Monday, October 31, 2011

writing about cats

So I am taking this writing class. I'm taking it because 1., it's free since I'm paying full-time university tuition and apparently a full course load plus one other elective and a part-time job wasn't enough, and 2., I like writing and it makes me sad that I don't do it so much anymore and so instead of actually, you know, sitting down to write, I just get sad about it. So I am trying to be more proactive.

Aside from turning in my first assignment a week late and almost quitting (after the drop deadline, academic record be damned) it is going pretty well. It is a nonfiction class, but today our in-class exercise was to write a fictional paragraph about an animal, including dialogue, in five minutes. At first I was horrified because I took a fiction class in college (the first time I went to college) and it did not go well. Not well at all. But I was kind of amazed at how cathartic this exercise was.

Walter and James were napping on opposite ends of the living room, Walter on the back of the faux leather couch and James over on the green velour armchair, on top of a pair of Gina's boots. Gina had been sitting at her desk for hours, periodically getting up and returning with glasses of water and little square things in shiny, crinkly, packages. She closed her laptop and headed toward the bedroom. 'Hey Walter, wake up bro!" cried James. "I think she's going to bed!" Walter awoke with a start. "It appears that way, indeed," Walter said. "Would you like to wrestle each other and run up and down the hallway and knock things over for the next two hours like we do every night?" "Yeah dude!" replied James.

So I wrote that and then I realized that my first assignment was also about my cats. WHAT AM I BECOMING.

I Don’t Like My Cat
by Gina G.

I have recently come to a conclusion it’s taken me over two years to reach. I have this cat, James, and I don’t really like him very much. It breaks my heart to say this, because, well, you’re just not supposed to say things like that, especially if you are someone who volunteers for animal rescue organizations. Also, James is curled up with his head on my thigh as I type, periodically looking up with eyes full of sleepiness and contentment, oblivious to the thoughts running through my head. Or maybe he’s just trying to make me feel guilty.

I got James two and a half years ago, when flyers for a rescue group’s adoption event lured me into my local pet store. I had been thinking about getting a second cat for a while—my first one, Walter, had been acting up ever since I started living alone, and I figured he’d do better with feline company. I had decided that Walter’s companion would be a grey female kitten. James was a year-old orange tabby. But he was cute and he rubbed his face on my hand when I stuck it in his cage. And the adoption counselor told me how James had been living in that cage for four months, and that the staff referred to him as The Butterscotch Stallion, after Owen Wilson. I liked Owen Wilson. As I was filling out the adoption paperwork, the counselor made an offhanded remark about how James always made a big mess of his cage. And that raised a red flag for me. But I am really good at ignoring red flags (as evidenced by my romantic relationship history), and I had already made up my mind.

The first few weeks with James were telling. If I thought Walter was digging to China every time he used the litter box, James was reaching China and then blowing it to pieces and tossing it all over the place. He also had a piercing, persistent cry that the adoption counselor described as “vocalizing” when I called her a few days in and expressed second thoughts. I decided to give it some time.

Some time has turned into two and a half years, and in those two and a half years, James has destroyed: three sets of window coverings, a lamp, countless glass- and dishware, a couple of picture frames, a carved wooden figure of my name I’ve had since I was a little kid, an awesomely weird ceramic bowl shaped like a rabbit that my mom had as a child, a jewelry box. He seems to have an aversion to my being in bed and will start wailing at night when I go to sleep, every morning at 5:45 regardless of the level of sunlight (it’s amazing, really), or when I am taking a much-needed afternoon nap. I can’t play with Walter anymore, because James will jump in and take over as Walter slinks away to watch from the sidelines. James needs to be in my immediate vicinity pretty much all the time, which wouldn’t be the biggest problem except that he is about the same color as my hardwood floors, and so I trip over him at least daily.

When I’m upset, I’ve tried to remind myself of his good qualities, kind of like a mantra: James is a great photographic subject. Unlike Walter, he lets me pick him up. He often grooms himself in a half-supine position that is hilarious and adorable. When they’re not fighting, James and Walter lick each other’s faces—an endlessly watchable spectacle. But this attempt at reassurance that I am not in fact a bad person who dislikes her cat has done nothing to quell the rise in blood pressure I feel pretty much all the time that James is not napping or licking something (cats do both of those things a lot, thank God).

In the time I’ve been writing this, James has gone from sleeping to trying to get Walter to play with him, to crying in a tone that I swear sounds defiant, to knocking something over in the kitchen that I have yet to investigate, and back to sleeping. Recently I’ve had thoughts of finding him a new home. But it’s not just the probable difficulty of that undertaking that is holding me back. James has taught me some life lessons. Like, it is illogical to yell at or punish a cat, much like a very small child, and so you eliminate their ability to commit the offending behavior in the first place. And, not having small objects sitting around on surfaces is not only good for preventing cats from knocking them over, it results in a more tidy aesthetic and easier dusting. And at the end of the day (and I do mean at the end of the day, like when I come home from work/school and it is dark out), he does this thing when I turn on the lights where he looks up at me, squinting because his eyes are sensitive to the light, and it’s just so goddamn cute.


Fat Asian Baby said...

i strongly suspect james was separated at birth from certain members of my household.

Anonymous said...

Now I also want to know what, exactly, happened in this fiction class that went "not well at all."