When I was growing up neither of my parents seemed very keen on getting a pet. They were more interested arguing, getting divorced, and then shit talking. Also cable TV.
The closest my brother and I got to actual in-house animals were fish won through various carnival sideshow games involving ping-pong balls accidentally landing in the fishes’ bowls. No feelings of love exuded from these fish so our only attachment to them were based solely on the pop-culture names we’d given them i.e. Michelangelo was my favorite Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle, therefore the similarly named aquatic being was my favorite fish. Aside from that the fish might as well have been an interesting (barely) moving art piece that we would stare at for a second as we passed though the hallway. As each one died (days later) it was fun for us to play funeral by flushing them down the toilet, saying a few fake words of wistful reflection, and pretending to be sad like we had seen on cable TV. It definitely wasn’t real emotion.
We saw other people love their dogs though. All of our cousins had dogs. They fucking loved the shit out of them. So much so that they’d refer them as part of the family. I don’t know how my brother felt about that but it struck me as odd. How could an animal on a much lower intellectual level than ourselves receive the same love, adoration, and even respect on our human level? It felt demeaning to compare the two species. We make everything; they poop outside and sometimes eat it or at least give it few up close sniffs. You can’t say that’s not gross.
I also couldn’t say I didn’t still want a dog. I wanted one in the same way I wanted to win the fish. It’d be fun to have a little puppy running around doing stupid shit so I could laugh at it or go “awwwww” when it did something super cute. Basically it seemed moderately more entertaining than the fish. Someday when I was older I figured I’d get a big screen TV, cable, and a little dog.
Some time later all I really wanted was girls, forget those other things. Girls were a much more fun version of entertainment, right? Do I really have to say why? Then that evolved and I realized it wasn’t just a girl I wanted but love from a girl. After each long-term break-up it was the support and camaraderie I missed the most. The hanging out, laughing, laying on each others’ laps kinda closeness that only came from having a girlfriend was an amazing feeling. It made me feel strong. I didn’t realize that was gonna be a thing and when it was gone I felt so starkly alone that the world seemed ferociously unmanageable. And the more I questioned what I had done to make these girls leave the more I felt like a monster who didn’t deserve love from anyone.
Eventually I met a chick with a cat. Up until that point my only stance on cats was that I knew they had claws and were quite agile. Those two facts together made me nervous. Would her cat maul me the second I tried to pet him? He didn’t so the three of us decided to move in together.
This chick was great. She actually loved me in very unconditional way that I subconsciously tested by pushing and pushing and pushing to see if she’d crack and leave me. I was doing this to everyone I think. My relationships with friends and family were straining. Finally I was the one who ended up cracking and broke-up with her because I was stupid and confused as to why she wasn’t leaving on her own.
Before that sad bit of business we were in line to get another cat. My girlfriend loved her cat in the same unconditional way she loved me and she wanted it to have a friend to play with since some of her attention was now being diverted to me. A co-worker had brought in a pregnant stray and was looking for people to take some of the coming litter. I told her to put me down for one and she told me to wait a month after the pregnancy which I assume was so the cat could get a fair share of it’s mother’s milk before being banished to strictly water-based thirst quenching. It was in this very month that I cracked and made my girlfriend leave.
I was again feeling drastically alone and while a cat was never a planned item to have in my life I felt it might at lease be a welcome distraction so when the time came I picked up my cat and brought her home. Jesus was she small. I had mentioned to my co-worker that I wanted the smallest female kitten to contrast with the giant boy cat of my now ex, but I had no idea she’d be as tiny as she was. I named her Eames. In my earlier dog plan I envisioned a male that I would name Vincent D’Onofrio the Dog. Dogs were entertainment, right, so I’d name it after a favorite entertainer. In this case of a girl cat my first instinct was to name her after D’Onofrio’s co-star on cable TV’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent but Kathryn Erbe wasn’t nearly as funny a name. Her character’s name on the show was insanely awesome to me though and Vincent D’Onofrio would say it all the time. When I called my cat’s name I felt like D’Onofrio’s Detective Goren calling for his partner Eames so he could explain the killers motives out loud to someone for the benefit of the audience.
On the drive to my place Eames cried at lot. I was taking her away from her brothers and sisters and the only place she knew. I felt bad that she was frightened so I played the only unscratched CD I had in my car at the time to maybe sooth the savage beast. It was Aesop Rock’s None Shall Pass, a rap album. Almost immediately Eames calmed down and stopped meowing. Weird, right? My cat liked hip hop like me! We already had something in common.
That first day at my house Eames spent most of the day under my bed scared to be in unfamiliar territory. I spoke to her in happy babyish tones and put her food under the bed and did everything to accommodate her in the transition. I also started talking to her a lot justifying this move to her (and myself) by explaining that if she didn’t stay here with me she would be put to sleep (which a couple of her unclaimed siblings eventually were). She must have appreciated all this talking because that night after I turned off the lights and got under the covers to go to sleep she jumped onto my bed, walked delicately on my chest to see if I would stop her and after I didn’t she curled up and went to sleep. It was such a sweet sign of trust that I nearly cried.
As time went on her and I became inseparable. She followed me everywhere and laid on my chest every night. And she was so much like me: we both liked Aesop Rock, we both hated to be alone which she showed through a series of angry meows as soon as I got home, we were both quite clumsy (it is hilarious to watch a cat misjudge a jump), and we were both attention whores, me as an aspiring stand-up comedian and her as a cat who jumped into everyone’s laps and rubbed her head on their hands pretty much forcing them to pet her (I’d dubbed this act “hand rape”). These commonalities alone weren’t what made me feel real love from her though. I could poke her, yell at her, push her off the couch, pick her up and make her dance or recreate the opening of the Lion King and even though all these things obviously perturbed her she never really fought back or tried to scratch me with her sharp claws. She also didn’t care that I was a slob or if I was late on rent or if I was spending too much money on weed or videogames. No matter what I did to mess with her or my own life she would sit in my lap and purr until she fell asleep. To me that is true unconditional love.
As Eames was manipulating me to love her I reconciled with the ex I kicked out. It is a miraculous thing to take someone back after they sent you away and I couldn’t be more grateful that she did. And I’m even more grateful that she decided on going to school close enough to me that I can see her everyday since in this relationship interim Eames has died.
I came home a week ago today, and put Eames outside to go potty (I trained her to only use the litter box in emergencies though lots and lots of yelling) and when I called her back in (I also trained her to come in from outside when I called her name through lots and lots of kitty treats) she didn’t come running like usual. When I went outside to look for her she was laying under the BBQ cover like she did when she was afraid of the dog on the other side of the fence or wind and rain. I called her a few more times and she came out so slowly I new something was wrong.
I had no idea what to do. Vet, right? Was this actually “take her to the vet” behavior? I called my now girlfriend again who assured me Eames only had a tummy ache but I should take her to vet just in case. As I sped towards the vet Eames starting crying pretty loudly. I again played Aesop Rock and she calmed down and stopped meowing.
The vet had closed not ten minutes before we got there. There was a map on the door to the emergency care place but I am so not a spatial thinker and I had forgot my phone with GPS at the house in a rush to get Eames some help so it took a little longer than planned to get there. Finding it though was a like finding Disneyland. Finally we were at the place that would make everything ok!
They took my cat to the back right away while I filled out some paper work in the waiting room. I started to get nervous at how much the tummy ache was gonna cost. I checked my bank account before I left to see that I only had $211. That should be enough for whatever procedure they had to do or medicine Eames’d have to take, right? Then the doctor came out and took me into a private room. I knew that wasn’t a very good sign. She told me my cat had eaten something poisonous and was in critical condition. “It would take a multi-thousand dollar procedure to fix… Ames, is it? And there is no guarantee that it will work.” I was speechless but my eyes communicated how I felt by uncontrollably tearing up. All I heard the doctor say was “your cat will be dead soon.” I didn’t realize how I would take that news. My current cat plan was to have Eames for the next twenty years, not the measly three we got together. I wanted her for longer. I wanted her to hang out with my girlfriend more and play with her cat as she was supposed to from the beginning. I wanted her to come with me to LA someday and be there when I come home late from a professional stand-up gig and meow to chastise me for leaving her alone for too long. I wanted to have her when I start to make real money so I could buy here the best kitty food and maybe even a new collar.
Instead, unable to fork over the amount of money required to maybe save her life, I petted Eamesie’s head the way she liked and told her I loved her and she was a good little kitty as the doctor gave her a shot of pink liquid that killed her.
I get it now why people become so attached to their pets. When every human in your life is angry or disappointed with you your pet isn’t and only shows you love which may just be a love of the food you feed them but whatever, fuck it I take that as love. In the end I truly loved her with reckless abandon. Coming home after work to an animal that cared I was home is such a sweet thing. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t trade but it’s so hard now that Eames is gone that I can’t honestly recommend it and I seriously doubt I’ll do it again.
I guess it’s back to talking to myself.