I have a confession to make. I do not love my cat. I treat her as though I love her. I rub her head, scratch her back, detangle her summer fur and call her inside every night. Perhaps because I don’t love her, I spoil her with treats, like an indifferent grandparent who sends gifts by courier. She returns the favor, plays her part as a beloved cat with aplomb. She dutifully claws up my favorite chair, licks the shower floor, rolls around on my unfinished drawings and is faithful to ensure that every black garment I own is properly fuzzy with fur. She turns her nose up at the bacon I just fried for her because I was out of her favorite treat; ham.
But she never brings me lizards. Not like Paddy, who at his heyday, would bring me all sorts of lizards, mice, birds (sometimes just the head---he had little self discipline when it came to birds) and the occasional squirrel. But this wasn’t why I loved Paddy or why I still do, though he’s been gone for years.
Paddy and I had stories.
Not so with Gurtie. She was a rescue from the pound. Her file says she was found, beaten and starved. I took her because she had a nick out of one ear from an old injury, V-shaped. I wanted to give her a good home. I have. But we have never connected in any meaningful way.
I wonder sometimes if the part of Gurtie that could connect with a human was shut off in those bad times before I met her. I wonder if I haven’t made the right noises to open it again, or if she never had that part in the first place.
But mostly, I wonder if it matters whether I love my cat. Possibly I take better care of her out of my sense of obligation than if I truly loved her.
I remind myself that love is a verb, and a choice. That if I continue to try, the emotion will find me. After six years, it has not.
Is it really so important that I love her? After all, it’s not what I feel that matters, but what I do. I can make the choice to give her good care, because it’s the agreement we have. We’re like an old couple from an arranged marriage, honoring our contracts with bland consistency and acceptance. We are secure.
Tonight Aubrey will return from Georgia and Pete from upstate. I’ll be very happy to have them both home, but I think I’ll always remember this sweet, quiet week with Orion. I feel as though I’ve spent a week immersed in bright blue water. I’m reading William Golding’s “Darkness Visible” and when his character, Matty, experiences a moment of clarity I excitedly said “ I KNOW THIS!! I GET THIS!” Matty, staring through a shop window at a crystal paperweight caught in sunlight, has a moment of pure vision where his fragments of knowledge assemble themselves into understanding. This week has been such. I only hope I’ll be able to recall it later, in the midst of the bustle of household and studio. We’ll see.
As always, thanks for reading. Have a good July 4th and be safe.