Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sweet and Lowdown

You may already know I was a cat person. For two decades, I Bond-Villained- reclining on my daybed with Midnight at my side and a library book on my chest. I was that girl, that cat lady in training. I would have sniffed dismissively at your golden retriever, sneered at your labradoodle. I would have fiercely argued kittens over puppies, and made the case for purring over licks. From the ages of 8-13, I spent the bulk of my $5 weekly allowance on cat treats at Valpo's Pet and Hobby.

Midnight was magnificently spoiled and fat for all of my youth. Flecks of orange and brown ran throughout her black coat. She was a smug, demanding, green-eyed creature - a pretty cat who knew she had it good. Most importantly, she didn't like anyone but me. Not my family or the rest of our menagerie. She was all mine, and she slept in my bed while I grew up. From kindergarten to my high school graduation.

And during the summers, in college, she would return to my side. I would dangle my legs out my window, smoking secret cigarettes, and she would sit on the sill next to me.

I thought, that first year out of college, of bringing her to Atlanta. By then she was an old cat- she had skinnied, shrunk. The decision to keep her at home, where she had always been, made sense to my family and me. Dating my way through a series of boys with allergies, I went out and adopted the most cat-like dog of all time, my dear Penny. And then I realized I was a dog person. That I liked the bounding, unconditional joy of puppies. That I was no longer sleek or secretive. It was then that my heart committed the real betrayal, and that is, I think, when Midnight finally gave up on me.

When I would go home on my own for holidays and visits, I would make a point of spending time with her, but she was over me by then. Desperate for any attention. Our old confederacy broken, we were old friends who had once been better.

She died this morning, and my mom buried her in the backyard. All our childhood dogs long dead, I realized only today that Midnight was some last tether to my enchanted, pretentious, cat-centric girlhood. I miss her now, more than I had for years. Of course, my grief is also selfish- you know, it is Margaret I mourn for.

But really, kitty, I miss you the most.

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