I have reached the stage of single white female where I have conversations with my cat. He responds, and we discuss our day. It is chock-full of judgment and hatred on both sides…Today, he says he slept a lot.
I wake up every morning between four and five forty-five a.m. I do not choose to do this. My cat has taken it upon himself to enlighten me in the wonders of morning. Dead asleep, I will be jarred awake by a needlessly aggressive head butt, followed immediately by uproarious purring, and furious kneading across the bed. He will knead his way across the pillow, “accidentally” pulling my hair and utterly convinced that this time, I will get it. This time, I will understand the glory that is pre-dawn. Last night I retaliated by violently shoving him off the bed.
“It’s okay, mom!” he purred, as he hopped back up and began again, “I know you didn’t mean to—you’re just clumsy in the morning, aren’t mornings the best?!”
Before I leave for work, my cat must first inspect my hair. I bend forward and he grants me a few fussy sniffs before making his judgment: a head butt if satisfactory, a quick turn away and a disgusted sniff if unacceptable.
He tried to clean my hair once—to fix it when after I had got out of the shower. He started gagging on the long, wet strands that clung to his teeth and (apparently) the back of his throat. We were both equally disgusted with the other. He has since abandoned this practice.
My cat has always been intrigued by boxes, cabinets, bags—really, anything that he can hide in. My own kitchen often looks like that scene from The Sixth Sense where all the doors are inexplicably open immediately after the mom leaves the room. One afternoon, my cat was sleeping on top of the kitchen cabinets when my friend decided to go searching for a glass. The door flicked his ear, and he twitched. Having not previously noticed his perch, she shrieked in terror as they fled in opposite directions, my cat knocking down several pots and pans along the way. Another time, a (different) friend was watching my cat for me and lost him for two hours. The little shit had been hiding behind a row of glasses on top of the fridge. My cat, not my friend. I do not have people watch my cat anymore.
My cat has a rather obscene amount of excess skin—particularly around his mid-section (so do I, kitty, so do I). Unlike me, however, he has never been fat—they say it is just something you get with a Siamese mix. Like a party favor, or the worst kind of toy in a Happy Meal. He does not seem to be attached to this skin in any meaningful way, except for the fact that he is, of course, inhabiting it, like a stretchy snail. When you hold him, he can twist himself around in fantastic ways—nearly 180° in any direction—so that he is now facing the hand he once had his back to. He will bite. The rare occasions where he is sick enough to require medication inevitably involve at least two people and significant blood loss, and only one dose of medication is possible before he no longer trusts us being in the same room together. Often, his mistrust will last for months at a time.
* * *
I come home from the gym and go straight to the bathroom to pee. My cat follows me, lacing himself between my legs before wandering off to lick the plastic wrapping around the stacks of toilet paper. I peel off my sweaty clothes and climb in the tub for a post-gym shower. My cat lays on the bathroom mats and tells me all about my possessions he’s destroyed, the mice he has eaten, the things he’s peed on, and asks me repeatedly to open the bathroom closet so he can lick the trash bag that peeks over the edge of the can. I climb out of the shower, reaching around him to grab my towel, taking every precaution not to drip water on him. A drop falls near his foot. He howls at me and flees the room, full of righteous indignation.
Flinging desperate apologies at his retreating back, I return to my room and start getting dressed for a night of frozen pizza and staring at the computer screen blankly, hoping to write something significant while simultaneously watching House of Cards. He watches me in self-satisfaction, harboring motives that I cannot understand. I edge my way behind the dresser (and out of his line of sight) and pull on my shorts—he maintains eye contact. He is purring.
It’s now dinner time, and he is once again reminding me of my constant failure to make my lap a permanent, cat-only accessible fixture in the house. I sit down with my feet propped up on the chair next to me, nearly weak with hunger over the stress of the day. Before I can begin eating my dinner of a single turkey burger and skillet potatoes, he hops into my lap, bundles up in the crook of my legs, and purrs. I eat around him.
After dinner, it is time to do some homework. I get about five minutes in before he emerges from his warm spot on the couch and begins gently clawing at my shorts. If I do not make room, he makes room. He climbs on top of my lap and stretches himself out to the fullest extent of his body; he now covers both my arms, my mouse, my keyboard and most of my chest. I suspect he expands his skin to do this, much the way a toxic gas will expand to fill the room it is in, or how a flying squirrel will unfold its skin flaps to coast down from the curtains before running under the bed, causing much distress to the dogs, cats, and small children in the house.
There are no small children in my house, thank God.
I fully believe that my cat would eat them. Perhaps he would wrap his skin around their tiny, jam-covered faces, suffocating them like some sort of feline mercy-killing. He would use his rough, pink little tongue to strip the flesh from their bones, then celebrate afterward with a careful preening and clawing of the rug.
It is bedtime now, thank Christ. I try to adjust the blankets so they resemble something less like a strand of DNA covered in dog hair. I almost succeed, but my cat is laying in the middle of them, so I must relegate myself to huddling under a single corner of comforter. I am not comforted.
I fall asleep quickly.
I have a nightmare. A bad one. I wake up drenched in sweat. My cat has started kneading on me again, purring—once again, the reason why I have woken up before my alarm. When he sees that I’m awake, he curls up into a ball against my stomach, flicking me gently with his tail.
I hold him close, and fall back asleep.
I am content.