorrogate.
Christina Campbell lives in Northern Virginia with her infrared sauna and two semi-geriatric cats. The attached creative nonfiction blog post is from Onely.org, a singles' advocacy blog Christina co-founded as part of her MFA in creative nonfiction at George Mason University.