When I first saw her, she took me completely by surprise. People had been wandering into the pet store all day, day after day, peering down on me as I scampered with a few other orphans like myself. I didn’t know it then, but I was on borrowed time. If I didn’t get adopted, well, the system would be taking care of that.
I was not a prime candidate. I was skinny. I had some skin issues. I was very edgy. I was scared most of the time about almost everything. My competitors were cute and self-assured. So, when she came right up to me and bonded from the moment of first eye contact, I was stunned by this sudden burst of grace upon my short miserable life.
She and I it turned out had some things in common. I won’t go into all that. It’s a little too complicated for a simple cat like myself, but looking back eight years, I can see what drew her to me. I was a pint size version of her own story. She wasn’t interested in cinderella tales. The prince, she knew, never arrived. In the meantime, she would be dancing at the margins, picking characters in her life who were injured, raw, and vulnerable like herself.
Together, we grew up. My shaggy, emaciated little self grew strong. My fur grew out into a full lustrous coat. My eyes began to shine. I was sitting pretty in cat city. Life was good.
I loved her for all the usual selfish cat reasons: food, water, stroking. But I loved her too because she was for me the only security in a world frightening outside her orbit of care.
The years passed. The frightened little girl set loose in a large city seeking love and safety grew stronger herself. The long hours she spent with me in those early days became fewer. She acquired other friends, and wandered outside our safe walls to places I could not know or see. I marked time by belly rubs and the sounds of food poured into my bowl. I lived by the rhythms of her comings and goings. Timelessly, I settled into a world marked by her random behaviors.
I loved her totally. I knew of her illnesses, and her recoveries. I watched closely for signs of shifting attitude. I forecasted in my bowels the changing of her moods. I traced the patterns of her self-abuse with the stoic observations of a devoted pet. These were my numbered days.
When the dogs arrived, everything changed. Dogs. They are completely incomprehensible. I had devoted my life to understanding my one love. It was as if all my resources were spent on her alone. Dogs I could not understand. Nor it seemed, could they understand me. We tried. I could even co-exist, if co-existence were the only cost. But she was a cost I could not pay. Her love diluted by the dogs drained the life from my tiny world. The center was collapsing.
I retreated to the bedroom, seeking the consolation of the dark. I stayed there, under the bed, going days and nights with no human touch, and seeking none. It was no longer safe to approach her. The dogs would descend upon her if I approached, consuming her wildly, with total lack of decorum. The strangeness of it left me in despair.
My dark moods took their toll. I would not come out of the bedroom. I would hiss and scratch at her if she came close. My hair became matted, a tangle of knots. I began to defecate and pee outside my litter box. I ripped her comforter. I shamelessly abandoned my scratch pole for her best furniture. Already under the spell of the dogs, my depression severed for her whatever ties of affection remained.
About a year ago, she delivered me to a man she calls “daddy.” I had seen him a few times when he visited her. I never felt completely comfortable with him. He is too big, and his voice doesn’t sound anything like hers.
Fortunately, my world is bounded by the last 60 seconds. A face, a voice, a touch, a place, none of these exist for me until they recur. All that contemplative time lounging in the sun: nothing–not a thought, not a regret, not a worry, not a revisiting of any kind. Nothing, but the eternal moment.
Yet, if she walked through the door today, with all my cat soul, I would leap into her arms.
(c) FXP 2010