In Memory of the Cat

For the last year and a half, I’ve been haunted by a mysterious ailment. Each time I sit down to write, I hardly make it past the first few sentences before being overcome by a sort of vague depression. My mind wanders, and I lose the energy to put my thoughts into words. I click “save” and tell myself I’ll get back to it later, but then I don’t. It’s not typical writer’s block. I have plenty to write about, and don’t usually have trouble starting a paragraph. It’s more of an ennui that sets in after I’ve gotten started. There is, I confess, a certain reluctance to share my thoughts publicly, at a time when the country’s endemic lout culture is rising to the surface like a pus-filled boil ready to spew at the first provocation. But that’s not what it is, either.

A week or two ago, the Kozlet asked for a kitten, and I had to tell him no, even though I would love a new cat more than anything. But I don’t want to be responsible for another life (and all that poop!) right now, and our apartment is really too small and dark to house a normal indoor cat. When I turned down his request, it was with the promise that the first thing I will do if we ever move to a bigger home is get a kitten (or two). Later, feeling sorry that I had to say no, it dawned on me: that might be what’s been hindering me from writing. I miss my cat! You see, when I acquired the laptop I am using right now with the intention to start writing my own blog, Her Royal Highness immediately claimed her rightful spot, draped across my forearms as I typed. Even if I started writing somewhere else, like a cafe, the park, or the gloomy basement of the school where I spend many hours every year tending to the kiln, I would still do most of the editing at home, invariably with the small creature draped over my arms. It was actually really annoying sometimes, and I used to try and get her to sit next to me instead of on top of me, but most of the time I gave in and did my typing from underneath a hot, fuzzy blanket.

Poor little beast. She was such a frightened little animal when she came to us. For months I didn’t even know where her hiding place was. The only clue we had a cat was in the disappearance of food from the bowl and the appearance of poop in the litterbox.  Eventually she came out of hiding to peer at us suspiciously from under the coffee table. We named her Shilka Shilyichka Strashilka, derived from the Russian word for “scaredycat,” or more colloquially, “chickenshit.” But the elegant sounding name suited her well. She was a beautiful Himalayan, supposedly with papers, but so psychologically damaged by her first owner that she was worthless as a show cat, and tiny too. We thought she was still a kitten when she arrived because she was so small, but over the years she never got any bigger.

It took many years for me to gain her trust, but once I had, she was my constant companion, following me from room to room like a shadow. She lived to sit in my lap, or lie on top if me if I was in bed. She was also virtually silent, a boon to the apartment dweller. Even her purr was so quiet that I could only hear it when she let me put my ear against her side. Unfortunately, I was the only person so privileged, and it always made the Kozlet sad when she ran away at his approach. When he was first learning to wield a pen, he wrote the most heartbreakingly adorable letters asking her to play with him.  In the last year of her life she allowed him to brush her fur briefly, and I’m sure if she’d lived longer she would have grown to let him pet her. When, after only eleven years with us, she unexpectedly became ill and died very suddenly due to kidney failure, I was devastated and cried constantly for weeks.

The grief finally passed, but a year and a half later, I still miss her quiet, ever-present fuzziness, especially when I am at home alone. I look to my left, where her scratching post and bed used to be. Now there is a chair which sort of functions as a shelf and a clothes rack, and which I keep meaning to replace with a proper bedside table. The rest of the room is actually nicer than it was when she was alive. Somewhere along the line, I got rid of a bunch of junk; acquired some useful furniture to take its place; relocated a lot of stored art supplies to my “new” studio (I moved in last February); and painted a couple of walls purple and turquoise, with a Moroccan-style motif. It’s a comfortable room, and a nice place to write. As annoying as it could be at times, I do miss that purring carpet sprawled over my arms. But, life goes on. I hope now that I’ve finally recognized what’s been amiss, I can start fresh.

In her memory, here are some pictures of the fuzzy Shilka cat.

Shilka_house

Shilka_zen

catwoman

See you again soon.

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