OK, so first some housekeeping detailsâ€”well, one, really: my beloved SkipFitz has undergone yet another identity transformation (when I met him, he was a heartbroken country singer with a hook for a hand; from there, he became a British schoolboy with unusually bushy eyebrows, and then a cafeteria lady with questionable morals; after that, I lost track). Henceforth (or until he morphs again), he shall be known as Pretty Bad Dad (or PBD, for short). You should read him. He rocks.
Second, (and speaking of dads), another little piece of inspiration (for me, anyway, and perhaps for you) from the interwebs:
Yeah, Iâ€™m a little late to the party (and Single Dad Laughing is not, of course as foxy as PBD), but I thought it was a pretty good piece, and I was inspired by his challenge to combat Perfection by confessing oneâ€™s IMperfection, because I do love me a good confession. And children, I have lots. For example:
- Â I sometimes fantasize about my husbandâ€™s (highly-insured) death, which would allow me to have my way with his office. No, not his office mateâ€”his office. In our house. Itâ€™s the best room in the whole joint; itâ€™s huge (the same square footage as the two-car garage that sits directly below it) with a cathedral ceiling, window seats, and a stained-glass window at one end. Oh, sure, heâ€™s offered to *share* it with me, but who wants to share? I want the whole thing to myself. Badly enough to kill my spouse? Absolutely not. Bad enough to fantasize about him succumbing (quickly) to a terminal, yet painless, disease? Hell, yeah.
- Â Even when a person is a total jerk who hates everyone and treats them like crap, I am still secretly happy when that person likes me. I try to pretend that I have somehow unlocked the secret vulnerability behind this personâ€™s ass-hattery and that perhaps s/he sees a level of acceptance and love in me that allows for the dissolution of his or her Shield of Mean. But in reality, sometimes people are just plain assholes, and it doesnâ€™t matter why theyâ€™re not picking on me. They still suck. Iâ€™m just not ballsy enough to tell them where to get off and walk away1.
- Â On a similar note, I frequently experience a rather assholish level of schadenfreude.
- Â Also similarly, I sometimes throw people under the bus. Itâ€™s not usually pre-meditated, but in a fight-or-flight moment, Honey, I will put tire tracks on your head. And then feel guilty and tell you I did it, like that fixes anything.
Whew! I feel better already. And worse. I kind of suck, donâ€™t I? I have people coming over this weekend; I hope they still show after they read this.
Because it gets worse. I did a pretty crappy thing back in my youth (read: mid-20s), and I still feel bad about it.
Her name was Marguerite, and she was the stuff of nightmares. Nightmares and movies where people split up and venture alone into the basement at night to figure out what that sound was. She was pure, unadulterated evil. And the ridiculous thing was that I knew that she was horridâ€”and yet I let her move in with me anyway, because my friend Lisa cried.
Lisa was staring straight into the face of her lifelong dream to become an architect. Sheâ€™d been accepted into an elite architecture program in New York and, beckoned by both big city and Beaux Arts Ball, she was ready to leave Atlanta behind and begin her Life. There was just one problem; she couldnâ€™t take Marguerite to New York . . . and nobody else wanted that thing. Too many of her friends had consoled her through previous rounds of tearsâ€”days when sheâ€™d sob, â€œmy cat hates me,â€ and regale us with tales of midnight Marguerite attacks, brandishing fresh scratch marks from the battle. (She employed the strategy typically recommended for bear attacks to avoid outright altercations with the beast: sheâ€™d play dead. Sometimes, she said, this resulted in an uneasy peace, wherein Marguerite would curl around the top of Lisaâ€™s head and sleep, and Lisa dared not stirâ€”even as she felt fleas disembarking from the cat onto her own scalpâ€”for fear of retaliation.)
And yes. Despite all of this, I actually agreed to take the cat. Lisa painstakingly hand wrote two pages of instructions for the care and feeding of Marguerite, and left me with ample bedding, toys, litter and food to get us through our first month together. It turned out, however, that what I needed was Kevlar, because my relationship with Marguerite was, predictably, volatile; each day when I arrived home from work, the dance of enmity would begin. The cat would come flying towards the door, hissing and clawing at my legs. My part of this complicated choreography involved a grand jetÃ© over the cat and into my apartment, simultaneous with an in-air slam of the front door, and culminating in a bedroom landing and subsequent slam of the bedroom door, behind which Iâ€™d stay safely sequestered until morning (thank God for attached bathrooms).
I took to keeping food in my nightstand; human sustenance so that I could survive the long evenings trapped in my bedroom, and kitty kibble because Iâ€™d discovered I could buy myself time to get out the door for work, or to the kitchen and back with perishables, by flinging food across the hardwood floors to the far corner of the living room as a temporary distraction. Needless to say, household visitors became an impossibility; a close friend and her boyfriend arrived in town, and although I had a pull-out sofa in the living room, I felt as though I had no place for them to sleep, because sleeping in the living room was tantamount to trussing up in a meat bikini and diving into a vat of tigers.
Even my sister, official Cat Lover Extraordinaire for ten years running, hated Margueriteâ€™s ass.
When Christmas arrived that year, I gratefully hopped a plane to my parentsâ€™ cat-free abode, leaving my then-boyfriend (a long-haired, underwear-free, semi-dirty, ex-military quasi-hippy who rode his bike everywhere and wore clothing heâ€™d acquired from other peopleâ€™s garbage, including a single pastel-flowered ankle sock for which he never found a match . . . but I digress) to watch over my apartment, and Marguerite.
I have no idea what happened.
All I know is that when I came back, Marguerite was officially an outdoor cat. As it turned out, though, she seemed to love it; I still kept food for her, and every once in awhile (maybe twice a week or so), sheâ€™d stop in for a bite, sticking around perhaps long enough to weave affectionately through my legs, or jump onto the bathroom counter for a head-butty nuzzle as I . . . well . . . did things that you do sitting down in the bathroom. After an initial adjustment to her new loving demeanor (during which I waited, half-flinching, for the potential discovery that the whole thing was a ruse on Margueriteâ€™s part to gain my trust so that she would be granted uninhibited access to my unprotected eyeballs), I grew accustomed to our new relationship. It was . . . nice (not least because this pretty much alleviated litter box duty . . . I just said duty).
Then one evening, after a neighborhood transformer blew, the majority of residents in my apartment complex were driven out into the courtyard to compare notes on what activities had suddenly been curtailed by the big boom and subsequent darkness. Thatâ€™s how I met Chad.
Chad was an upstairs neighbor, whom Iâ€™d seen and greeted on numerous occasions, but I never actually had a conversation with him Â until the Night of the Blown Transformer, when Marguerite showed up to the impromptu darkness party. â€œMarguerite!â€ I exclaimed, crouching down to pet her. Chad spoke up.
â€œIs that YOUR cat?â€ he asked, in a tone that was somehow friendly and accusatory at once (similar to the tone parents use when trying to get a toddler to confess to drinking his own bathwater), a combination of both good cop and bad.
â€œSort of,â€ I replied, already feeling like I should have rehearsed a good cover story. I explained the situation.
â€œWell, you should know,â€ replied Chad, still accusatory but somehow more softly so, â€œthat she waits for me when I come home. She races me to my door and claws at my ankles and tries to squeeze past me when Iâ€™m trying to get into my apartment. If I manage to get inside without her, she meows outside my door until I let her in and give her food.â€
Before I could react, other neighbors spoke up. One had taken to keeping hot dogs in stock for when Marguerite came around demanding food. Another said that Marguerite had a kitty cohort with whom she roamed around the complex, taunting indoor cats through screen doors.
Hm. Seemed that Margueriteâ€™s newfound affection for me had less to do with happiness in her newfound freedom than it had to do with having a slew of fresh torture targets. I felt guilty. So I carried Marguerite in my arms back into my darkened apartment that night, and once again attempted to make a go of shacking up with her.
This time, she wasnâ€™t so much EVIL as she was . . . miserable. She meowed forlornly at the door day and night, stopping only to eat, drink, and then puke or poop forlornly at the door. Eventually, I took pity on both of us and let her back outside (resolving to treat my neighbors to homemade cookies more often), thus resuming our previous pattern of occasional visits.
But enough of that. You get the picture, and youâ€™re still waiting for the bad thing, right?
Well, here goes: I left her.
I mean packed up a moving truck and hauled my cookies five states away. I mean left her with (figurative) tire tracks across her head. I mean â€œMarguerite WHO?â€
My grandfather had passed away roughly a month previous, leaving behind both my Nana and a family awash with concern about how Nana would fare living alone. Mind you, she was perfectly capable of taking care of both herself and her business, but there was still widespread chagrin about the fact that she would be in the house by herself. Having minimal career obligations (read: a waitress jobâ€”which I lovedâ€”but still, a waitress job), AND having recently had my little heart smashed to pulpy chunks by Little Hippy Flower Footy (I know, right? TOTALLY thought I was going to be the one to break up with HIM, so imagine my surprise to be not only the dumpee, but the genuinely heartbroken dumpee, in this situation), I volunteered to move back home to Kansas and be Nanaâ€™s roommate (which was a blast, by the way, but thatâ€™s a whole other story).
But Nana didnâ€™t want a cat. And nobody wanted this cat. So during the handful of weeks Iâ€™d allotted to gather my things and say goodbye to some amazing friends before donning my ruby slippers and clicking my heels, I made some feeble attempts to find a home for Marguerite, but ultimately I think Iâ€™d made up my mind about the futility of the endeavor before I even started. When moving day came, then, I hopped in that U-Haul and left her licking herself in my bathroom sink. I didnâ€™t look back.
I like to think that maybe she found some kinship with the apartment maintenance man, from whom I also fled that day2, and that the two of them lived as companions for many years.
In reality, she probably choked on a hot dog and died alone, wondering what ever happened to me, and what she did to deserve getting left behind like that.
And although I have always been much more of a dog person, I kind of donâ€™t really like cats much at all now. Iâ€™m sure a psychiatrist would say that they make me uncomfortable because each cat encounter carves the memory of Marguerite and my abandonment of her deeper into my psyche.
I donâ€™t know that Iâ€™d disagree with that.
But I still have no desire to have a pet cat. They try to make you look at their anuses all the time. Thatâ€™s not charming, with or without cat abandonment guilt.
1. For the record, neither can I walk away from nice people. Case in point: last night, I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of pounds of cod for tonightâ€™s dinner. The friendly lady behind the counter asked how I planned to cook it. I told her about the (broiled cod) recipe Iâ€™d found, and her face registered polite disapproval (like when your friend gushes about a new love interest who sounds like kind of a butt nugget, but you donâ€™t dare say anything, so you force your eyebrows and cheeks upwards into a facial expression you only sort of hope doesnâ€™t look like the fake enthusiasm that it is). So with my own fake enthusiasm, I asked how she cooked cod, and she said she liked to fry it. I told her I certainly loved the taste of fried fish, but not the work and time involved in making it, at which point she gave me step-by step instructions, assuring me that it didnâ€™t take more than a few minutes, really . . . She recommended (and pointed out) a particular kind of pre-made batter she likes to use and, not knowing how else to escape the situation, I bought it. So. Yeah. Apparently Iâ€™m only a badass when people text in the movies.
2. Please note that I was not fleeing the maintenance man because I left the apartment trashed; rather, Iâ€™d gotten myself into a â€œfish-batterâ€ situation with him, too, only there was no way I was buying it, so in this case, I basically grabbed my shopping cart and ran.
He was a friendly guy, so he and I had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions when I saw him around the complex. However, we were not close, by any means, so imagine how odd it was when he saw me loading up my U-Haul in front of my apartment and, upon learning that I was moving away, BEGGED TO GO WITH ME.
I tried to laugh it off. â€œNOBODY wants to move to Kansas,â€ I (only half-) joked.
â€œAny place is better than here,â€ he declared somewhat desperately.
â€œI donâ€™t even know you,â€ I said, trying to come off as a LITTLE more serious, but still emitting bursts of nervous laughter. â€œI could wind up chopped into pieces and stuffed into a beer cooler.â€
He swore heâ€™d NEVER do that. â€œYou might end up MARRIED,â€ he said a little too sincerely, â€œbut you wouldnâ€™t end up hurt, I promise.â€
Finally, I became a little desperate myself. â€œI donâ€™t have room in the truck for your stuff,â€ I tried.
â€œI donâ€™t care about any of it,â€ he said. â€œI have everything I need on me right now.â€
(Shit shit shit.)
My saving grace turned out to be one thing he didnâ€™t have: money.
All he needed, he said, was to pick up one last paycheck from the apartment office. Heâ€™d head up there RIGHT NOW. â€œDonâ€™t leave!â€ he called behind him as he began to jog up the hill towards the office, â€œIâ€™ll be back in just a few minutes!â€
You think I didnâ€™t burn rubber outta there? Strangely, I have no guilt about thatâ€”and I do still like maintenance men, in general (though I still have no desire to have one as a pet).