Monthly Archives: July 2010

Psyche Soup


I have climbed up hills and fallen down mountains, swum in canals and come face-to-face with a water moccasin. I have played on rooftops and in trees. I wrote a book, at age 10, that was never published, and never will be, and won a writing contest and went to summer camp.

I have spent hours watching alligators swim lazily in rivers, and have rescued animals- lots of them. I have rehabilitated owls, hawk, ospreys, and other birds of prey. I brought a rabbit back to life with CPR, and killed a frog just to see how his insides were put together, then spent the rest of my life regretting it.

I have bared my soul, only to be rejected or ridiculed. I have bared my soul and found life-long friends. I have had boyfriends and lost them or left them, always avoiding a commitment. I have fought, loved, hated, felt homicidal and suicidal. I have had meltdowns and periods of life that were wonderful.

I have been chased around a parking lot by a strange man, and down a street by another. I was chased by a man with a hammer once at a traffic light, but I drove off and shot him a bird. I was chased in my car by two men who tried to run me off the road, and I chased a man down the street. I was in a car when drug deals went down, dozens of hands holding baggies waving their wares in the window. I hid my fear.

I have lived poverty and collected food from trash cans- before it was a popular sport. I have lived on food stamps and church charity. I have been without a home of my own and without a job. I turned my back on a man who needed bus fare, and still think about him with regret. I have given food to people who were hungry and rides to folks who had no transportation. I have denied money to beggars, and given money to others. I have volunteered and raised money for organizations and charities. I have offered shelter to friends who needed it.

I dropped out of high school then studied art, science, language, and linguistics, got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I learned a second language. I have worked in fast food and in retail, as a maid, a turn-down attendant, a receptionist, a cook, a rose seller, a kennel worker, a bagger, a veterinary assistant, a waitress, a bartender, a researcher, a teacher, a writer, an editor, a translator.

I traveled for hours by small plane, then bus, then boat to get to a remote rain forest in Costa Rica. I soaked in the hot springs fed by the volcano Arenal, and ate dinner while watching the glowing lava stream down its sides. I have been followed by monkeys who tried to pee on me to chase me away. I have seen endangered tree frogs and heard the distant roar of jaguars.

I have traveled to England, France, and Spain. I have traveled all over the US. I moved to Mexico with only 2000 dollars and no income and no friends yet at my destination. I drove for five days with everything I owned in my car to get there, after everyone told me not too- it was too dangerous. I did not encounter any danger, only difficulties in finding lodging that would accept me with my three cats. I struggled to understand and interact in another language. I received kindness from people who could see me searching for the right words to communicate. An indigenous woman gave me a mat to sleep on when she saw I was sleeping on the floor. I visited a shaman who got rid of my nightmares. I drove by a reputed warlock’s home every day. I made good friends who helped me become a better person. I learned it was ok to depend on others and be a part of the human race. Then I forgot that later when I returned to the States. I learned that life was not black and white. Mexico showed me the shades of grey.

I got typhoid and dysentery, then I got accustomed to life in a foreign country. I lived near a volcano and was showered on by eruptions. I exercised on a pyramid that was topped with a church. I walked to and from my school and work three miles a day. I bought fresh flowers from the market to brighten my bare apartment. I bought wooden crates to use as kitchen cabinets. I viewed the mummies in Guanajuato and smelled their earthy, papery skin. I saw the elaborate alters for el Dia de los Muertos. I have gone to Mardi Gras in Mazatlan and seen the parades for the Guelaguetza in Oaxaca. I lived in a cartel town with a population of 700,000 where there were 144 murders in one month. I was in a restaurant during a hold up, with four men waving automatic weapons and screaming for money. I fled the country I had grown to love.

I survived cancer. That’s still fresh.

Sometimes I think about how I could have done things differently, how that might have changed my life. But then I realize that these experiences, good, bad, or indifferent, are the network of my being. They interact with my psyche and form inextricable bonds, making me who I am. They fuel my thoughts and my actions and affect my relationships with others. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anyone elses’. During down times, when I think I have done nothing with my life, and I wonder what the point is, I look at my list. I think also about the things I have not written down, for whatever reason, and I remember that I have done everything I have ever wanted to do until now.

How many people can say that?

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com

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The Troll Under the Bridge- Er, The Dog Under the Deck


Lover Boy Nicolas

I am sitting on the deck watching my cat, Nicolas, saunter across the yard in search of prey. His white coat offers a sharp contrast to the green grass. He is one of my Mexican kitties. He found me on the campus of the university in Puebla where I was studying and working, and followed me around for six hours. I took him home, and he’s been with me ever since. I call him Lover Boy. He wants nothing more than to get full body massages all day. Plus, he is always jumping my cat Cristina, but he can’t help it- she’s hot.

He’s a lover, but he’s also a hunter, and a good one. Last summer he was perpetrator of the Peter Rabbit Massacre- 6 headless bunny bodies strewn across the front porch, made worse by the fact that they were found when my sister stepped on one of them. Well worse for her, hilarious for me.

Today, Nicolas is hunting, and I am glad to see there are no baby birds or bunnies about. I watch him move lazily across the yard as he heads for the stairs to the deck. He is about to climb them when I hear a muffled bark. Nicolas shoots straight up into the air, his fur on end. I distinctly hear a muffled giggle from below.

Ah, so that’s where Susie is. I hadn’t seen that dog all day. Nicolas lands with a hiss and a dirty look at the dog under the deck. Rather than use the stairs, he opts for leaping up onto the deck railing to avoid contact with that “thing” hidden below. Although Susie believes differently, Nicolas and she are not friends.

Cristina Potosina- drives all the boy cats crazy!

Enter stage right, Cristina. Well, that is a pleasant surprise. Until recently, Cristina never bothered to come outside. She was perfectly happy in the bathroom sink or shower, or hidden in a closet somewhere. Nicolas spies Cristina and, unable to resist her tempting, sexy figure, he jumps off the railing and jumps on to her. She is not amused. Nicolas begins enjoying himself immensely as Cristina growls in irritation. I am beginning to think they missed something when they neutered him. He is always so feisty.

I hear another muffled bark, and this time two cats shoot straight up in the air. That worked better than a cold shower for Nicolas. Cristina lands and looks angrily between the boards on the deck below her. Nicolas decides to head for the dog-free zone of the front yard.

Ok, I decide to intervene. The dog is bored and needs to walk. I head inside and grab her leash. I step onto the deck, the leash rattling in my hand. There is a commotion below me. I can feel the excitement emanating from the deck boards.

Susie, A.K.A "Psycho"

“Come on, Susie! Let’s go for a walk!” I hear a thud as Susie tries to come through the deck. There is more excited shuffling below and another thud.

“Come on Susie, you fool! Come around the deck.” She is apparently still not fluent in English (she is from Mexico, like all my pets) because she tries to come through the boards again. I move towards the stairs, trying to lure her to the direction of the hole in the deck siding that she went through. This does not work. In her excitement, she tries to dive through the deck siding to come out between the stairs. I sigh and try again.

“Come on Susie! Come around the deck. Come out the hole on the side, you idiot!” But who is the real idiot here? The dog, or the human who is trying to reason with the dog? I hear more shuffling below. The dog is still trying to come out the wrong way. I decide to go down the stairs to the hole in the deck siding. I approach the opening carefully because the dog is psycho. I know in her excitement she will produce enough energy to light a small town. Sure enough, as I near the opening, Susie tears out from beneath the deck like her tail was on fire. She zips past me, runs in a circle, then leaps chest high before landing on my foot. OUCH! I utter a few choice words and tell her to sit.

She sits for a half second, then leaps straight up into the air before doing a quick lap around the yard, pausing only long enough to run up on the deck to scare the bejeezus out of Cristina, who runs inside to hide behind the door, and coming full circle to sit on my foot, once again. OUCH!

“Dammit dog! Calm down!” She tries. Her whole body quivers with excitement. Her little behind rises off the ground repeatedly, but drops down quickly as she remembers she is supposed to sit. I reach down to put her leash on, and that sets her off again. Another lap around the yard. At this rate we’ll never get out of here.

When she returns, I tell her to sit, and this time I manage to leash her. Thank god! I head for the gate. We are going to take a nice, long walk.

“Good riddance,” I hear Cristina mutter behind me. I smile as we take off down the road.

Susie as a pup in one of her spastic moments

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com


Sausage Gets Fit



She looked like a sausage. Her casing was a tight, white tank top that rolled with each bulge around her waist. This was offset by a pair of short, bright orange, terry cloth shorts. Her face was spackled with heavy makeup that only served to make her look older. Her hair, framed by a pair of dangling earrings, was bleached blond and tossed into a fluffy ponytail that streamed down her back. She appeared to have spent the last several months toasting in a tanning bed. She had that deep, orange glow that you associated with those contraptions. She stepped into position in front of you. You checked yourself in the mirror. Did you commit any fashion sins? Nope, all was good. Your eyes strayed back to the specimen in front of you. You tried not to stare, but it was difficult.

The music started- a deep, thumping beat.

“March it out!” shouted the instructor. You marched, the sausage marched, the edges of her shorts fluttering in the air. This was going to be a long class.

“Grapevine!”

You switched your moves, trying to arrange your uncooperative feet. This was the part of the class you liked the least because you had no coordination whatsoever. Who would have believed that you were spawned from two people who regularly won dancing competitions? Just trying to keep up in a fitness class was an ordeal. You concentrated on not tripping. The class moved right as you moved left. You corrected. The women around you were now kicking back their legs madly as they did the grapevine. When did they start doing that? You start to kick your legs back just as the rest of the class starts to kick their legs out. Almost over, hang in there.

“Inhale!” The instructor sucked in air and lifted her arms above her head. You followed, two beats behind.

“Exhale!” The instructor brought her arms down and followed with the rest of her body, ending in a stretch. You liked the stretching part. It felt good on your spine, the backs of your thighs and your calves. You hung suspended for a moment, then began to rise when cued.

A flash of blinding white. Whoa! Two cheeks puckered with cellulite stepped into view. You tried not to stare, but it was impossible. Your eyes were mesmerized by the show. You really wished that what lay beneath those shorts could have been left to your imagination. You frantically check yourself in the mirror again. Anything amiss? No, still good. You breathe a sigh of relief, but are quickly distracted as the sausage bends over and those two friendly cheeks wave hello. You look around you to see if anyone else has noticed. Then you wonder if anyone has noticed you staring at the other woman’s butt.

How embarrassing that would be!

You bend again at the waist, and this time close your eyes on the way up. Ah yes, that’s the ticket. You can’t be distracted by what you can’t see. You open your eyes again.

Too soon! Too soon!

The woman is bent over in front of you, the fabric of her shorts caught between her two cheeks, which peek out like pale belly dancers flirting behind a thin veil- two large belly dancers. You try not to laugh. How much more of this can you take? The instructor takes you through the stretches before you move to the floor. It’s time to work with the weights. There will be no more flashing buttocks in your direction. You feel for the woman who is positioned to the right of the sausage, though, because now the sausage lay there with her knees up in the air, her shorts riding up her crotch, giving the other woman a show. You can only imagine what the view is, and you are grateful for that.

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com


Picky Me


I read a post today on Shine from Yahoo that said the American Psychological Association is considering classifying picky eating as an eating disorder. I wanted to print the post, frame it, and hang it in the kitchen for all to see. I am, you see, the quintessential picky eater. Oh how nice it would be to blame it on a disorder! The article went on to say that unlike other eating disorders, picky eating is not life threatening. I had to laugh. The author obviously never considered the danger picky eaters face from parents who want to strangle them at every meal. I know my mother probably needed years of therapy once I was done with her. I was/am so obsessed with my food presentation that I actually developed a set of eating rules that I follow to this day. So now, for those of you who struggle to categorize your picky-ness, I have compiled a helpful list:

No! Milk is never a beverage! See Rule #1.

Rule #1: Ok, folks, write this down: milk is never drunk! It is not and never will be a beverage. Never, never, never! You may cook with it, bake with it, or add it to your cereal. But when you finish eating the cereal, the extra milk gets dumped. This is very important to remember. This rule may never be broken.

Rule #2: Cheese can only be eaten if it tastes like butter or pizza. When you order a pizza, though, always ask for extra sauce and less cheese so your taste buds don’t get offended by that yucky white stuff. This, of course, limits the types of cheeses you can eat, but who cares? Think about it, cheese is made using the enzymes from a cow’s or goat’s stomach. Eww! And then there’s that whole mold issue…moving on.

Rule #3: Yogurt is avoided at all costs (see note on goat stomachs in Rule #2).

Rule #4: Eggs must be thoroughly cooked, no runny yolks. This rule was instituted after I accidentally collected a chicken’s nest when I was a kid. Mom cracked open an egg over the fry pan, and out popped this mucous-y, stinky embryo. I still get flashbacks when I see an undercooked egg.

Rule #5: Real butter is good. Use lots of it. Eat it plain if the urge strikes you.

Rule #6:Don’t let the elitists sway you- ketchup is good on steak, provided that the steak is not accompanied by any other sauce, which brings me to…

Rule #7: Sauces can’t mix. If you have more than one item with a sauce, they must be served on separate plates. Also, foods with sauces, in general, cannot touch foods without sauces. There are some exceptions, but when in doubt, serve on separate plates. That way, if you aren’t sure, you can dip a little teeny weeny edge of the dry food into the sauce to see if they are compatible.

Rule #8: Wet foods may not touch dry foods or foods cooked in oil. For example boiled cabbage cannot be on the same plate as say fried chicken or sauteed asparagus. The water might run across the plate and touch the chicken and asparagus. Bread should not touch anything that is wet lest it becomes soggy.

Rule #9: It is fine for foods prepared in the same manner to touch. So if you have grilled some summer squash, and it touches grilled chicken, it will be ok.

Rule #10: Barbeque sauce may never touch anything except what it is barbecuing. I don’t want to see barbeque sauce on my corn, my salad, my bread, or anything else it was never intended for.

These are all good items for a salad.

Rule #11: Cole slaw must always be served separately. It is not allowed to touch anything.

Rule #12:Salads are also always served separately. Plus, except for croutons or bacon bits (but see below for bacon bits rule), salads should only have greens and other salad vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots…and maybe some jicama. Bacon bits must be real bacon and they can only be used with certain salad dressings, like 1000 Island. Also, salad dressings should be used in moderation. Why eat a salad if you’re really only interested in the flavor of the dressing? Just skip the greens and eat the dressing straight if you have to.

Rule #13: Desserts, of course, are always served on a clean, separate plate. Sweet does not get mixed with salty- and don’t throw the bacon and maple syrup argument at me. That’s just gross. What a way to ruin perfectly good bacon!

Well, I think that’s it. This should provide you with all the guidance you need when you are dining. I find that the rules are most easily implemented if you have either really big plates or lots of small ones. I hope this helps. Buen provecho!

A properly presented plate. Notice the clean margins around each food item.

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com


Part VIII: Sorting It Out


The anger has left. It didn’t happen gradually. It just disappeared. I woke up one morning this week and realized I was not upset. And then I realized I had slept all night without the help of a sleeping pill. Oh, don’t get me wrong- I still think about cancer constantly. It consumes my day and leaves me restless, still unable to focus. But it is manageable, today anyway. I have crossed a rocky shore and can now feel the soft sand between my toes. I can relax.

I have tried to figure out what I have done differently. I suppose one change is that I am no longer hiding. For some reason I have difficulty understanding or explaining, I have kept my cancer a secret for the most part. Oh yes, I have written about it, and I have told a select few about it (mostly by email), but I was embarrassed and avoided disclosing this information to people I deal with every day. When I learned of my diagnosis, I told my immediate supervisor because I knew I would need to take a day or two off (haha, a day or two! I was so naive!). But I didn’t tell my main boss. I told no one else at work. It was only after my surgery that I finally came clean, when I realized that the strain of hiding it from my employer would be too great, that I would need to rearrange my schedule a bit to accommodate treatments. Then I told one or two others at work, but the rest I dodged as skillfully as possible. I wanted no one to know. This has taken its toll on me.

My first foray into the public world was through a writing group. I brought the manuscript of my cancer experience for feedback, and it was nerve wracking. I don’t know what I expected, but what I got was positive feedback on my writing and compassion for my experience. I survived exposure.

Then I told a friend that I was falling to pieces, couldn’t get a grip on my reality. He knew about my cancer, had been there the whole time during my treatment, but he was surprised because, as usual, I was hiding my pain and confusion so well. He mentioned that hiding might not be the best approach since others pick up on the subtleties of behavior, and if there is no rational explanation for the way a person is acting, others become confused and possibly assign meaning to those behaviors, and not necessarily positive.  So I stepped back and had to wonder, what do other acquaintances think about me? It is unfortunate, but the majority of people I know in this town I met after my diagnosis. Yet they know nothing about what I have been going through. So did they think I was odd, unfriendly, unstable as I stumbled through the world of medicine and sickness, blind to activities beyond its borders? I could beat myself up for that, but a person is only capable of doing what they are capable of at the moment. For me, my mechanism for dealing was to try to do it on my own, in secret. I can say that hasn’t worked too well, but I needed to find that out on my own. And I needed to come to accept that my life will not necessarily be defined by cancer from now on, but it will be marked by it. How can something that is so much a part of you not be revealed?

I decided to quit hiding. I didn’t run out and make a public announcement, but I did tell a few more people when the time was appropriate. Then I started this blog. Perhaps no one will read this, but the fact that it is out there on the internet makes it public. That has a psychological effect that is cathartic (as another friend described it) in nature. It is an avenue of healing, and it gives me an outlet for my thoughts. It also gives me a purpose- to write. For this I can focus.

So will my mood last? Who knows? There is a little part of me that waits apprehensively for the other shoe to drop, but for the moment I seem to be ok. I will still talk to my oncologist about support groups or other resources, just in case. But I will take my mood at face value and enjoy it. After all, as I have been so brutally reminded, I only have today.

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com


Ted


Culiacan, Mexico is a hot, humid locale on the Pacific coast of Sinaloa. It was there that I was to make my home, and I moved with high hopes. I found a nice house to rent in a suburb not far from my new job. My new home was a two-story structure with a walled-in patio that wrapped completely around the house. The patio roof and front gate were covered with decorative metal bars, which provided security and allowed me to keep my doors open to let in the cool night air. It also allowed my cats to have unaided access to the outside. It was perfect, or so I thought. It wasn’t long, however, before my life turned into an episode of Wild Kingdom crossed with Friday the 13th. It all started with a demented cat.

Late one evening, just after I had drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by a chilling scream from downstairs. I ran as fast as I could to see what was happening. There, in my living room was a street cat. It was a scrawny male with thick jowls and dirty grey fur, and he looked mean. He had cornered my cat Ari in the dining room near the patio door. Floating around near the floor were tufts of Ari’s black fur that the street cat had yanked out in his attack. Poor Ari had no teeth or nails so he couldn’t defend himself. I frantically ran to his rescue and chased out the demon cat with a broom. It took me over an hour to get over the fright. I thought about what I could do and came up with an excellent solution.

The next morning, I bought some screen to attach to the bars on the patio’s front gate and spent over two hours wiring it in place. It worked well. It just didn’t solve the problem. Two nights later I heard another bloodcurdling scream from downstairs. I jumped out of bed half asleep, but was so confused I ran into the bathroom instead of the hallway. I quickly redirected myself and ran downstairs. The wild cat heard me and dashed to the front of the patio. I could hear him trying to get out of the front gate, but I had attached the screen so nicely on the gate he couldn’t escape. I quickly closed the back door and back window to the house so the cat couldn’t enter my home from that direction. I flung open the front door to confront kitty. Psycho cat ran to the back of the patio immediately. I stood there in the open doorway in the little shorts I slept in, a tee shirt, no bra, no makeup, hair in all directions with the whole neighborhood staring at me! There was a party next door that I did not know about.

I got it from the numerous witnesses in the yard that the cat had jumped over the wall and entered the patio through the bars above. The ground is higher on the outside than the inside of the patio, so the demon cat could jump in, but not jump out. I opened the front gate, told the little kids in the neighborhood to get back, and went to the back patio where I scared the stray cat with the broom out the front gate, again. I think the broom was unnecessary. My appearance alone should have done the trick.

The next day I bought more screen. I wired it to the bars over the patio. All was peaceful and harmonious once again in my home. That is until a new houseguest moved in.

Ted arrived on a stormy evening. He slithered through the sliding glass door as I was closing it to keep out the rain. I screamed in terror and tried to stop his progress, but he was the quickest fellow I had ever met. Ted was a five-inch long, very scary-looking centipede who quickly crawled between the wall and my kitchen cabinets to set up house. I did research. Centipedes have poisonous mandibles and their bites feel a bit like bee stings. I decided that Ted was dead once I finally found him. Until then I moved around my house with trepidation…waiting for my toes to be unexpectedly attacked. I even had nightmares about Ted jumping into my bed at night.

Not long after Ted moved in, I was once again awakened by a bloodcurdling scream, this time around two in the morning. I leapt up, slid into my flip-flops and headed down the stairs at full tilt, ready to battle the crazy cat. I threw back the curtain that hung at the bottom of the stairs and came to a screeching halt.

Ted!

There he was, taking an early morning stroll across my ceiling from the dining room to the kitchen. Let me tell you, at two in the morning in semi-darkness a five-inch centipede looks like a twenty-foot train! Ok, I remembered that the pesticide was on the patio. I also remembered that I was after a wild cat on the patio. The problem was that Ted was between me and the patio. What a horrible situation to be in!

I calculated my options and found them to be very limited. I decided to move slowly around the edge of the dining room all the while keeping an eye on Ted who was completely oblivious to my situation. As I neared the patio I kept my other eye out for a wild cat (I have very flexible eyeballs) I carefully entered the patio, but there was no sign of kitty. I moved quickly for the pesticide, ready to run from super cat if necessary. I grabbed the pesticide, headed for Ted, and sprayed with all my might. He began to quiver and a few of his legs lost their grip. It wasn’t enough, and I began to panic. I sprayed again furiously until he was all frosty like a Christmas tree. He was dangling from the ceiling with only about eight of his legs. In frustration, I swatted him down off the ceiling with a fly swatter and pinned him to the ground. I moaned in despair as I realized the fly swatter was not strong enough to kill him. I ran madly to the patio again, grabbed a dustpan, ran back to Ted, and beat him to death before throwing his mangled body into the street.

Memorial services will be held Saturday afternoon. Flowers and donations are welcome.

I never did find super kitty.  I think my cat Ari just saw the centipede and screamed in terror. After that day, the problems with wild creatures stopped and everything was smooth again- well, mostly. Psycho cat did like to lounge on the screen that I had put in place and taunt my cats, but he never again gained access. From then on, he picked on the neighbor’s cat.

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com


A Tail of Two Pussies


Now, now, get your dirty little mind out of the gutter you pervert. I am referring to two pussycats, Peni and Ari. This month marks one year since they passed on, but that is not the focus of this post. I simply want to share a little of them with you.

Peni was never really my cat. Mr. Brat, my first cat, brought her home one day to be his, ahem, lover. I sat on the couch reading when he walked in the door with this little creature in tow. Now Mr. Brat was a big cat- he stood knee high and was three feet long from head to to tail. When he was normal weight, he was 16 pounds, but he was fat and weighed 19 pounds. This little skinny kitty trailing behind him couldn’t have been more than 6 pounds, and she was full grown. She also had a strange feature- her tail was

Peni 2001

flat. Completely flat. I had never seen anything like it.

I sat there stunned for a moment as they filed into the kitchen. Mr. Brat didn’t like other animals. What the heck was he doing bringing home a kitty? He came out of the kitchen towards me, meowed loudly, and ran back in. I got up to follow him as he repeated the gestures. He kept running to his food bowl and meowing excitedly. She sat eagerly next to his bowl, waiting. Since Mr. Brat was so fat, I kept the bowl empty. He was like a Hoover, inhaling every bit of kibble he could get his tongue on.

I assessed the situation. Clearly he wanted me to put food in the bowl. But if I did that, would he suck it all down, sending his diet into a tailspin? I debated, then decided to add some food. I watched in amazement as Mr. Brat lay down nearby. He made no move toward the food (this would be the only time in his life he would do this) and allowed this new kitty to eat.

Interesting.

When Peni had her fill of food, Mr. Brat led her into the bedroom. I stood in the kitchen staring at scraps of kibble trying to figure out what had just happened, then went back to the living room to finish my book. A while later, I went into the bedroom to get something and found the two cats entwined on the bed. They both froze and looked at me as if I had just walked in on something. I grabbed what I needed and got out.

Peni and Mr. Brat 2004

For the next 11 years it would be that way. I would always feel like a third wheel in the room, like I had just walked into an intimate moment. They were inseparable. Peni was physically attached to Mr. Brat at all times, unless he shook her off because he needed some space. When he died in 2004, I expected Peni to die. She stopped eating and spent all her time sleeping. But she pulled through and lived another five years. The main difference was that for the rest of her life, she was physically attached to me at all times, unless I shook her off because I needed some space. But she was still never mine. She was always Mr. Brat’s.

Ari was mine from the beginning. Some young girls brought him and his two siblings into the emergency veterinary clinic where I was working. They had found them in a parking lot. Since these kittens were only about 10 days old, they needed ’round the clock care. So I took Ari home. I bottle fed him and carried him around in my backpack (protected) to all my classes at college. I would take him out and feed him every four hours. We named him in philosophy class, Aristotle, and I had big plans for him. I would train him to walk on a leash and do tricks.

Then I noticed he wasn’t normal. His reactions were odd, his gait was off, he was clumsy and would fall constantly, never landing on his feet. As he got older, I noticed his eyes were just a tiny bit crossed. He was my Jerry’s cat. If a cat could be autistic, then he was. Looking at him was like peeking through a crack in a wall. You could see someone was on the other side, but never get a full view of them. The only way you could have contact with them was by touching the wall. So I touched him a lot. I held him and hugged him and carried him and scratched his ears, and he would purr, or try to bite me, depending on his mood. He offered me joy and laughter, lots of laughter, and in his own way, he loved me, saw me as his mother.

When he was a couple of years old, he lost the tip of his tail. I was talking on the phone with a friend, pacing around the living room, when Ari ran in from outside growling and snorting. Still talking, I wandered out the door and looked around. I saw what looked like one of those black snake fireworks, the little black tabs that you light and they start to create ash in the shape of a snake. I picked it up and rolled it between my fingers. I stopped talking. EW! I realized I was holding the cap of his tail! I hung up the phone and ran inside.

Ari Dec 2001

Ari stood squarely, in the middle of the living room, growling and snorting. He flicked his tail. A stream of blood painted the wall behind him and the ceiling above. Damn! As I said, his reactions were not normal. In his anger, he turned and started chasing me. I ran, frantically looking for protection. He ran, looking to take his frustration and pain out on me, painting my apartment walls and ceiling with blood. I leaped onto the bed and grabbed a pillow, holding him at bay like a lion tamer. He circled me, snorting and growling. I don’t remember how I did it, but somehow I managed to corral him and throw him in a carrier without losing any fingers.

I toted him off to the vet where I worked, and we repeated the lion-tamer scene to sedate him. Once he was out, I could see why he was so distressed. There was nothing but exposed nerves and bone at the tip of his tail. The doctor removed that, stitched it up, and then we bandaged the area. When Ari woke up, he checked out his bandage and seemed pleased. He liked it and paraded it around proudly.

Two weeks later, we removed the bandage, and had to sedate him to do it. I took him home, and when he woke up, he was NOT happy. He growled and snorted and whipped his tail around breaking open his stitches and streaking my newly painted walls and ceiling with blood. I was not happy. I corralled him and toted him back to the vet to repair the damage.

This time, we bandaged the end of his tail so well it was like a ball on the end of a chain. The bandage ball was heavy and the end of his tail drooped with its weight, but he was pleased when he saw it. Now he paraded about the house swinging the ball on the end of his tail and bonking the other cats on the head with it. They hissed and growled, but I swear I saw Ari smile each time he clubbed one of them. The bandage stayed on for a full month, mostly because Ari got a bit hysterical if I made a move to take it off. By the time it was removed, he was completely healed.

Ari 2008

Ari lived to be 14 years old. He developed a squamous cell tumor behind his eye July of 2009 and had to be put down two weeks later. I had expected Peni’s death, but Ari took me by surprise. And while I was devastated by his passing, over time I knew that he was off in some better place, the wall that blocked him from the world removed. I like to imagine that he gives joy and amusement to some giggling god in some afterlife. At the very least, he made my life a little richer just by being a part of it.

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