I’m not sure what in my karma has caused me to be host to so many insane felines during this life. But it seems unnatural to be without them. There’s something about a cat that reminds us not to take life too seriously. This little story is set just after I graduated from high school and set out on my own. It goes something like this . . .
The first roommate I ever had who truly understood me wore a beautiful fur coat every day of the year and owned the two-story townhouse we inhabited in Annapolis, Maryland, although she allowed me to pay the mortgage, since she had not an inkling of how money worked. She had beautiful green eyes and a lovely regal expressiveness. We had special dishes from which only she ate, and did so very deliberately from the kitchen floor. Her name was Marble, after the swirling gray and black coat she wore. She’d known me from kittenhood and thought she pretty much had the entire relationship worked out by the time my first big, human relationship had broken down and we were left to our own devices.
She would keep an eye on the place while I was at work, far above being troubled with doing the dishes or cleaning—she despised the vacuum cleaner. She never cooked a single meal, although she spent a lot of time sitting on the stove; but I was always happy to see her at the end of the day. She seemed likewise as happy to see me, too, as long as I kept up on the state of her food and water dishes.
After a while I began to worry that she might be getting lonely staying home alone so much, so one day I stopped by the pet shelter and surveyed the foster mammals there. A dog was definitely out of the question; both Marble and I were both confirmed cat-people, so it had to be another cat. I’m not usually superstitious, but the last thing I was looking for was a black cat; my vacuum cleaner wasn’t ready for a long-hair; and for reasons of my own, there was no way I wanted a male. How that crazy, jet black, little furry guy talked me into bringing him home is a mystery to this day.
I was immediately informed of my mistake from Marble’s incredulous look and the way she avoided both of us for the next few weeks. He was not worth thinking about and I was clearly in the doghouse. But I stuck it out, thinking she was just being stubborn. She stuck it out, thinking I was just being pigheaded and stupid, even for a human.
In the meantime, the little black hairball began to explore his surroundings, insinuating himself into every fold of both of our lives at home until he could be ignored no longer. At first she considered him to be a nuisance, when at last she tired of hissing at him and only getting a dopey kittenish look back, then something to be discouraged—which was impossible, since discouragement wasn’t in his vocabulary. Finally one day I saw her waking up to find him snuggled up against her. She looked ready to bolt in disgust, but then seemed to say “oh, the hell with it,” and went back to sleep. He’d done the same thing to me and it was surprisingly warm, all that fur.
It was a hard thing at first trying to figure out what to call the little bugger. Hairy, Hairball, Fuzzball and lame attempts to find words that alluded to black or darkness were all too obvious and lacked originality. I was sure that once I witnessed enough of his personality a proper monicker would soon present itself.
And witness I did. I ended up naming him Notso, by how often the term fit him.
Where Marble loved to play with string, laser-dots and play ping-pong with tiny bits of balled up paper, Notso preferred to make up his own toys. I once found him attacking a wooden spoon he had rescued from the kitchen counter, spinning it under furniture and flicking it into the air like a projectile. He also favored dust bunnies, sunbeams, and a few things that seemed not to exist at all. Life was a great adventure to him, instigating yoga poses and attack sequences even Marble found incredible.
Not so normal, this one, although his inventiveness was a privilege to behold. Marble tried her best to feign disinterest as much as possible.
Soon I realized how often I had noticed her staring at her once pristine litter box, deep in thought. Where once she kept a fastidiously managed facility, everything properly covered and regraded, these days there would often be a single deposit in the center—emphatically not her own—perched upon a desert island of litter, while the rest of the litter had been strangely pushed over the edge of the pan and onto my shag carpeting. A challenge my aging vacuum cleaner was growing tired of. No amount of coaxing could get Notso to realize he was burying in the wrong direction. I could almost imagine he was attempting some kind of art. Marble was not impressed.
Where Marble kept her coat perfectly groomed, Notso always had at least two or three nasty snarls of hair protruding from his carcass—not that it seemed to faze him whatsoever. I regularly ended up taking the scissors to him. Not so well-groomed.
On more than one occasion, the three of us would be watching a show on television when Notso would spontaneously invent a game during a commercial break, usually involving attacking something furiously evasive and just as nonexistent running across some vertical part of the sofa. Invariable he would end up pitching off the back unexpectedly and landing with a thump behind. I’d turn to Marble and say, “Not so well coordinated either.” Marble usually returned a look that said, “Ya think?”
Over time Marble and I tallied all the ways he lived up to his name: Not so well coordinated, not so neat, not so predictable, not so dainty, not so normal, not so easy to ignore. While his distractions were often entertaining to me, Marble’s orderly world had become a nightmare, although Notso would try his best to cheer her up or include her in his adventures. After a time, she would finally break down and chase him, which he loved, although I don’t know exactly what her intentions were. I would get used to her looking at me in a “what were you thinking, bringing that thing into the house?” way.
It was just my luck that I tend to fall in love with people who are allergic to cats, and it was a sticking point to the advancing relationship for a while. This happened a couple of years after Notso came on the scene, but halfway through Marbles life. Becoming closer to this person and our respective jobs meant selling the townhouse and moving to an apartment, one that did not allow pets. Although the relationship was long and wonderful, I still regret the necessity of finding new homes for my feline family. One day a man answered my ad and asked to see the cats, showing up with his shy tiny daughter. Marble, the more beautiful of the pair, who now looked at me with disdain, quickly disappeared. But Notso was immediately mesmerized by the little girl, following her everywhere, talking to her in his mysterious cat language, playing and impressing her father with his silliness. It turned out they were only looking for one cat, so Notso found a new, happy home almost immediately.
Marble was more of a challenge. Although she tried to hide it, she moped around the townhouse, revisiting his favorite haunts, his odd toys, barely bothering to arrange the litter box so carefully as she once had. It was obvious I had let her down once more and she almost seemed relieved to be carted off by another family after a few more weeks. A decade later, I still wish I could have kept them together. Although I can only hope they both prospered in their new homes, I’m pretty sure Notso, for one, had no problem keeping himself happy.
Another pair of felines, Bunny and Teddy, adopted me soon after I moved back to Portland. The kitten I sadly left behind in Hawaii (I don’t want to talk about it) must have sent them a text, since I was forced from the beginning to make a pact with them to never ever let another relationship get between me and my furry family.