The first few sentences are so important. Aren’t they? But sometimes the hardest part of telling something is starting it. So perhaps I’ve lost you already, beginning this way. But I will forge ahead, regardless. Even if I am speaking it to silence, typing to the cloud, confessing to thin air.
I dated her for two reasons. One, I was too lazy to end it once it had begun, and two, I fell in love with her cat. He was a great ginger boy, soft and slow and sweet. His breath was the pit of hell, but his purr was a chorus of angels. The first night I met him he got into my lap, tipped his head back to rest it on my breast and looked up into my eyes. I could barely contain myself. When we said goodnight, I asked her when I could see her again, forcing myself not to look over her shoulder at him, laying there on the rug like a sweet plump loaf. She said, How about this weekend? I said, I can’t wait.
The relationship was fine. We laughed a fair amount and had a few interesting conversations. She was easy going, and the sex was nice. But it was the cat I thought of when we were apart. His chirps and meows are what made me smile to myself in unguarded moments. I even had a few dreams about him, one in which he showed up at my door standing on his hinders and dragging a little suitcase on wheels was particularly joyful.
She told me that she wanted to break up one evening as we sat on her couch. I held the cat tighter and asked what she meant by that, exactly. I don’t want to see you anymore, she said. I looked down at the cat, and my heart broke. I looked up at her, my face etched with sorrow, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I asked for another chance. She said no.
I’m not proud of what comes next. I’m not proud, but I’m not sorry either. I waited almost two weeks. I cried and hugged pillows and spoke to the cat, hoping that his heart somehow heard my heart. I told him to wait for me, I told him that we would be together again.
On the following Thursday at 11:30 in the morning, I went to her apartment. In the basement I let myself into her storage unit. There I found his carrier, and the spare key, which was tucked away in the front pocket of a suitcase for lock outs and girlfriends. I went upstairs with my heart pounding, both terrified at being caught and thrilled to be reunited with my love. I stood on her landing and listened. Hearing nothing, I gave one tentative knock. He meowed in response, right on the other side of the door. He’d been waiting.
She called me of course, frantic, asking if I had been in her apartment and stolen her cat. No, I said, I’d been dumped, I wasn’t a lunatic. What kind of person steals a cat? I covered the mouthpiece of the phone and the cat and I laughed a little, softly. I winked at him. She asked if I could help her find him, if she could see me. I said no. She had dumped me and I was healing and seeing her would undo all of the work I’d done. And I hung up the phone.
We stayed in all weekend. We laughed and talked and watched movies late. We napped in the daytime. Sometimes in bed, once or twice on the floor. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I love you, I said. I love you too, the cat said. And it was true. True love.