in collaboration with caitlin metz (from february 2018)
on the fine art of cat love: a meditation
for pepper, panda, tiger, and luna. but especially for tiger. you were the first cat i ever loved. thank you for encouraging my heart to expand.
it wasn’t supposed to be this way, you remember. what with the allergies and stories of their aloofness as a species, and sometimes even cruelty. your childhood and upbringing convinced you that dogs, on the other hand, would never.
but, alas, here we are…
it begins with a soft, gray, ball of fluff clambering up the stairs that sit at the foot of your bed. and you feel her traipse across your body. for a moment, with the sun barely peeking over the horizon, and light playing at the softest dance behind your curtains, there is peace. and then there is not. as cat claws connect with your headboard for what feels like an eternity. you do your best to move from the shock of that wake up call to semi-consciousness. the peace is broken; and the day has effectively begun. you pull her off of the headboard. say, no, in your most intimidating, albeit barely audible, morning voice. sometimes she stops. and sometimes she doesn’t - because she’s ready for you to be present in the world with her, already. most of the time you’ll oblige - hoping that she will sprawl out onto your pillow for a cuddle. sometimes she will, and other times, she’ll return the way that she came - across your body, down the stairs, ready to take on the day. the most independent in her nine months of life. and in your half sleep, you’ll hear her shuffling across the hardwood, chirping as she climbs up the cat tree, and eventually settling into a bed that overlooks the backyard.
moments later, a heavier weight begins trudging across your body. he is the soft-hearted one among the pack. a perpetual slow blinker - which your google search tells you is the ultimate sign of trust. a communication of affection. pure love. a kiss. and you have become pretty convinced that his deepest desire is world peace. but sometimes he will plop - embodying the very absence of grace - onto your chest. butt to your face. and you’ll wonder what you did to deserve such a horrendous morning greeting. but other times, he will lay on your chest with his face nearly touching yours. scooting forward as close as he can. and as the sun continues its ascent, you’ll find your eyelids descending for just a few more minutes of sleep. and his will do the same. you know that he will lay there with you - breathing into rhythm with your heartbeat - for as long as you let him. and, although he’s far heftier than that day you scooped him from a cat rescue a year ago - barely two months old - you let him. remembering that on so many days, his gentleness has softened you.
when you finally get out of bed, the first one at your feet is the old man. your partner’s childhood cat. with twenty years of life experience under his (balding) belt, he knows what he wants and how to ask for it. so on most mornings now, he will follow you into the bathroom and wait - sometimes patiently - for you to be done showering. there’s something about the water at the bottom of the bathtub that he loves - and so you have a routine: you get out, he jumps in. it’s a weird thing, you find, learning to bond when he’s experienced so much life and routine without you, already. and you wonder how he feels about this life with you that he had no say in. but, often, you’ll look beyond his softening body, and you’ll find his eyes. and somehow, gentleness and familiarity will be there.
when you exit the bathroom, it’s likely that you’ll find the last of the bunch running from the mischief she has just made somewhere in the house. the most athletic and probably the most intelligent, she’s developed an affinity for destroying house plants and (usually) not getting caught in the act. you don’t much care, though, because she’s the one whose love and trust look most like your own: difficult to earn, but deep and unfaltering once you have. she will look at you and chirp when you call her name, recognizing your voice or your affection or both - and it will hit you there, before you’ve even had your breakfast: after all these years, you fucking love (your) cats.