I’d intended to change my life this year, all of it, to yank my life out by the roots, leaving nothing standing, to start over from scratch, in fact, but I got a cat instead.
It was enough.
My house, you know it was a coffin. Since Astro’s come here, two weeks ago – so hard to believe just two weeks – I’ve opened up the curtains. Let in light. Dusted rooms I never use. I’ve picked up paper clips from dark corners, and thumb tacks, and gift cards, old packets of cold medicine, spare change, the tops from contact lens cases, and those little plastic things you shove into collars of dress shirts to keep them sharp and straight.
It was a lot.
I did it for the cat.
Still I wound up saying, “Hey! What do you have? What are you eating?” A lot. Practically all the time. Way more often than I’d have believed possible.
I was sitting in my rocking chair Friday night and I was reading a book with my feet propped up on the bed. It was typical. And I had gotten to the part of the book where Angela Carter is finally successful and she’s selling books and has a kid and is winning prizes but she gets inoperable cancer and that’s when Astro came over to me. This cat came over to me, you see, crossed over from the bed using my legs like a sort of bridge, sauntered right up my stomach and my chest, then nestled his head up into my neck and proceeded to purring. He was so warm.
Well, I burst into bawling. I don’t know why. It was ridiculous.
I did not cry when my grandfather died. I did not cry when Jamie left. I did not cry when my father had a stroke.
After years of emotional distance – distance even from myself, whom I cannot get away from despite considerable effort – it was ridiculous, unacceptably so, that I found myself crying at the touch of a housecat I’d known barely two weeks and who, let us face it, was probably only trying to determine could he eat me. This troubled me. I set to thinking about it.
Finally what I came to was this: My defense mechanisms, which were good defense mechanisms, well-honed and entirely subconscious as it were, knew that caring for a cat held less emotional risk for me than would caring about life and death. Success and failure. Romantic love. All the biggies.
So it was that I’d allowed myself to cry about a cat snuggling.
Or perhaps I was just over-thinking the whole thing.
At any rate, Astro celebrated my emotional breakthrough by going downstairs and dumping a 26-pound bag of kitty litter into the bathroom sink.
It was a whole new world.