I hate going out to get the post.
I hate leaving my safe space in the house; I hate the knot in my stomach as I look over anonymous white envelopes with my name on them. I hate opening them and I hate the tasks they force on me, pay my bills, go to the dentist, it’s always something and it overwhelms me with anxiety.
I promised myself I would do it today. Just go and get it. I don’t even have to look at it. I can save that for tomorrow.
As I open the door, I see a kitten sitting on my doorstep. I blink stupidly at it.
It’s a three coloured girl, mostly white. One of her ears is red, the other one black. She must be too young to be without a mother, let alone be on her own. Maybe I should give her to a local cat home. But I don’t know where to find one or how to get in contact with one. How would I even get the cat to them?
Instead, I go to the grocery store and get her something to eat. It’s not something I was planning on doing today, which always puts me on edge, but at least it’s familiar. I know where it is and what it looks like inside. I pick up a few things for myself as well while I’m there. It was a long time ago I went shopping. It somehow feels okay to go there now that I have a purpose, but it exhausts me.
I give the cat food and go back to bed. My mind is fuzzy and my body hurts.
I wake up to crying mews from the floor. No, Kitty, not right now.
Mew, mew, mew.
I feel so tired. I can’t get myself to get up right now; if I just ignore the cat, she will tire and go away.
Mew, mew, mew.
Any minute now. I just want the sound to stop.
Mew, mew, mew.
I turn over and look at the pathetic little creature. Why did I take her in? I should have just left her at my neighbour’s doorstep and let them solve it. I can’t take care of something like that. She will have to figure it out by herself. I turn over again. The puny meowing finally stops and I slide back into darkness.
Suddenly, I feel a needle piercing my foot. It is the sharp teeth of the tiniest little predator. The tiniest hungry little predator. I lift her up, my hand wrapped around her whole body, and draw her close to my face to look at her. “Stupid cute cat”, I think. "You can't even meow properly." She is designed to make me want to take care of her with those round eyes and fluffy little face. The way she looks at me with big eyes saying: “You have to take care of me or I will die!” Such a sad little creature. I give up and force myself out of bed. I don’t want her to die. I find a big red mixing bowl from when I used to bake. I fill it up with cat food. There. That should last a few days. Now leave me alone.
Next time the not quite proper meowing starts, I think I can outlast her. She just got a huge amount of food, she should leave me alone. The ritual repeats and only after another shark attack on my feet, I get myself up.
It’s blindingly bright outside, and I realise it must be over a day since I last fed the cat. We go into the kitchen together – me, trying to walk normally and her, eagerly and clumsily almost tripping me with every step – and I see the bowl is empty and there are several piles of vomit on the floor. Stupid cat must’ve eaten everything at once only to puke it all up again. I feel a twinge of guilt. She must be thirsty. This time I give her lots of water but only a little bit of food before getting back to bed. I clean up after her. I even get something to eat for myself. Next time she tells me she’s hungry I will give her a little more, I promise us both.
On the way back to bed she runs up to me and attacks my feet. I look down and see her lying on her back, all four paws in the air. I pick her up and take her with me to the bed, but she doesn’t want to cuddle. She bites my nose and claws her way to freedom. Jumping around on top of me, attacking my feet and chewing on my toes. “Please leave me alone or calm down. I don’t have the energy to play with you”, I think to the cat. She continues anyway.
Feeding, entertaining and cleaning up after the cat is an endless cycle. Sometimes it’s hard to do it, but she is even more stubborn than I am. She can’t take care of herself. She doesn’t care that I’m constantly tired. She doesn’t care I want to go back into the darkness. She doesn’t care that just going to the kitchen sometimes feels like an impossible task for me. Just because it is hard for me doesn’t make her less hungry. She even rewarded me the other day by climbing onto my bed and lying on my shoulder. The little purr she let out made me feel connected to her, as if we were part of the same family.
I suppose we are now.
I wake up to a beautiful Saturday morning and feel well rested. I have felt more energised lately. I spend my days out of bed now.
I go in to the kitchen and rattle the cat food.
My Cat comes running and meowing. She sounds almost offended that I woke up before her. This always makes me feel smug. We talk to each other for a few seconds before I give her breakfast and some fresh water. I get a glass for myself as well and take my pills. My stomach starts rumbling. Maybe I will treat myself to pancakes today. After she finishes her food, she jumps up on the counter and helps me prepare my breakfast. She "helps" me mostly by being in the way and trying to lick everything in front of her, but I would never push her down. She is the best company.
I wish I could thank whoever left the little kitten on my doorstep. As I was forced to take care of that hopeless, helpless little creature, I started taking care of myself. The never ending whining became a constant clock and reminder I have another life to take care of. In a way, she was like the mirror I had needed to wake up to and look at. She complained when it was time to eat in a way my own body had forgotten how. She didn’t judge. She gave me love when I deserved it and left a mess for me to clean up when I tried to cut corners. She never stopped fiercely demanding help from me.
She made me want to get better.
She was a harsh reminder of the reality that I was like her. I needed help too. And if that little creature had the guts to ask for it, I did too.