Act 4 Scene 7

On the blue evenings, when I’m reminded of her, I invariably find myself returning to the same thought: I shouldn’t have named her Ophelia. I’ve been reading about nominative determinism, the theory that the name you’re given influences the person you become. Ophelia. Maybe I marked her for tragedy. I loved the name for the lilting cadence of its vowels: Oh-Fee-Leeahh. I shouldn’t have ignored how the story ended.


Ophelia is too grandiose a name for a little cat, you told me. Maybe you knew something I didn’t. Mothers know best, after all. My therapist tells me my night-time ruminations are foolish, but she’s not so crude. Instead, she calls it maladaptive grieving and tells me we’ll work on moving past it. But I’m comfortable in my maladaptation. ‘Heaven helps a fool who falls in love,’ right?



She was the best thing that could have happened to us. Even now, when I visit you, we talk about her, her bright eyes, silver paws. Because of her, we had a reason to sit in the same room for the first time in years. But we asked too much of her. Even with her as a buffer, we weren’t doing well; a year in lockdown had exacerbated our abnormalities, carving them out in harsher relief. I refused to acknowledge that the latent eating disorder I’d nursed through high school had progressed past concern. You refused to continue taking your Paxil after your prescription ran out.


Like trying to save a failed marriage by having a baby, like trying to plaster a bandaid on a gaping wound, we wore the vitality out of her small body. Even machines, unthinking and unfeeling, under enough duress, would start to malfunction.


Her deterioration had started mere months after she entered our lives, enough time to sense the timbre of her new home. An autoimmune disease, Dr. Shimel informed us when we noticed the blurring in her right eye. Keep her comfortable and stress-free. Not even a week later, we got into a screaming match when I refused to eat the meal you had prepared for my birthday. Although I wore baggy overalls, my uniform that summer, I couldn’t hide my lank hair, the rings under my eyes, and the peculiar way my straps hung off my frame.


Do you think you look good? You said, your voice hoarse. I shrugged, winding my fingers through the downy hair that had sprouted on my arms. Lanugo. Your eyes followed my rhythmic motions, and your mouth twisted. You’re killing yourself, you spat, then locked yourself in the bathroom to weep. Ophelia watched us from the couch, her weight already half of what it had been when she arrived.



Do you remember taking me to the planetarium when I turned six? Watching the embers of burning planets fall around us was extraordinary. And though I grew up finding more kinship in words than mathematical figures, I yearned to understand the science behind our world’s wonders. Why am I telling you this? There’s no scientific explanation for Ophelia’s magic, but if I try to explain it, maybe it’s this: for the transient moments she was here, the earth was fundamentally altered. Maybe the gravitational constant shifted (9.82 𝑚/𝑠2 ?), grounding us more firmly to her and each other. Perhaps that’s why when she left, we became untethered, losing the surer footing we’d taken for granted.


I was the one who fed her most times, the one who clipped her nails, and later when she grew sicker, the one administering the prednisolone, wiping her rheumy eyes and the soil off her jaundiced ears. And yet she seemed to resent me for my care, trying to escape my grasp when she’d spot the syringe in my hand. Is that how you felt, tirelessly raising me and watching me detest you for it?


The evening we lost her, I let you hold me like I held her hours earlier as her heartbeat slowed. You squeezed me so tightly that my ribs spasmed, but later on the bus, I could feel the chasm reopening between us. When the bus slowed, I stood abruptly. I’m going to the park. You watched me go. Outside, the air, the pavement, the trees were washed in heavy swathes of blue. I didn’t turn to watch the bus pull away.


A fog had rolled in from the river obscuring the muted cobalt tiles of the sky. I searched but could not find a single star, so I lay on the damp grass and cried. I am the most selfish person I know. My heart ached as I stroked the fur lining my forearms. Your voice echoed in my mind, murmuring different words than those you said, words you actually meant: I love you, don’t leave me, I cannot lose you too.