My weird, adopted cat won’t get out of my face or off my wrist. ‘I am trying to write,’ I tell him, ‘Don’t you see?’ He doesn’t care, resting his mushy yet heavy body on my forearm.
I don’t have the heart to move him, so as I write, I hold his weight with my wrist, his body a saggy bag of guts rising and falling at degrees based on the keys I’m trying to reach. I played the piano for years as a child so the span of my fingers is wide. I notice when I hit the delete key or insert a hyphen, his body lifts with a great flourish as my ring-finger stretchstretchstetches for the keys while my mighty pinky supports it all.
The cat came with the name Orzo. I intended to change it until my daughter implored me not to. ‘He’s lost so much already,’ she said, ‘let him keep his name,’ and I nodded and pursed my lips in agreement because once again she was right and showed me a better way.
But Orzo, this cat. He drools on us and no matter how many layers we (the girls and I) wear on our tops–camisoles or sports bras and t-shirts under sweatshirts and hoodies–Orzo always finds our boobs. He’s a licker.
And a drooler. With a plastic fetish. He loves the flimsy plastic that surrounds newspapers and magazines; grocery bags; bubble wrap; hardy plastic, the kind that produces noise as he gnaws. You cannot leave any of this laying around or he will eat it gone.
I know what Orzo needs (besides a full-body shave) but he won’t listen. And when I say listen, I mean when I stop ignoring him as he begs for my attention, twisting his neck in directions that cannot feel good, and I move my palm to accept his head, I tell him, ‘Buddy, I can help you. I can make it better.’
So I pick him up and place him in my lap. ‘Here, just sit here while I work,’ I tell him. And I know he doesn’t like this but I keep thinking if he just experienced it more, it would grow on him. He would trust me and feel comfortable because I know he just needs a little love from someone he can trust. But he can’t bear it and always runs away or climbs back on the table.
The cat let me love him once. His owner had made the final trip to the car and was done bringing in Orzo’s things: a litter box, an opened bag of litter, nail clippers, what was left of the bag of food they bought, the food scooper, several brushes, a comprehensive set of vet records (it was thick–the man and his wife adopted Orzo as a kitten 12 years ago.)
The man stood by the door and explained how to care for his cat. There were tears in his eyes, he was upset. I imagined Orzo was too so I picked him up and held him on my shoulder, nodding as I listened to the instructions. ‘One scoop of food, twice a day; clean his litter box often, otherwise he’ll express his displeasure elsewhere.’
The owner looked so sad, almost betrayed when he saw how easily his cat came to me, let me hold him. I said, “See, he’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
I wanted to ask why his wife was making him give up their cat, but held my tongue. Instead I told him, “Look, if you want to visit Orzo on your way home from work some day, it’s fine by me.” I smiled, trying to lighten the mood, and said, “No one needs to know.”
Based on the color his face turned, I guess he thought I was coming on to him. He left and Orzo and stayed, letting me hold him a bit longer before he dropped to the floor, ran off and hid.
Someone told me once after I had mentioned my cat’s odd ways that he licks and drools because he was separated from his mother too soon. As soon as they said it, I wanted to punch them because unless you’ve been separated too soon from your mother or someone you care about a great deal, I’ll go so far as to say love, you don’t get to say things like that so off-the-cuff and in passing.
Unless you’re a vet, I’m going to assume you don’t know what you’re talking about and are wrong.
Even if you’re right.