My Tethered Kayak

Once upon a time, I adopted a cat for 48 hours.. Ironically, this isn’t a story about the cat – and it’s only half about me. 

It was a strange time in my life, a “learning phase” we’ll call it – I was very single, I was likely hormonal, and I was a little lost. I waltzed into a Starbucks on the morning of a friend’s wedding on my way to act as her blushing Maid of Honor and I saw the advertisement with pull away tabs at the bottom, 2001 style. I might interject at this moment to remind you that I am wholeheartedly a dog person and had never previously harbored any desire to own a cat. But, again, refer above to the season of life I was experiencing; you should also know that this cat had a hand-to-God perfectly formed mustache. He was the most ridiculous looking creature and at first glance, the decision was made for me. After getting the go-ahead from my roommates the next day, I called the owner and learned that Paco, much to my surprise, had not yet been adopted and he and his owner could come by in a few hours for an introduction. I hastily finished my errands and raced home to ready the apartment for the arrival of our new pet. In my ecstatic chaos, I bumped over a bag of groceries in the parking lot of our apartment complex, sending a carton of eggs rolling freely about. I found and gathered all (or so I thought) of the somehow perfectly unharmed eggs and scurried upstairs.

The owner brought the cat over and he was as mustachioed and delightful looking in person as he had been in his photograph, a vision. He, unfortunately, bolted immediately to my closet, as cats will, and hid there for the remainder of the evening. The owner was content enough with our living situation to leave Paco with us, promising that he would reveal himself and make himself at home within a few hours. Sure enough, Paco waited until long after I had given up sitting outside the closet door with handfuls of treats and after the sun had gone down and I had called it quits for the night, assuming my peaceful position in bed. After I was soundly asleep, Paco emerged from the closet and made himself a tiny nest… on my face. I woke up smothered and coughing on tufts of thin cat hair. The next morning, my eyes and nose were unmentionably red, swollen, and clogged. It was mildly unpleasant, to say the least. Meg, being the cat loving good Samaritan that she is, offered to take Paco into her room for the following night. We decided that it was best that Paco find a new owner whose lifestyle more closely aligned with his own, as he had been given to us for a test drive anyways. 

I wanted the best for this little mariachi singer and his future owner, whom I trusted could love and care for him in a way that my histamine response and I could not. 

His owner came the following night to pick him up with no hard feelings whatsoever and Meg and I helped him carry the ridiculous amount of cat gear of sorts he had brought over downstairs through the darkened parking lot. We were chatting mindlessly and politely with him, calculating how soon this would be over when I heard it. 

I knew instantly.

An unmistakable crunch, out of place in the pristine smoothness of the asphalt from underneath Paco’s father’s foot. He glanced momentarily at his shoes, behind him, to both sides, with great perplexity before continuing across the parking lot.

I glared over at Meg, whose petite frame was staggering under the weight of an oversized cat crate. My eyes were wild and wide and they caught hers as we walked.

“THAT’S – MY – EGG!” I mouthed with great emphasis and passion, behind the owner’s back.  

I pointed my eyebrows at her with exasperation; I needed her to get it. It was the most inexplicably ridiculous chain of events and the urgency of my laughter, my surprise, my hysteria was tremendous. 

She maintained eye contact, heroically carrying the weight of our never ending struggle of smalltalk with this stranger and raised her eyebrows, did her best to shake her head and shrug. She had no earthly idea what was making me convulse with stifled belly laughs. I pointed fiercely, intently at the man’s shoe, mouthed again. Nothing. 

We said our goodbyes to this poor, poor man whom we knew had gotten more than he bargained for and ultimately, still had the cat he was trying to get rid of. Also an entire raw egg on the underside of his shoe. 

Then, we sat on the living room floor and cried with laughter about the egg, the shoe, my irrational need to explain the situation with mouthing and gestures, Paco, his mustache, his very strange owner, and the ridiculousness of our lives.

Since my dear friend has moved from a bedroom 10 feet from my own to one 5,155 miles away, I’ve been missing her. Given who I am and how I was hardwired, I have consequently been doing a lot of reflecting on friendship and the people we choose to love us, the ones that find us unexpectedly. 

Sharing this particular story feels synchronistic and powerful because to me, the light of friendship feels just like making eye contact with a soul you trust, who gets you, during two of the strangest minutes of your life, humbled by the hilarity and bizarreness of it all, and knowing she’ll play along. 

It’s improvising this life like we’re in a shtick together, making it up entirely as we go. 

It’s what it feels like when you’ve done so much growing up  with someone, pretending adulthood is anything like we’d planned.  

It’s a simple, wordless glance that says “I’m not okay right now, please don’t go anywhere.” 

It’s accidentally wearing matching t-shirts time and time again.

It’s knowing that while one of us has enlisted in some life shenanigans, the other one is calmly steering the boat. 

It’s an agreed upon contract pre-determining which one of you will hunt spiders in the house and which will hunt rodents. 

It’s a simple, but authentic  “what can I do to help?” when your heart has been broken and you can barely remember how to take your next breath. And knowing they’d find a way to execute whatever the answer is.

It’s never having to explain or depersonalize why you need a few hours in your room alone at the end of the day before re-emerging to socialize.

It’s all of the average, ordinary days that feel like manageable marathons because you know someone’s got your back.

It’s paddling my own kayak in blissful solitude, hearing the beat of my own heart in the big wild world and when the waters get murky, turning back to see that your boat was tethered to mine all along. 

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