For readers of this blog, if any, you know that my beloved friend, Annie, recently committed suicide after losing a lifelong battle with crippling depression. Her ex-husband, Dave Campbell (also a friend to me), died of lung cancer in early 2010. She was devastated, as was I, and I went to New York at the time to comfort her.
New York City: Spring 2010
It was a beautiful day in the city and Annie and I sat, in Queens where she lived, on the banks of the East River staring out over the impossible skyline of Manhattan. Annie was outwardly serene and content but her hands were shaking so much I had to light her cigarettes for her in the gusty winds that swept down the river, making small white horses on the sun-speckled water.
We talked and talked, as usual, but, at one point, she fell dead silent as she fixated on a bird on the water.
“What is it?” I asked.
“That loon out there.”
“What about it?”
“Each time it dives, it’s getting closer to us.”
“So? It’s fishing. Who cares?”
“No, it’s not,” said Annie, her face a mask of yearning, as the bird popped up, still getting closer. “It’s Dave… it’s a sighting… he’s done this twice before.”
I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and delivered a bullshit psycho-babble lecture about how bereavement and grief plays tricks on your mind and your heart, leaving your soul susceptible to all manner of Old Wives’ Tales and sundry other rubbish concocted by an over-stimulated imagination. Just as I concluded my spiel, the bird resurfaced right in front of us and blinked at us quizzically.
“Quiet Andrew,” whispered Annie. “It is him. He is saying ‘hello’.”
“Andrew, I guarantee you that when Dave goes underwater again, he will not come back up.”
She was right.
Montreal: Friday 7 December
It had been 8 days since I learned of Annie’s tragic death. Although I had been working at the office and otherwise functioning relatively normally (at least by my low standards), it was through a cloud of profound grief for my lost friend.
I had spent the evening watching a movie with my roommate. She had gone to bed and it was after midnight. I was reading the news online and not ready for sleep despite the exhaustion and emptiness I felt. I went out onto my front balcony to take in the night air as I often do.
A cat came climbing, slowly and deliberately, up the stairs to my apartment and sat at the front of my door. I thought it was a stray (it had no collar and looked thin and hungry) and, irritated, I turned my back to it. The cat then started pawing at my front door, trying to get my attention. I turned my back again. The cat then leapt onto the windowsill of my living room window and started scratching at the glass. I was thinking about Annie and suddenly I felt goose pimples etching themselves over my entire body. Annie had two cats she adored more than anything else in this world.
“Annie?” I whispered.
The cat jumped down from the windowsill and started brushing itself around the bottom of my legs and purring. I picked up the cat and looked into its eyes. Smoldering dark eyes. I stroked it for a minute as the tears let loose. When I put it back down on my balcony, I hoarsely said: “Annie, thank you, but go and be with Dave now.” I swear to God, the cat slowly and deliberately went back down the stairs, turning back once to look at me, and disappeared.
Say what you want about this story but I will always believe. Always believe:
This was a sighting.