As the year comes to a close, our ongoing rat love story arc takes a sad turn.
On the 21st, I noticed that Kotti seemed weak and saw him take a little stumble and lie down in the fetal position. I wondered whether he might be too cold, turning the heating up and wrapping him in some cloth.
The next day he seemed even weaker. I took him in my arms, felt the limpness of his body and found his normally pristine white coat to be matted and yellowing. I fetched some of his favourite snacks and laid out a feast in front of him. He ignored it all, but rubbed affectionately against my finger with his furry little head and gave me his best blue steel.
By that evening we were in an Uber heading to a late night clinic on the other side of town. To lessen Kotti’s stress, Hermann accompanied us, but unhelpfully seemed intent on trying to sit on Kotti’s face.
By the time we saw a vet, Kotti was pretty out of it. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, but offered to put him on a drip overnight and have him see a specialist first thing in the morning. He passed away in his sleep in the early hours.
I can’t really overstate what a nice little guy Kotti was, and what a pleasure it’s been getting to know him this year. It’s cheesy, but there’s a line in Mary Oliver’s famous poem Wild Geese that I think now will always remind me of Kotti:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Kotti will forever represent that soft animal. A soft animal with an astonishing talent for posing for the camera. You couldn’t really take a bad picture of him. He somehow always knew to look straight into the camera like he was God’s gift to ratkind.
And, you know, Kotti didn’t have to be good, as the poem goes. But he just was really good. So good I surprised myself even with the number of tears I’ve shed over the loss. And I’m not a crier. At all.
Kotti got along with everyone, and would always come up to you just to say hi and see what you were up to. In my head (and this really does make me sound like a crazy rat lady), he talked to me in the voice of Toad from Mario Kart. Enthusiastic. Excitable. Encouraging.
“HEEEEEEY!!!! OMG CHICKPEAS!! SOOOOOOOO GREATTTTTT!!!!!”
Hermann, by contrast, sounds like the lead singer of Machine Head (in my head).
But he’s grieving, too. He’s not been himself at all since I brought him back from the vet. I would do anything to have him back to his rambunctious, knicker-chewing self. But what I have now is a rat son who will sit on my lap for hours on end like a sad cocker spaniel.
My mother, an immunologist whose love language is researching aggressive cancers of past-their-prime rats, advised against finding him a new rat friend who might just piss him off or stress him out. So instead I just have to figure out how to be his best bud while he’s still here with us. He was no spring chicken either, when he moved in.
For the year end I promised myself I’d get out of town if only for a snapshot of time. So tomorrow I’ll be on a train to Gdansk/ Danzig, a city I’ve obsessed about since reading my favourite childhood book, the Tin Drum, which is about a horrific murderous dwarf who serves as an allegory for everything bad in this world (aka the anti-Kotti).
A Guardian review would probably describe “The Danzig Trilogy” as a “grotesque tour-de-force”. My favourite part is when Oskar gets into a bizarre staring contest with an owl, in book 2. Anyway, I’m excited mostly because for the first time in years, if only for a couple of days, I’ll be alone in a city where nobody knows me.
That specific exhilaration is something I haven’t felt in years, and which, despite my best, most “grounded”, most “rationally-desirous-of-setting-down-roots self,” I just can’t wait to feel again. If only for a hot minute.
A Berlin-based writer engages in the study of belonging and in-between places after years spent faraway from 'home'.