Joke’s on me.
For most of the two years Noosh and I dated she begged me to get a cat, a kitttteeee! as she affectionately liked to put it, smiling as big as possible around her clenched teeth and waving her arms around like a child who can’t wait, absolutely cannot possibly wait any longer to open her presents. Noosh always reveled in anticipation, and thus was usually let down to some degree. By gifts. By life. By me.
In her baby voice: “Wouldn’t it be so amazing if you came home and found me on the couch, holding a little kittteeee? Just a wittle, tiny kitty, with a small face and big ears and tiny wittle paws? Eeeee! Totes adorbs! It would be so cute and I could play with it and cuddle with it and sleep with it...”
At work she emailed me pictures, at least twice a week, of kitties. Kitties lying on their backs with their feet and paws in the air, litters of newborn kitties piled on top of each other, and one of a cat and a parakeet lying next to each other in bed, the sheet pulled up, revealing only their faces. Both animals looked stiff with rigor mortis. It was totes disturbs.
When we exchanged Christmas gifts, the night before she left for New Jersey to celebrate the holidays with her folks, I handed her a red box filled with Kiehl’s body lotions. She accepted it, kneeling next to my single-serving Christmas tree and electric fireplace. “Is it a kitty?” she asked.
“Yeah. It’s a cat. In a box. With no oxygen.”
She frantically began untying the silver ribbon.
Her shoulders sank and her smile disappeared as she untied the rest of the ribbon, opened the box and looked inside. “Thanks,” she said, promptly setting the box aside.
She handed me a gift. I opened it. A double DVD, Guns N’ Roses, live in Tokyo, ’92. “Nice!” I said, immediately turning it over and examining the set list.
“When are you gonna get me a kitty?” she asked, meek, dejected.
I set the DVDs on the floor. “Noosh...”
“Not for me; it would live with you, but I could play with it whenever I’m here,” she pleaded.
“Oh, right. I can take care of it, have it scratch up all my furniture, so you can cuddle with it the three nights a week you stay here. And then when you leave me and move to New York or L.A. or wherever the hell you want to go, I’ll be stuck with the thing, this living reminder of you, meowing all day, wondering where its mommy is.”
“Yesss! Yesss!” she said, clapping her hands together.
I shook my head. “Here,” I said, reaching for her big present, a coat from Longchamp. She opened it and forced a smile. “That’s the one you wanted, right?”
A few months later, in March, Noosh and I got into a wicked fight. It had been simmering since New Year’s. I complained about how we always went out with her society-type friends to fancy restaurants where they inevitably ran up obscene liquor tabs, drinking twice their weight, and then got all democratic when the bill came, splitting it up six ways even. I’d end up shelling out $120 for two chicken dinners, a glass of wine and a coke. On top of that Noosh forbade me to get stoned before the meal, which usually made the whole ordeal tolerable. I was not in a good mood when we returned to her studio apartment in Beacon Hill.
The argument ended with me calling her a “shameless faghag conformist”, or something to that effect, and then storming out the door.
The next day we didn’t speak.
The day after that the guilt set in. I drove to Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Jamaica Plain and picked out a kitttteeee, an 11-month old Snowshoe Siamese named Noel. The instant the vet opened the cage Noel walked toward me and leaped into my arms. “I’ll take this one,” I said. The vet took her from me and said she’d need to be spayed and I could pick her up tomorrow. I thanked her and looked down at my black jacket. It was covered in white cat hair.
The following day I picked Noosh up from her Beacon Hill studio and drove her back to my apartment for some quality repair time. She stared out the window, silent, the whole way. Normally I’d be dreading the impending talk: the marathon discussion until dawn, the crying, the mental exhaustion, the valleys of despair followed by bursts of hope. But for once I had the antidote, the secret weapon, the ace up my sleeve.
I had a kitttteeee.
As I opened the door I finally broke the silence. “Oh, I got you something.”
“I’m tired. I just want to order pizza and watch S.V.U.”
“Okay,” I said. We entered my condo. It was empty. The cat was nowhere to be found.
“So what is it?” Noosh said.
“Um, let me grab it. It’s in the other room.” I looked in my study. Nothing. I walked back into the living room and furtively checked behind the couch. Nothing there. I made a quick stop in the bathroom and peeked through the shower curtain. Empty. “Hold on,” I said, taking my jacket off and making like I was hanging it in my bedroom. The cat was not there, either. I looked inside my laundry hamper. No kitty. I went back to the bathroom and opened the toilet lid. Nada. Noosh sat down on the couch and turned on the Law & Order channel. I started to panic. Where is the fucking thing?
Under the bed! The vet said they like to hide under things, especially when you first bring them home. I laid flat on my stomach and looked under the bed, moving around my empty duffle bags and plastic storage containers filled with summer clothes. Nothing! I was about to get up when I noticed a bulge in the fabric underneath the box spring. I crawled under the bed, far enough so that I could reach out and touch the bulge. I poked it and, sure enough, there was movement, accompanied by a faint mew. She had tore a hole in my box spring and climbed inside, effectively turning the fabric into a kind of hammock. As soon as I touched her she moved all the way to the other side of the bed, still inside the box spring, a moving bulge, like a mouse going down a snake’s gullet.
I got up, felt an aggravated ache in my lower back, walked back to my study and got my scissors. “What are you doing?” Noosh said, in a tone that implied she couldn’t have cared less.
“Nothing,” I said. Now I was on a mission.
I slid back under my bed like a car mechanic and cut a line down the entire length of the box spring’s fabric, careful not to cut the cat’s tail off in the process. “C’mere you little bitch,” I snarled. But the cat had now moved to the adjacent side of the bed, so I had to cut crossways, eventually tearing out the entire under-fabric from my box spring, ripping it away while quietly muttering obscenities to myself.
Finally the cat spilled out, scratched my eye, meowed, then scurried past me and out of the bedroom, into the kitchen, where she sat on her haunches, wide-eyed and scared shitless, staring at Noosh.
I heard Noosh gasp. “A kitttteeee!”
I wish I could have seen the expression on Noosh’s face, but I was stuck under the bed, trying to get out.
Noosh picked up the cat and held it. The cat looked horrified, like a fat kid getting his picture taken on Santa’s lap. “What should I name it?”
“Well, her name’s Noel, technically.”
Noosh petted her head. “I’m gonna call her Dixie. Hi, Dixie! Hi wittle babes!”
I wiped sweat from my brow. “Whatever.”
“Eeeeee,” she said, cradling the cat.
Two months later Noosh moved to New York. I haven’t heard from her since.
I still have the cat, though.
Ain’t love grand?
It totes is.
Daniel Pellegrini is a recovering drug addict with an aggressive form of chronic bowel disease. That means he can't take painkillers after undergoing rectal surgery. He's here to show you just how beautiful life is.
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