Boots the Cat
“A few years ago I was living with someone, but she died a few weeks back. Stacy was her name. And Stacy had a cat named Boots. I never liked that cat, but once Stacy was gone, guess who was in charge of Boots?
“Me. It was me.
“I met Stacy because when I moved to New York City, I really needed a roommate. Everyone needs one to afford living. Everyone normal, anyway. We lived together for two years and said almost nothing to each other the entire time; It was perfect. But when Stacy got a cat, I was pretty annoyed. I hate cats.
“That was probably the first time we ever spoke to each other for more than five minutes. I didn't want a cat, I said to her. She wouldn't be in the way, Stacy promised. But of course, she was. Boots was on everything. Boots was in the bathtub when I needed to take a shower. On many occasions, I came home to Boots sitting on my bed, shedding her long hair all over my bed sheets. The couch that I bought was covered in claw marks. Stuff like that.
“So now Stacy is gone, my rent doubled overnight, and I am stuck with this damn cat. You can imagine my stress. I went to the wake, by the way, but no one seemed to care about Boots. They were all terrible company, too. No food. I left early.
“Could I have left Boots with someone else? No, I don’t trust anyone else. I couldn’t just leave her at a shelter or throw her out in the streets. In New York? She’d never last. It had to be me, and since I've always been such a generous person, I knew I had to accept. No one thanked me, either, in case you were wondering. Honestly, it’s like–”
Before I can continue, I hear a shuffle of papers. My eyes track the sound to my therapist who sits crossed legged in an ugly armchair. I hate when she interrupts me with distracting sounds, but I go on.
“Every evening I come home from another day of bureaucratic torture to the sensation of her squidgy body weaving in between my legs. She’s not happy to see me, she just knows I’m there to feed her. She attacks my feet when she sees them underneath a blanket. It hurts when she claws at them! Does she care? No. She’s mean. This is what I’m dealing with here. And now every night she stares at me while I’m trying to watch TV, judging my life choices and everything I do. I see it in her eyes— she’s disappointed in me. But did anyone ask her? No.”
“If I could just step in a moment, here–” she says. “Have you considered you may be overwhelmed with the loss of your roommate in ways you don’t understand?”
“Huh? I’m not talking about Stacy. I’m talking about the cat.”
“Right. I just want to clarify: If you had to pick your absolute chief emotion in regards to your current situation, would it be annoyance? With…” she looks down at her notes, “Boots?”
“Right. Great. Well, go on!” She says cheerfully.
Now I’ve lost track of my thoughts. I close my eyes to gather myself and conceal my annoyance. This woman is nice, but she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She’s lucky I engage in these sessions at all.
“So…Ok. So just for an example: I get home, I feed her the disgusting wet food that Stacy always gave her. I fill her water bowl. She throws up half of her dinner on my coffee table. No big deal, right? I clean it up. But I’ve talked to her about this. I’ve told her to eat more slowly, or maybe we could try a different food? She gives me nothing.”
“In response, you mean?”
“Ok. I wonder what you are expecting to get from Boots? She…is a cat.”
I try, but it’s impossible to disguise my irritation. The groan that escapes me is unstoppable. “Yes, she is a cat. I know this. I said this.”
“Right. So may I ask, what response are you looking for from Boots?”
“Um, anything?” Leaning forward slightly, I put on my most patient expression. “Hey. Do you think I could go on a little while? Uninterrupted?”
“Go right ahead,” she says.
“Great. Now the thing about Boots is that she’s smart. I know, I see it in her weird little eyes. She chooses to be disrespectful. I buy her toys, she plays in the box. I clean her litter box, she mourns. She sleeps as though she works harder than I do. Sometimes her exhaustion is so convincing, I wonder if it’s true. What bothers me the most about her, though, is that nothing will ever make her happy.”
My unwanted company remains quiet when I pause, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Now, the other day I broke it to her. I said to Boots, ‘you’ll never be content,’ and I meant it. It hurt her feelings, I could tell. Her littles ears fell backward, and she got this far off look. I had it right, and she knew it. No amount of catnip in the world will make her wag her tail like a truly fulfilled cat. She is blessed and cursed to hold the weight of true reality in her soft little paws. She can’t ignore it like other happy-go-lucky cats can.”
I shake my head. I can see her now, lounging in the sunny rays that shine through the window. She’s trying, I know. She wants to find fulfillment.
“I know I disarmed her with my brutal honesty, but I have to say I’ve seen a change ever since I broke it to her. She’s blaming the world for her discontent, you know? Someone had to tell her. She’ll never be happy until she asks herself what she can give to the world, instead of searching what the world can give her.”
I look up to make sure the lady is still listening, and she has a weird look on her face. Sort of… bemused? Though not sure what to make of her expression, I have to assume she was paying attention as I spoke.
“Does that make sense?” I ask the woman.
“Yes, I think I follow,” she says. One side of her mouth is higher than the other, and her eyes are slightly watery. She’s always been a strange woman, but at least she’s nice.
“Well, I think we’ve found a good place to stop,” she says. “Let’s pick up here next week, dear. Let me know how Boots does with this new outlook on life, ok?”
I grab my messenger bag and stand, nodding.
“Have a good day, sweetheart.”