Say Hello to My Little Friend

As I write this, permakitten Grace is eating my eggs with hot sauce, and I’m laughing too hard to stop her.

I’m aware that I’m a cat lady. I’m also aware that as the power dynamics of sex, courtship and romance are finally being called into question, and as basic tenets of human decency are no longer ensured, a cat lady is far from the worst thing a woman can be. I love and respect my cat and do my very best by her, and she feels and does the same for me.

And love is love.

Grace may not speak English–that is, save a “noooo” she’s learned to eke out over the years–but we share a clear-eyed, clear-hearted sympatico. Peace is the name of our game, and now that I’m in my 40s, domestic peace is more important to me than human companionship–more important than getting laid, even. No species is inherently peaceful, but after her stressful childhood on the streets of Brooklyn, Grace Michael Jackson just wants to be serene and sweet. I can relate.

She’s too skittish to be a Buddha, of course; among the things that will send her running are shoes, seltzer, vacuums, paper bags, male voices, and drunk people. But I’ve never lived with anyone who could calm me the way she does, and I’ve lived with all kinds of beings. Grace has taught me to find quiet within myself. More than that, she has located the tenderness beneath my tough broad exterior. In return I have taught her how to play: to enjoy music and dance, to have a sense of humor. I don’t mind telling you: Grace is quite funny. It’s not just that she knows how to bestow the feline equivalent of a raised eyebrow or a curmudgeonly frown. It’s that the timing of said gestures is always impeccable.

Whenever possible, I travel with Grace. Nothing feels like home without her, and she’s bereft when I leave her behind. When she’s uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable, and I’ve noticed this fact goes both ways. When I’m sad, she’s sad, though when I malinger in my housework or writing duties, she doesn’t have time for my bullshit. When she fails as a vermin hunter or eats food I’ve earmarked as my own, I’m not so happy with her, either.

We still like to be as physically close, though. As I type this, she’s purring beneath my legs and we’re snuggling beneath my duvet.

Neither of us hold grudges if we can tell the other is legitimately sorry, and we always are. Also we like to eat many of the same things, eschewing sweets and adoring greens, animal protein, particularly fish, and very spicy things. It’s gotten so that, when I do my weekly shop at Fairway, the fishmonger and butcher know to give me a little extra for Grace. One of those dudes–the one whom I’d kiss if he weren’t wearing a wedding ring–always tells me to say hi to her.

I guess I talk about her a lot. But don’t you talk about the people you love as well?

The other day a friend of a friend commented on my relationship with Grace. “Do you mind that your closest friend will die so much sooner than you?” she asked. Her judgment loomed as supertext, not subtext, but I didn’t mind. I judged her right back for not having the courage to leave her very bad marriage.

“I’m just so grateful to fully enjoy her company while she is alive,” I said, blinking twice slowly. It’s a kiss-off I’ve learned from my cat.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy