Did you have a pet hamster?
I had a pet hamster.
Her name was Brownie. She lived in a cage. I was in love with her.
I would sit by her cage and read her books. I would hold in her in my hand and understand why old ladies wore fur.
I took Brownie to school for show and tell and she survived a day of ogling by fourth graders. They stared at her through bars and she slept, like a true bitch. Go ahead, watch me sleep. She wasn’t going to perform for them. She wasn’t their clown. She didn’t live to entertain.
She lived to eat and if she would’ve had babies, she would’ve eaten those, too.
I loved my hamster so much that a few years ago, when I took one of my rabbits to the vet and shared the waiting room with a broken hamster, I almost understood why her owner didn’t just flush her down the toilet.
“What is she here for?” I asked the lesbian.
The owner was a lesbian.
“Her uterus keeps coming out.”
“Oh,” I said.
I would’ve flushed it.
When school let out the day of my hamster’s visit, my best friend and I walked to our baby sitter’s. She let us in and fed us hot dogs and chocolate milk. We watched cartoons.
The babysitter’s grandson, Chuy, walked into the living room. He stared at my hamster.
“Can I hold her?” He asked.
Nobody had been allowed to hold my hamster that day but I thought that since this boy was tall and in junior high, he could be trusted.
I opened Brownie’s cage and awoke my slumbering bitch.
Her lard ass squirmed and I gripped her softness, pulling her through her cage door, handing her up to Chuy.
He accepted her, gripped her, and smelling his boyishness, she had ever only been held by girls, she bit his finger.
His fingers unwound from her middle and I watched her, silhouetted against Chuy, fall, her arms thrashing as if a swimmer’s.
Chuy and I watched her land on her back. Her eyes turned strange.
I scooped her up and replaced her in her cage and when I looked up, Chuy was walking away.
At home that night, I watched horror.
My mother was behind me, cooking sopa de arroz in the kitchen.
I yelled, “Mommy!”
“There’s something wrong with Brownie!”
Mom left the rice and joined me in the family room. She stood with me near the bookshelf, where my hamster’s cage stood. We both watched Brownie struggle across woodchips, spasms there and also there and there and there and along bone, her feet landing in what we both knew were the wrong places.
She was failing some sobriety test.
Her hind legs’ spirit passed into another world. Her front legs spun but the cadaver of her bottom half anchored. Spinning wheels.
Her head churned in a slow circle.
—Vete a tu cuarto—my mom commanded.
I ran to my room, shut the door, sat on the bottom bunk, and prayed that la Virgen would save my hamster. Or that my mother would.
Senseless prayers later, knocking at my door.
Mom was crying. I noticed white hairs staining her temples.
—Brownie murio—she said.
Believing her and not believing and then experiencing the horror of believing her and knowing, I ran out of my bedroom and beat small fists on the hallway wall.
This story is very similar to what it feels like to watch my grandmother die except the world is showing my grandmother much less mercy.