I had the great blessing of hosting a cat in my Los Angeles apartment for two weeks.
My generous friend Hannah let me borrow her cat because I was having mouse problems. I killed four (yes, four!) mice, and yet I woke up to peppers of mice poop in my pantry.
The cat, Syntax (Hannah is a linguist nerd), came at just the right time. I was feeling a little blue during those days. My studio, once warm and cozy, was beginning to feel chillier and all too big. Syntax bounded in yowling, scratching and purring. He brightened up my whole apartment with his tan streaks and white furry boots.
I fell madly in love with Syntax. How can you not love this guy? I didn’t even mind that he attacked my chair with his claws, or that he toppled my trash can over and over, or that he shed a bazillion golden hairs. This guy…exuded all the confidence and affection I wish I did.
Observe this scenario:
This is his favorite pose. He brings out this A-game whenever he wants a little love. This is his “Scratch me, I’m bored” pose. And it works, every time. Dang it, every time he spreads out and flashes that white furry, chubby belly at me, I dash over and tickle him, squealing, “Why are you so freaking cuuuuuute?”
But my favorite time with him is at night, when I tuck into bed. I usually sleep with my butt in the air and my face flat against my pillow. But I learned to sleep upright (ahem, like a normal person) ever since Syntax became my roommate. That’s because every night, once I turn off the lights and tuck in, Syntax hops over.
He scopes out his territory by stamping all over my body. He paws around my stomach, sniffs into my face. And then he does this little twirl and settles at his favorite spot: the underside of my left arm. He tucks his tail in, slams his little butt into my side, and lays his purring head onto my arm. And he’ll stay there for as long as I stay immobile.
For two weeks, I fell asleep stroking his head and listening to his motor-like purrs. And something about him made me talk out loud a lot. I never think of animals as people, but I talked to him each night. And for some reason, this guy helped me naturally start talking out loud to God, too. Amazing little dude. He made me fall in love with praying out loud. So for two weeks, I talked out loud to him, then God, every night: I vented, then gave thanks, then bitched a little bit again, then smiled and gave thanks again. And I dozed off with a smile on my face.
Mornings are my second favorite part with Syntax. I usually awaken to him pawing at me, trying to push me into a position that will provide the comfiest sofa for him. One time, I woke up to him sticking his feet into my cheek. I looked down and there he was with spread-eagle legs, licking his chest and rubbing his whiskers, all prince-like.
I stared down at him, and he stared back up with a “What you doing in my bed?” expression. As if I’m the stranger in the bed. “Who the hell do you think you are?” I asked him in my sternest manner, but gave in to fits of giggles and kisses on his head and whiskers.
Basically, I existed as his pillow and his feeding machine. This furry guy doesn’t pay rent, doesn’t pay for his food, doesn’t pay the electricity and water bills, doesn’t do shit except roll around, lick himself, and scratch things. He sticks his hole in my face. He hops up onto the desk and plops his entire body over my laptop while I’m typing a very important article. I once sang and danced to Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” to him, and he yawned in my face. A long, slow, exaggerated yawn. “Look at that silly human,” he yawned. “Singing something about bills. If it ain’t going into my tummy, I ain’t interested.”
But God help me, I love him so. And this confident, cocky guy knows it.
The thing is though, as independent and don’t-give-a-crap as he was, Syntax was dependent upon me in one area. He took care of himself; he didn’t need me to baby him or take him out for walks. But when I ignored him for a while, he would start putting on his “Puss in Boots” face and meow up at me, as pitifully and pleadingly as he can.
Cats, independent creatures as they are, need affection too. They saunter with elegance, and even lick their crotch with great dignity, but they know when to ask for love when they need it. They’re proud, but not too proud to beg for a friendly tickle or a loving stroke.
It was a sad day for me when I had to say goodbye to Syntax. I spent about an hour vacuuming the whole place top to bottom, trying to suck up all his hairs, but even now I find random strands of blonde locks stuck to my favorite pea coat.
Strange things you learn from cats. I learned the art of elegance and the power of confidence. I also learned there ain’t no shame in needing and wanting love.
By the way, ladies, I just have to add this: Syntax is a cat. Before dropping Syntax off, Hannah told me, “You have to put Syntax in his place sometimes. Remember, he’s still a male.” I let Syntax off on a lot of things because, I repeat, he’s a cat. Don’t ever, ever let a man treat you that way.