Let me be clear: I do not even like cats.
And now here, already, I’m lying. It’s a dark secret; I actually do like cats, but for years I’ve been railing against them. I do it because there exists in the collective conscious of society a certain type of tragic single woman that I must always strive not to be. So I limit my bubble baths and I don’t quote Sex and the City and I don’t watch romantic comedies alone with a bottle of wine and I have to be careful about liking cats.
Mostly this doesn’t bother me. I don’t like Sex and the City or romantic comedies, and if you saw my bathtub you wouldn’t want to sit in it either. I don’t collect throw pillows and I don’t read Cosmo and I don’t have a Pinterest board dedicated to my imaginary wedding. And if you asked me, I would tell you that I don’t like cats.
This declaration could be tested pretty easily, if you were to follow me to Game Night. It’s on Wednesdays. Marie hosts each week and she has four cats. So if I really didn’t like cats, right, I’d be in some trouble; you’d see me grumbling through every hand of Spades, sneezing and grumping. But Marie’s cats are nice, fluffy things with an air of general inoffensiveness and they serve to punctuate game night with bursts of dopey entertainment. They leave me alone except for sometimes when one of them just really needs to sit on my cards, or steal my chair and refuse to move, or rub its head into the palm of my hand and purr like I’m the queen of everything.
This is how it starts.
Another important aspect of Game Night is the kittens. Because Marie is not just your run of the mill cat lady. She also fosters kittens, litters of strays that stay in her house with their mother till they’re old enough for adoption. Marie is a cat dealer. This means that Game Night is often precluded by the presentation of wares; Marie brings out the latest batch of goods she’s got: a couple heady calicos or some real smooth black ones. Of late Marie has had a mixed bag of product comprised of two squishy sisters, one gray and one white, and their wriggly tabby brother. When Marie first got them, their eyes were still squeezed shut and their ears were flat against their heads and all they could do was make little peeping noises and nurse from their mom and sleep. I walked in one Wednesday night and Nicole was sitting at the table with a glass of wine and three kittens sleeping in her cleavage, a sight that might alarm some people, if they weren’t familiar with the goings-on at Marie’s. I asked her to give me one. She handed me the tabby, scrunch-faced and squash-eyed and peeping like crazy. I put him in my own cleavage and he went back to sleep, curled into a ball with his head poking up over my V-neck, and I named him Kanye.
This is how it starts.
Game Nights continued, every Wednesday like clockwork. Keeping with the theme, we named Kanye’s sisters Queen Latifah and Santigold. The kittens’ eyes opened and their ears popped up and they got too big for our bras. They learned how to walk, a trick they practiced in shaking circles around Marie’s bedroom, taking low, deliberate steps while their bellies slid across the ground. Kanye was the most adventurous, leading winding expeditions into unexplored corners of the room, peeping wildly when he got stuck behind the ottoman. We’d scoop them up after their little vision quests and bring them to the table, where Queenie and Santi would change hands multiple times. But there was an understanding that Kanye stayed with me. “Are you going to take him home?” my friends would ask, and I’d say, Maybe. Maybe.
He was adorable, of course, but I was plagued by questions. What about the cost? What about the poop? What about the commitment signified by the acquisition of a cat to a lifetime of solitude, an acknowledgement that one day I would die alone and my body would lie unnoticed in my apartment for weeks while he ate my face? I spent the first quarter-century of my life priding myself on my lack of attachments. I’ve been broke on four continents and lived out of a suitcase for an inordinate amount of time. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve begun to do things like sign leases and hang curtains, and it’s hard for me to look forward toward a lifetime of cat parenthood without flinching. Kanye will be around until I’m 45. Who will I even be by then?
These were legitimate concerns, and logically I knew that they had merit. But they were interrupted by the awkward reality that I was unable to enter Marie’s apartment without incessantly cuddling him. That I was looking inordinately forward to Game Night. That one weekend I got a stomach bug and spent two days sweating on the sofa, and the whole time I couldn’t stop thinking that I wished he were there. “Are you going to take him home?” my friends would ask, and finally one night I admitted it. “Yeah, I am,” I said shyly, and everyone cheered.
After that, Wednesday wasn’t just Game Night; it was also ‘Ye Day. ‘Ye was still too little to understand his role as the Chosen One, and sometimes he peeped frantically from my lap when he wanted to be on the floor, then peeped frantically when I placed him on the cold linoleum. I got my first real taste of motherhood when I held him and murmured soothing reassurances while he looked straight at me and yowled. Then he bit my finger with his brand new teeth. I started having second thoughts about us growing old together, but he rolled himself into a ball and stuck his face flat into my hand and went to sleep. We were good again.
I have abandoned myself to the reality that my swanky, carefree lifestyle is about to get some strings attached. I am that girl. In the same manner that I railed for years against owning a cell phone, preferring to nightly press the button on an answering machine and listen to recorded invitations to events that I had missed (OMG just like Carrie Bradshaw!) before finally gathering the courage to walk into a Sprint store, I am giving up my kittenless freedom. I’m pricing litter boxes and scratching posts. I’m building a shelf to cover that gap behind the kitchen counter. I’m celebrating ‘Ye Day every week, sipping merlot and throwing down aces while my little friend sleeps in my lap, his paws twitching with kitten dreams. In two weeks he’ll be old enough to take home, and I’ll deposit him in his new living room and let him explore the premises. He’ll chew my houseplants and scratch my sofa. He’ll fight with my elephants and shed on my comforter. I’ll build up his trust, little by little, and then one day when his guard is down, I’ll take him away and cut off his balls. He’ll retaliate by breaking my Moroccan teacups, and I’ll sigh and sweep up the shards of glass, snapping at him when he swats at the dustpan.
I kind of can’t wait.