It follows no logic. It knows nothing of common sense. It cares not for forgiveness. It persists even when we know we should set it aside.
Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt): Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping, but she had forgotten her coat – went back to get it. When she had gotten her coat, the phone had rung, so she’d stopped to answer it; talked for a couple of minutes. While the woman was on the phone, Daisy was rehearsing for a performance at the Paris Opera House. And while she was rehearsing, the woman, off the phone now, had gone outside to get a taxi. Now a taxi driver had dropped off a fare earlier and had stopped to get a cup of coffee. And all the while, Daisy was rehearsing. And this cab driver, who dropped off the earlier fare; who’d stopped to get the cup of coffee, had picked up the lady who was going to shopping, and had missed getting an earlier cab. The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street, who had left for work five minutes later than he normally did, because he forgot to set off his alarm. While that man, late for work, was crossing the street, Daisy had finished rehearsing, and was taking a shower. And while Daisy was showering, the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package, which hadn’t been wrapped yet, because the girl who was supposed to wrap it had broken up with her boyfriend the night before, and forgot.
When the package was wrapped, the woman, who was back in the cab, was blocked by a delivery truck, all the while Daisy was getting dressed. The delivery truck pulled away and the taxi was able to move, while Daisy, the last to be dressed, waited for one of her friends, who had broken a shoelace. While the taxi was stopped, waiting for a traffic light, Daisy and her friend came out the back of the theater. And if only one thing had happened differently: if that shoelace hadn’t broken; or that delivery truck had moved moments earlier; or that package had been wrapped and ready, because the girl hadn’t broken up with her boyfriend; or that man had set his alarm and got up five minutes earlier; or that taxi driver hadn’t stopped for a cup of coffee; or that woman had remembered her coat, and got into an earlier cab, Daisy and her friend would’ve crossed the street, and the taxi would’ve driven by. But life being what it is – a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone’s control – that taxi did not go by, and that driver was momentarily distracted, and that taxi hit Daisy, and her leg was crushed.
Baby Josie was special. She’d had kitty fever as a baby and had managed to shake it off and survive when some of her brothers and sisters could not. She couldn’t jump. She couldn’t really run, as her back legs would move at a different pace than her front legs and it caused her to turn in circles when she tried. She was the last survivor of Josie (the mother cat). The rest either succumbed to the kitty fever or ran off, including Josie herself. Therefore, Baby Josie was the only cat I knew growing up.
She doted on my dad and tolerated the rest of us. She protected our backyard from strays and other animals with a ferocity that belied her frailty and normal docile nature. Baby Josie was special.
The day she died I had agreed to volunteer at a Boy Scout function to box up donated cans and other goods for the needy in one of our annual drives, but I woke that morning in a bad mood and didn’t feel like doing something nice for anyone else. So, I told my dad that I didn’t want to go and he let me stay home. He went anyway, and my older brother went with him.
Once they were gone I opened the garage door and went in search of fun and mischief. At some point I met up with a group of neighborhood kids who were also taking advantage of the lovely weekend weather. One of them had their dog with them, running wild with us unleashed. We wandered the streets, chasing each other, laughing, boasting, daring, and engaging in play as only children can do.
At some point we found ourselves in the street in front of my house. At some point I noticed the dog was missing.
I raced through the open garage. My heart sank when I noticed the door from the garage to the backyard was also open. My heart sank further when I found the dog panting, from exuberant play, next to Baby Josie. She was breathing, but they were strangled gasps.
The drag marks in the ground plainly showed what had happened. The dog had wandered into the backyard, had found the kitty and had wanted to play. Baby Josie couldn’t move fast enough to actually play with the much larger, much stronger, and much healthier dog. Somehow in the brief encounter, her neck was snapped.
I frantically scrambled inside and called for my mom to help. I think we were both in shock and all we could think to do was to call my dad. He left the volunteer event, leaving my brother there, but by the time he got home it was too late. She had already died. In hindsight we knew there was nothing anybody could have done at that point anyway, the injury was too severe.
Life is a series of intersecting incidents, out of anyone’s control, and if only one thing had happened differently…
If we hadn’t started playing in front of my house. If the dog had been on a leash. If I hadn’t found the neighborhood kid with the dog because they’d been delayed by something at their home. If I had closed the garage door behind me when I left. If I hadn’t stayed home and had just gone to the volunteer event like I was supposed to, Baby Josie would have lived beyond that day.
My family has told me it wasn’t my fault. Logically, I know that it wasn’t. Common sense tells me that there were too many things in play that morning, all of them out of my control, for the choices I made to be directly responsible for her death. I know all of this… and yet, though twenty years have passed, I am still wracked with guilt.
She died because of the choices I made that morning. I may not be fully responsible, but I am still responsible. Her death was my fault. Even if I could find the words and peace to forgive myself, the guilt would remain, because guilt cares not for forgiveness, I will never set it aside.