My cat Valentino has a nightly ritual — one that he has had his entire life. He “kills” something for me while I am sleeping and then carries it, meowing in a series of wild howls, into my bedroom. In his early years, his kill was what was lying around: socks and dog toys. These days, he has a wide selection of stuffed animals to choose from. His favorites are a monkey who plays music when you pull his tail and a soft bowling ball dressed up as a monster.
Every night, this triumphant, invented death that has imprinted my sleep for nearly 15 years. I was single when he joined my family with his two littermates, a puffball of bravado. I am single again as he limps a little up the stairs with his strange, ferocious wooing. I pull the covers a bit higher and marvel: so many things change, so many things stay the same. This small ritual has been an invisible net weaving so many slender nights together. The deaths a private and unspoken thing, like so much of what takes us apart in life and then puts us back together again.