« Cherished by those who know it | home | Curiosity »

Growing up

My new pet is transforming from kitten to miniature adult. He still has the stiff-legged gait of the juvenile, but his tail seems to be lengthening before my eyes, and his head is taking on its mature shape. He's also sleeping more, and I have been permitted to sleep through the night all week long.

He becomes more like wumpus by the day, now choosing to sleep under the covers and following me around the apartment. He cries when I'm not sitting somewhere where he can visit me, perhaps even trap me by curling up in my lap. He likes to be on top of some things sometimes -- perched on my shoulder or surveying the apartment from on top of the bookcases -- but he's a snuggled-into-things cat.

The front hallway of the apartment is forbidden to him. I wanted to keep him out of my closets while he's still in the "claw his way up everything" phase. The bathroom opens off that hallway, too, so whenever I take a bath, he is on the other side of a French door from me. He sees where I've disappeared to, and he cries continuously. I know he doesn't do this when I leave the apartment, only when just on the other side of that door, or in the kitchen preparing something.

Very briefly, every day, he'll curl up behind some books in one of the bookcases. He used to disappear for hours, but now such forays are brief, and he naps with me in the afternoon. He seems to have a distinct preference for sleeping on me or at least right next to me.

I wonder what this means for my romantic prospects. I know how I am with a kitty, close, affectionate, constantly fondling. That's not necessarily a distancing thing, although my status as a never-married woman in my mid-30s gives it a poignancy that it lacked when I was 20.

When I was in college, I spent some time with a boy from one of my English classes shortly after I got the wumpus. His name was Tres, well, his label was Tres. His name was something like Wallace Breckinridge Forsythe, III. Thus Tres.

I can't remember his name, only his label. (He's lucky I remember that. I'm hopeless with names.) He was a small, pretty blond with an easy smile and razor wit. I thought we were just friends, but it turns out those were dates. I still have that problem.

One afternoon, he'd come to my apartment with me. I can't imagine what he was expecting, which is a very silly thing to say, because I know full well. He sat beside me on my bed -- as a (adult-)lifelong dweller in studio apartments, this particular intimacy has been forced often. I had my cat in my lap and had quite automatically hugged and kissed him.

Wumpus was the most tolerant cat on the planet, and he sat there like a rag doll, purring noisily. I laughed and turned to Tres and said, "I wonder if he likes being kissed." Tres said, "He must. I bet it feels soft." And he leaned over to kiss me.

I dodged him, probably interposing a startled wumpus between us. Even at the time, I saw that I had invited Tres's attempt, however unconsciously. I felt bad, anxious. I knew I wouldn't see him again, that he hadn't been the friendly companion I'd thought but had been Interested and would melt away now that his interest was so clearly not reciprocated. My surprise was sincere. He dressed so beautifully and had such fine taste (at 21) that it never occurred to me that he liked girls.

I don't remember what happened after that. That single moment, when he speculated on the softness of my kiss, is one of my most vivid memories, thrown into sharp relief by a complete absence of recollection as to where we had been or what happened afterward. I have a general sense that darkness and rain were involved, so this was late Fall or early Winter quarter, probably December.

This kitten is unlikely to see such misunderstandings. The experiments and poses of youth are for the most part in my past, and while I am still occasionally startled to find out that I'm on a date (as far as the other party is concerned), I establish that on neutral ground rather than on the edge of my bed. Today my huggings and snugglings of my stripy little friend are more likely to be a playful promise of ape behaviors to come. Once my feline gets past the "claw his way over every surface" phase, that is.

July 18, 2002