Do you ever feel like everyone around you wants you to fail?
If not, try fostering animals. Everyone you know — friend, family, stranger, foe — will tell you this explicitly. You will see the schadenfreude in their eyes. They will send you private messages during awkward Zoom meetings: “Why not adopt?” and “ever heard of a ‘foster fail’ haha?” They will show up at your door and say, “Just wait. This dog will change your life.” They will ruin your prospects with potential adopters, hacking your computer and emailing them malicious jokes, or feeding your animal Mountain Dew right before the meeting. They will steal your pet carriers and everything you have to send them away. Or they it will feel like all these things are happening when they aren’t. You will feel the eyes of the world on you, wishing your failure. They will do all this because they love love. Because they want you to say “I tried, I failed, I love this strange new animal too damn much.”
In other news, I’d like to reintroduce you to the newly renamed, newly adopted Mondo and Lazy, short for Monday and Lasagna, or for Montesorri and Lazarus depending on how we’re feeling.
We were going to wait. Honest. We have a few trips this year. The logistics, won’t anyone think of the logistics? Then we found a catsitting group. So we said fuck it. Why wait? Two cats have materialized in our laps, rumbling like tiny carburetors with tiny teeth. They’re perfect.
No, not perfect… not yet. There’s one thing left. We need to train them to take walks on leashes.
This has been a lifelong dream of mine for a year. A year ago, I went to the park by my house on the first sunny day of Daylight Savings when the vaccines had started to roll out and everyone was optimistic for the first time in forever and I met a cat on a leash and my life was changed. It was like the first time I ate good pickles and olives, and a whole new world I had previously ignored opened up to me with pickles and olives on every table. You can eat olives… and enjoy it. You can take a cat… on a walk.
So we’ve been trying. We put them in little harnesses every day. At first they clomp around like they’re wearing boots, or they walk in diagonal directions. Then get used to it and run like they’re nothing. Then we put on their leashes, and they fall over like trees in a forest. Then they get up and chase their own leashes with ferocity. Then we bring them to the hallway, and they shiver by the wall, and eventually get the courage to explore. Then we bring them outside, and they shiver in the wind, but rediscover their catness when they see a clump of birds, and forget their fear.
Here’s why our cats are on leashes. Because I want to see the world through their eyes. I want to remember how horrifying it is to be in a long infinite hallway, to hear rumbling through the walls that could be a building collapse, or maybe just an elevator. To respect the way everything seems so vast. And to recall what it’s like to step on grass with bare paws for the first time. To overcome the terror of the world. To watch a creature transform back into its primal self, where all that matters is sunshine and prey.
Mondo and Lazy are still a little nervous outside. They still have a little fear. They don’t walk yet; they just sit there, nervously, reacquainting themselves with a world bigger than them. But that’s okay. They’re still perfect even if they can’t go on walks. But they will. They will walk. Even if they don’t (but they will) we love them anyway. We miss Ellie and we love them at the same time. They’re more than a ‘they.’ They have distinct personalities and we each have different favorites. Mondo greets us when we return and begs to be held like a baby. Lazy wants to discover how every toy works from every angle. Their ‘they’-ness is also a distinct thing. They follow each other from room to room, discovering new closets together. In the night, they sleep at our feet, but if I wake up and rustle around, they come rumbling forwards, a purr-gang, ready to daintily put my fingers in their mouths, at first softly, and then, CHOMP.
There’s a pre-verbal, animalistic part of life that’s essential. We’re always floating in worlds of our own creation, worlds filled with plans and worries and social media personas. I want to forget all that and let the sun burn away the shivers and watch a squirrel sits sideways on a tree. To turn off the words and rediscover the floating ball of soul that just exists and observes and takes things in.
So, we will walk our cats. With patience. One day.
PS: New story publication alert! I’ve spent a lot of time exploring different kinds of renewable energies and how they connect with the human body. So here’s a weird short story about geothermal energy, primitiveness, human animalisticness.
Geothermal in The Normal School.