Monday, January 14, 2008

How Do You Spell 'Trust'?

Two nights ago, I awoke sometime before dawn to find my cat Sylvie draped like some (heavy) fur stole along the length of my outstretched arm. That is not the remarkable part, the noteworthy part that had me writing in my head in the early-morning darkness. It was her whole head dropped completely and trustingly into my open hand that got me going. Not because this is a new behavior: she routinely seeks out my arm for, it would seem, some sort of reassurance or comfort--or maybe just warmth. And it is not the first time she has rendered my hand her cradle. What was--is--remarkable to me is that she has done this from the beginning.

Sylvie was a maid-of-honor gift from my sister at the occasion of her wedding. I had been watching my geriatric cat Felix gradually fade into her final sunset around that time, and maybe I had made murmurings of adopting another. In any event, my soon-to-be brother-in-law had ties to a distinguished pet store at the time that owed him money. They had a Himalayan shop cat--not quite a mascot--that needed a permanent home.
He (I) would acquire the cat in trade for the debt. That was the plan, at least. My sister had a Himalayan, and they assumed I would like one too.

"Pinky-Lee," who had earned that name no doubt thanks to the pink skin around her eyes that to my eye made her look sickly, was full grown and not likely to take to a new name (which was clearly called for), as well as completely uninterested in meeting moi. Suffice it to say it was not love at first sight, not for either of us. But prearrangements had been made, and paperwork was being drawn up. What to do, what to do? I fretted there for several moments. Then commenced my questions:

"What if it doesn't work out?"

You know, no matter the acquisition--from spouses to furniture to pets: when you are asking about the return policy, it's not a good sign. Close to desperation, I begged a minute or two to roam the store, to make sure there wasn't another cat
there (or better still, a kitten) that might suit me better. I didn't find such a candidate, but the pause bought me more time. Next thing I knew, I had the excuse of needing to go to my car to feed the parking meter. But not before asking, a last-ditch effort, if by chance there wasn't some other cat inventory to pull from.

"Let me see what I have in domestics."

I swear that's what the woman said. At least that's how I remember it. And so I took my quarters to the meter fortified by the faintest glimmer of hope. I returned to the shop to find this same woman standing with a tiny tiger-striped tabby draped over her hand.

"Is it a he or a she?" I inquired, so as to be accurate when I declared "I'll
take her!"

Minutes later, Pinky-Lee was history, and I was bonding with the soon-to-be-named Sylvie over her blood draws and exam and such. She had in fact just come in from the 'cat house' of a woman who didn't see fit to spay her feline charges, and was routinely overrun with litters of kittens. This adorable tabby was too young I thought to have been taken from her mother. But for all I knew, it was a rescue situation. For all I knew, she had taken this trip to the pet store in lieu of a one-way trip, in a weighted sack, to the bottom of the nearest pond or river.

I was overjoyed, but her incessant mewing in the carrying box as I walked her to the car was killing me. "It's okay, it's okay, you'll be home soon." I tried my best to console her, to no avail. And then, once in the safety of the car, I let her free. She was truly too small to do any damage or cause me any difficulty driving. But after a time, she was nowhere in view, and not making a sound. Concerned, I blindly reached back to find her curled up in the floor well behind my seat. No sooner than my hand reached her did she lay her head into it and fall to sleep.

That was it. I was a gonner. She'd won my heart.

And here we were, fourteen years later, in essentially the same position. Suddenly, newly, it was a marvel to me. That we'd found each other to begin with. That we'd (clearly) recognized each other. It is a marvel to me how a "Yes!" is a yes, how it registers beyond thought, arises from a place before thought. And a marvel to me that this willful, "high-maintenance," rascal-of-a cat can and will, after all we've put each other through, still surrender herself and her consciousness so fully, still recognize pure safety so thoroughly that she will render herself in this way so completely vulnerable.
It is a pure understanding, recognition, trust that I just now realize is beyond words; these words only begin to approximate it. "It," before the words for it, moved me--still moves me--and had I been willing to risk breaking its spell for the sake of a photograph, I might have one here for you. But alas, I was not.


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