My new mom has a moustache. He calls me by my old name Charlie and feeds me out of purple-coloured pouches.
I don’t want to relive the trip along with my brother in a cage to this new house. I just sleep on the upper edge of the sofa on my old mom’s t-shirt. The new sights, smells, and spaces are a bit overwhelming but I am trying to fit in. My brother who is hiding in one of the lofts right now could never fit in though. He made his escape within a week of arriving here and left my new mom in guilt-ridden grief. For a while.
My new mom is a fresh-out-of-college fellow, who is trying to live on his own but still needs his parents to pay his bills. I smell hope, fear, and angst spilling out of his pores. He has neatly arranged a litter tray and bowls filled with food and water to welcome me. I notice everything else in his tiny house is littered. I like that. More hurdles to jump over and more strings to pull.
He looks at me with a tender smile whenever he tries to come close. But I slink away quietly. Not so fast. Never will I be trusting anyone blindly. That’s just the way I am. I don’t like to give false hopes. Frankly, in this aspect, I am not too different from my new mom. Trust and loyalty are overrated, and underused in his species too- as I would come to observe later.
I let him pet me; At first, while I lick the bowl clean, and after some time while I sit on the sofa near the window watching the butterfly flit over the hibiscus bushes. He lets me goof around and looks away when I make an awkward landing. I like him. He plays with me by rolling on the floor and bears with me as I rip open the threads at the base of the sofa. We play with strings too and I feel bad when I accidentally end up scratching him. But he doesn’t get angry over it.
He understands my meow tongue and admires my poise as I navigate the house strewn with packages. He even leaves a couple of boxes open for me to burrow in.
I no longer sleep on my old mom’s t-shirt.
As weeks roll by, I learn to push open his bedroom door and he learns to be comfortable with me walking all over his assembled machines. He seems to spend a great deal of time in front of a big screen: flooding it with a gush of characters by tapping at the backlit keyboard, or watching the forms similar to his species but not real, or staring at the blank screen with a blank look. I notice that he goes through cycles of overeating and oversleeping followed by undereating and undersleeping. Everyone has their way of dealing with life, I guess. None of my business. I do what I can. I sleep near his feet on his bed. And knead his back with my paws to make him smile when he wakes up. He has earned it.
My first birthday is a few weeks away. I am put in that loathsome cage again and carried to a place that is full of others like me and reeks of chemicals. A man in a white coat grins and pokes me with a needle. The next thing I know, I am groggy and there is pain between my hindlegs with a part of me missing. My mom treats me with great care and extra special food till I recover. I am proved right in not trusting anyone blindly. But he is the best I have got, and I’ll take him. He seems to think somehow this will help him gain control over my behaviour. He is both right and wrong. I am as available to be controlled as he is.
He knows I love to bask in the sunlight in the garden and jump over the fence to my neighbour’s place. So, he leaves the window near the sofa cracked open, always. I slip out on some dusks to catch the moths and dawns to hunt the rats. There are a couple of rough, mean, homeless tomcats who give me grief at times, but I manage to sprint back home. A couple of times I gifted plump rats to my mom, but he shrieked in disgust. That was confusing and fun to watch. I like this dance of reliable mischief we share.
There are times when intruders disturb our routine. His parents, who are both proud and anxious about him, are visiting. They have been here for a couple of days and have only caught a glimpse of me. They say they trust him to find his feet, but I can sense, what they mean is they want him to walk their path. We can’t wait for them to leave us alone; I can come out from under the bed and he can come out from behind the mask. I learn to grow comfortable around them in their later visits and appreciate their love for me. Now I know why their love is a burden on my mom. Regardless of what they want to believe, it is conditional, like everything else in nature.
Then there is another time when his friend drops a clowder of pure breeds on his way out of town on a vacation. They are my counterparts from Persia and Maine; three balls of excess fur and friendliness. Ugh. What is this thing about lineage, looks, and social skills with these humans? How have they concluded one is superior to another? Anyway, I am distinctly uncomfortable with their presence in my space and for the first time since arriving here, think of running away. Luckily for my mom, he spots me sitting near the gate and immediately sends them away to the guest room at the other end of the house and shields me from the adulation that is showered on them by all the visiting help.
It’s been two years now, and only once have I experienced a prolonged period of separation from my mom. He was gone for a good twenty man-days. I spent my first twenty cat-days expecting him to walk through the door any minute. Though his parents took good care of me, they were not mine. I am usually self-sufficient, once my basic needs are taken care of, but I did miss him. I worried that he might never come back. Or worst still I might be sent away to a new home. Much to my relief after eighty more cat-days he did come back! I didn’t make a fool of myself by pouncing on him when he returned though. I just followed him everywhere for a couple of days and curled next to him, radiating the warmth and receiving it, always giving him enough space.
I know that’s why we chose each other. To be able to form a cocoon around us and yet give each other space to breathe.