One Girl's Thank You To Her Cat
By my sophomore year of college, I had moved off campus. My second floor bedroom stretched the entire width of the front of the house. It may have been two rooms changed into one - there was a shallow arch through the middle and either side had its own door to the hallway though one of the doors had been plastered closed forever. To me, it felt like they were both plastered shut. I was 19 years old and my friendships were changing. The doors that separated me from the hallway also separated me from the world I was growing out of. My childhood friends, who lived above me and below me, didn't know me anymore. In that second floor room, I was the only one who knew me and I was quite alone.
I don't remember making the decision to visit the animal shelter. I do remember the picture that I found online and where I was when I saw it. It was of a light-grey, female kitten with a caramel-colored splat around one eye. She was precious and the adoption fee was only $20.
One Sunday at 4 p.m., I stamped my timesheet to record the end of my shift at the zoo. I rode my bike home and asked one of my housemates if he would give me a ride to the animal shelter - a woman's home about 20 minutes away. I took a cardboard box with me.
The house smelled terrible. There was a small television on the kitchen counter and a crackling black and white program was barely coming through. She explained that she had to cancel her cable service because caring for several dozen cats had become very expensive for her. I remember thinking that I should turn around and go home.
She led me down the hall and opened a bedroom door. She peered around a bit looking for the kitten with the caramel splat. I was still wearing my zoo uniform. She looked behind a tall dresser and said, "Oh, there's her brother! Come and see."
That's when I first saw you. You were impossibly small and I could hardly make out your eyes. You looked like a ball of lint as you pressed yourself as hard as you could against the floor and the wall. I don't remember who pulled you out but I remember sitting down and feeling you pressed against my belly and my legs. Out of terror and exhaustion (or, I like to think comfort), you fell asleep while we talked. She took a picture of us and I was ready to take you home. I gave her $50 instead of $20. That was a lot of money for a college sophomore who was adopting a cat behind her parents' backs...but I'll always regret not taking her name so that I could have given her more. Because she gave me the world.
You lived on my bed for the first two weeks of our lives together. You were too small to get down from the bed by yourself but I tried to build you some steps with a chair and piles of books. You eventually got the hang of it. You were also too small to climb into the litter box I bought you so we used an old frying pan. Our first night, you settled in with me on the pillow between my ear and my neck. You cried for a bit which made me nervous. I reached my hand up to comfort you and you grabbed my smallest finger with your mouth and you suckled yourself to sleep. You did that every single night for six months and only one more time after that on what I called your first birthday - exactly one year after I brought you home.
You saved me. I didn't know who I was when I was 19 and it frightened me. I felt people coming and going from my life which isn't something you usually notice happening. I spent so much time being alone in the beautiful bedroom and being afraid of what was on the other side of those doors. With you, that room transformed. You gave that space a new meaning for me. We memorized every corner of that strange room together and when we were ready, we packed up and left it behind. We bursted out into that world as a pair - never again to be alone behind doors or dressers.
I don't expect to ever love again the way that I love you. Not exactly anyway.