Your heart is an empty room.

…with walls of the deepest blue. I need to write. Give me a topic, I begged Facebook. One caveat: no dead cats.

The first comment was my inspiration:

Aesthetics. I've been thinking a lot about how beautiful things and spaces impact mood and outlook and all that.

I was inspired. Despite that, this post can't not be about dead cats. Specifically, mine: My kitten, Emaline, died a week ago.

I was shattered. Am shattered. She wasn't at door to greet me when I got back from an errand; instead, she lay motionless, on her little fleece bed under her favorite chair. I knew she was gone, but Sean sped me down Western Avenue to the emergency animal hospital all the same. I held her limp body in my lap and felt her go cold as tears streamed down my face. I don't know what happened; I just know that she seemed fine right up until the moment when she wasn't.

Just 2 years old. She was supposed to be my first child's first pet, too.

(This morning, an e-mail came from my dad to let me know his 12-year-old dog, Smitty, died last night. A week later. Fresh tears came for both of them.)

When I got home from the clinic, I cleaned. I stripped every linen I could find and took it to the cleaners. I picked up her toys, washed her food bowl and emptied her litter box. I unplugged the drinking fountain I bought her in February, and I never understood what a deafening silence was until that moment.

My heart was an empty room, and the empty rooms of Eastwood Eden broke my heart.

 

So I left. Found new rooms to occupy and filled that emptiness to bursting with new.

And all you see is where else you could be when you're at home. Out on the street are so many possibilities to not be alone.

A tiny bar called the Matchbox, lit by strings of Christmas lights and the orange glow of streetlights on Milwaukee Avenue. I sipped a vodka gimlet from a martini glass rimmed with powdered sugar and saw the hopeful beginnings of a future start to crystallize in front of me, six feet tall, with vintage glasses and hair that's graying at the temples.

A double-decker bus, bound for Kansas City. I caught an overnight Megabus with a haywire A/C system home to surprise my mom for Mothers Day weekend. I fell asleep somewhere around St. Louis, folded into my two-seat row like a roadmap, huddled under my thin spring scarf to keep warm. Later: the familiar kitchen of my mother's house, papered in a warm yellow print, with sunny cabinets and a marble-topped island with stools where I could while away hours just talking.

The spin studio at my gym, a sweaty dance remix of home. Dim red lights, 35 bikes — including mine, No. 9 — and ceiling fans that are a godsend in the moments after warm-up turns into a full-blown workout. I clipped in with my new cycling shoes for the first time last Thursday and was taken aback by the strength I didn't know I had.

A booth in the back of Tiny Lounge, surrounded with new faces celebrating a dear friend's birthday. Cocktail napkins strewn across the table, covering it like the snow we never got last winter. Gin and St. Germain sent a flush to my cheeks; our laughter filled the room and new memories found their way into my heart.

A beautiful apartment across Clark Street from Wrigley Field, painted in vibrant reds and yellows, filled with warmth and love and pets and new friends, and the smells of a home-cooked meal. I lost count of the bottles of wine we opened but will never forget my first taste of the beautifully murky 1983 Burgundy, sold the year I was born, that softened on my tongue with every tentative sip.

A condo in Streeterville, sixteen floors off the ground, with a view of the Trump Hotel and the Wrigley Building. The turntable played Pet Sounds last night (I just realized the beauty in that). I fell asleep to the hum of the air conditioner — buried under unfamiliar comforter, my head on a new pillow — feeling less alone than I have in months and woke up to a near-foreign sunrise over Lake Michigan that I hope becomes more familiar by the day.

Aesthetics? For me, it's less about the space itself and more about what's in the air filling the space.

 

There's a black cat with a white-tipped tail that lives across the alley, Emaline's tuxedo twin. His name is Monkey. He welcomes me home sometimes — now that I can go back to my apartment without crying.

Life does go on, even as it ends. And I'm comforted to know that Doug has a kitten to play with. Heaven is softer, sweeter and much, much more adorable now.