By Sille Veilmark
Ditte walked out of the front door in stockings and stepped thrice on her toes before she reached the garage. The almost 6-foot-tall plant wall in the driveway had newly been cut. Among tools, bikes and a big refrigerator for extra food storage in her father’s garage, Ditte carefully slid through the dusty darkness toward the left corner, where a couple of bottled Green Tuborg beer cases were stacked. She snatched two bottles, went back to the driveway and back inside the house.
She turned right after the scullery and entered her elongated room adorned with posters of our idols: The Distillers, Marilyn Manson and H.I.M. When I say “ours” it’s because everything Ditte liked, I liked. Except beer. And that was the very reason she decided to steal two of her fathers’ Green Tuborg glass bottles that day. She grabbed one of the dark green bottles by it’s neck, popped it open and resolutely placed it in front of me.
“You will not leave until you have drunk it,” she told me.
That’s how I learned to drink beer.
When Ditte began listening to Blink 182, I started listening to Blink 182. When Ditte came up with turning nylon stockings into a shirt, cutting holes in the ends to fit her fingers, I suddenly found myself with scissors in my right hand and an old pair of nylon stockings, that I had found in the bottom drawer of my wardrobe closet in my left, cutting holes in the ends to fit my fingers and putting it on as a shirt.
And that’s why, on that summer night when we walked our way to the gas station, I stomped in the ground exclaiming a loud hissing sound to scare a grey female cat that walked in a driveway on our left side. Because Ditte had just done the same thing. I don’t really know why she would do such a thing, but looking back on our time together, I realize she never cared for animals much.
The cat was scared and ran from the pebbled driveway and under a low shrub in front of us. But it was still in in our field of view. The poor cat had not considered that it would be better for her if she had gone into the garden to hide instead of just running a few feet ahead of us.
Oh, how I wish she would have disappeared from our field of view! Because when we approached its’ ridiculous hiding place, I would show Ditte, that I could also stomp hard in the ground and exclaim a loud hissing sound to frighten it further. And I did. The cat ran once again in the completely wrong direction.
Unlike Ditte, I love animals. Cats especially.
I grew up in a home where my mom showed us mercy when me and my sisters found and brought home a sick, stray cat with broken teeth. She rolled her eyes at us and sighed loudly in protest, but she forgave us. And when the sick cat with broken teeth couldn’t chew plain dry food, my mom softened the food with water, so the poor animal could get a little nourishment inside.
We nursed it and cared for it until that day when it was just too sick, and my mom had to take it to the vet and pay an “arm and a leg” (she would say) to get it put down. We cried because of the life lost, and she made us promise never to pick up cats anymore. But then we found a cat trapped in a hole in the ground that walked funny because there was something wrong with its back, and she rolled her eyes and sighed loudly when we brought the cat with the crooked back home. But she forgave us once more.
I saw the grey female cat running. And I saw the car. Two yellow lights approached as in a Hollywood movie: just slow enough for me to realize that it was a definite moment and just exactly fast enough that it was too late to do anything.
I heard the sound.
A soft sound.
But the car did not stop.
It drove away from a grey, furry, lump lying still on the road. It was a hit and run. Horrified we ran to the cat. The grey fur moved slowly up and down, but no matter how many cats my mom and I have tried to fix, I knew, this one was unable to be saved.
I remember Ditte and I decided to run back to the house with the pebbled driveway from where we saw the cat the first time. I remember we jumped four high concrete steps leading to the front door, on which I knocked, and when an elderly man opened the door, I pointed toward the road, I asked him, if he owned a grey cat. He did.
He must have reached the same conclusion as I, because a few minutes later he placed the cat carefully in the back of his pick-up truck and speeded in the direction of the vet. It was my fault. This time I was the cause of damaging a cat to such an extent that no one was able to save it. Maybe the elderly man had to pay an arm and a leg to put it down, and maybe even kids would cry because of the loss.
I don’t remember if we continued to the gas station to get the candy, which was our original plan. I don’t remember going home. I actually don’t remember anything else from the rest of night, but I am sure, that I never told anyone.
Here is why: Time went by, and Ditte and I continued being close friends. We even ended up living together for some time, but I never recall talking about the cat. Eventually I must have forgotten it happened. Because one summer day two years ago, when my mom and I was out driving, a cat crossed the street just in front of us, and I said something like:
“Oh, just like the time Ditte and I scared a cat so much, it got hit by a car in the streets.”
I have never really had secrets from my mom. I was that kid that told my mom the stuff other kids never told their moms. I told her when Ditte poured beer on me, and I told her if it was a Blink 182 or a Marilyn Manson concert we went to and which guys with their own pair of shirt-nylon stockings I would chat with. But it was with a soft wonder and a slight disappointment in her voice, that her response in the car about the cat was:
“You’ve never told me that before.”
Suddenly I realized that I just told on myself. That one secret that I apparently had kept from her all these years was out, and I immediately felt the same guilt as when the incident happened 16 years ago trickle through me once more.
I thought she would roll her her eyes at me, sighing at my teenage behavior or even raise her voice. But she didn’t get upset. She seemed to be more concerned with the fact that I never told her than the fact that I (unintentionally) killed a cat.
Instead of talking about the cat that day in the car on our way to the beach, we talked about why I never told her. We agreed that it probably was the shame and how I felt like I let her down by killing an animal we both loved that kept me from telling her. And as my mom always would do, she forgave me.
That summer day, the shame of killing a cat disappeared and an even closer bond to my mom appeared instead. Secrets are strange that way. They have a tendency to always see the light and hurt the people we love.
So, from that day on I promised myself to never keep a secret from my mom again. And so far, I’ve kept my word.