My mom tells me to go clean up the rec room in the basement. I trudge down the stairs reluctantly, knowing the mess that awaits me. As I stack books and clear out the space around the ping-pong table, I notice the large cage collecting dust in the corner of the room. It belonged to my guinea pig, and as I move the large red bin slouched beside it I think back to the last day of his life. We were about to leave on our trip to Michigan. It was a few days after Christmas, and I was prepping the large metal bird feeder to keep my pet satiated while we were gone. He had been acting strange lately, though, and as I picked him up I noticed he had a ring of blood around his neck.
“We can’t just leave him like this,” I said, “We have to figure out what’s wrong.” I hadn’t even had him for that many years, and I wasn’t truly that worried. My dad and I got in the car and drove to the veterinarian so that they could take a look at him. We had him in a small box, and after waiting a short while a woman came in to take a look at him. She started talking to my dad, avoiding my eyes. “The rash under his neck is one thing. He has serious respiratory and cardiac problems. If you want to keep him alive, you’ll have to come back for weekly injections, but even then he’ll never be the same.” I felt like I was a stranger to this story, watching the two converse like I wasn’t there to listen.
My dad looked at me. “I’m sorry,” he said, but I knew it wasn’t his choice or his fault. I watched myself nod my head. “It’s okay. It just wouldn’t make sense, I know.” The woman took my guinea pig out of the room. I felt far away, like I was still sitting there in the white room but not even realizing that I was a part of what had happened. What happens next? Isn’t this supposed to be a vacation? After a few minutes, the woman came back with a white cardboard box. There was a plastic flower stuck on the outside. “Sorry,” she said. I watched my dad take the box, and we drove back in silence. I set a stack of books on top of the cage. I’ve seen this story before.