Lately, she rouses me with a warm nuzzle, and I contemplate how fortunate I am to receive her affection as I blink into the diffusing sunlight. Though she has not shared my bed for any great length, she knows precisely when to pounce on me — which she does rather frequently.
By the time I’ve left our apartment, her strands of autumn and burnt-orange hair have stowed away on my garments. Even in her absence, I find solace as I while away the day’s monotony by plucking her gifts and relinquishing them unto the capricious wind to scatter them where it will. Would that I were as light, I should return to her upon a draft.
Now, I may be unabashedly effusive with my emotions, surely, but that is simply because she emboldens my resolve to venture my heart’s ardor. Every moment she casts her eyes of chartreuse upon me is a moment I renew my covenant to serve her and her alone. And when I do encounter others on the cold streets, I’m reminded of a love emblazoned upon my soul, whose providence shepherds me through the tempestuous longings of the lonesome flesh.
But such is the devotion of a guy to his pet cat.
I joined the ranks of the newly pet-ed this past March, and I’ve never looked back. Getting a pet is probably one of the few decisions I’ve made with absolutely no regrets. I realize that some people’s love for their pet borders on obsession — trust me, I know. But I now understand where those people are coming from.
Without my cat, Lump — aka Lumpy — I’d be a wreck, a shell of a person, and that’s the truth. In fact, it was a particularly lousy case of depression this last semester that sold me on the idea. I had just come home from a long day and started doing dishes. The repetitive nature of the task lulled me into untrained thought, and I as I stood there, I started to feel this cold sadness rise up and coil around my stomach. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t felt before, but this time, it was exceptionally strong.
I just couldn’t stand it anymore, and all I wanted to do was to hold something, anything, and feel comforted. I hit bottom when I settled for a friend’s stuffed polar bear. It sat on my lap as I finished a paper due that week. In between writing, I scoured the Internet for the polar bear’s replacement.
She popped up after my fifth click on the Craigslist posts: “Free Cat, Comes With Litter/Food.” Was a more gorgeous phrase ever written? I eyed the posted picture and thought she was violently adorable. With the help of my friend Sofia, I set out the next night to pick her up. She’d been shacking up with four dudes in the Presidio (cats always fall for the wrong guys). The story they fed me was that the cat’s owner had left her after the owner split up with one of the guys. I don’t know if I buy it, now that I think about it, but I was too concerned with the life-changing decision before me to really process what they said.
I felt a strange apprehension the first time we met. What if I didn’t love her? What if she didn’t love me?
The ride back did little to reassure me. Removing a pet from its home is an incredibly stressful event, as anyone who’s done it can attest. She held up pretty well during the first 20 minutes or so of driving, but the confusion of San Francisco’s streets and some minor traffic tacked on more time than she could stand. The rank stench of her stress shitting mingled with our anxiety and made for one of the worst trips from the city I’ve ever known. And while the smell wasn’t anything I couldn’t cope with (c’mon, it’s the city after all), listening to Sofia shrieking at me to comfort the cat definitely took its toll.
By the time we got back to my apartment, our relief was palpable. But now I was faced with the prospect of bathing a poop-covered cat, who had just been abducted and traumatized by me, a complete stranger, only moments ago. I hated doing it, but it had to be done.
While I subjected her to the indignity of wet fur, Sofia rigged up a fort from a blanket, my bed and a TV tray. The Cat (as she was then known) promptly took advantage of her makeshift shelter, and I really didn’t know if she’d ever come out.
Sofia left us to bond, never really trusting that I was happy to have the Cat. Truthfully, I wasn’t: She was stinky, and I felt like a selfish jerk for taking her from her home.
As I lay in bed, reliving that inauspicious journey and wondering if I had made a huge mistake, something pounced onto my blanket. Out of the darkness came a damp orange-and-white Lump.
The kid was going to be all right. And so was I.
To be continued …
Zion Barrios writes the Monday column on social topics that rarely enter open conversation. You can contact him at [email protected].