Where we have been
You may have noticed that we got a little quiet these last few days, after roaring back from Chicago simply brimming with fun food stories to tell.
Well. You may remember Bigelow.
When Tina and I first got together, one of the most important tasks that lay in front of me was finding a way to impress Bigelow. He was known as a Cat of Difficult Character, the sort who — if he felt particularly wronged — would not hesitate to take a vengeful, violent bowel movement in a bag of new clothes or a completely unobserved drive-by urination on a purse. He did not like to be picked up; he did not like a lot of attention. You may have liked Biggs, but you could feel assured that he did not like you, whoever you think you are.
And he was my new girlfriend’s baby cat, rescued from a shelter after being left on their front doorstep, starved and emaciated. It was very important to me that I make a good impression.
So, when Tina announced that she was travelling to the west coast to visit her family for the holidays, I naturally leaped at the chance to cat-sit. I was living in my unadorned townhouse at the time, so I didn’t feel especially at risk from any retaliatory bodily movements, and the opportunity to get in good with Tina by winning over her cat was too good to miss. Thus, after much convincing, she jetted off to British Columbia and I began my campaign to get a distrustful orange cat to like me.
I might as well have tried to sprout feathers, for all the success I had. I would chat to him, I’d attempt to bribe him with snacks, I would try to entice him to sleep on my bed at night. And in the process of all those efforts, I discovered a fascinating truth — and this is interesting: Did you know that, with the barest passing glance, cats have the ability to make you feel completely stupid? With naught but the most casual, flat-eyed expression, they can make you suddenly and totally aware of just how foolish you are acting, and with the same indifference watch as your self-confidence comes crashing down all around you.
And then they will walk past you, leaving you to your crisis. If they feel whimsical, they’ll rub themselves on your leg, just to throw you off. Or, at least, Biggs did.
Right around the point that I was becoming convinced that I lacked enough rudimentary charm to bemuse even a small mammal, Biggs suddenly decided to test my sincerity. I was lounging on my prized Big Leather Chair, blowing a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV and alternating between bad movies and bad football games, when he hopped into my lap.
Remember, this was Bigelow I was dealing with, the cat who doesn’t:
- Allow himself to be picked up
- Enjoy the thought of you touching him really at all
- Purr, ever
- Appear visible in daylight hours, when he’s feeling that way
But there he was, in my lap, circling slowly and carefully before settling down. He didn’t look at me, he just stared casually at the window and then the TV, taking in his surroundings. I dared to pat him, just to see whether he’d bolt; instead he took the contact contentedly, and eventually guided me by a series of head-butts and neck-craning maneuvers. When being petted finally bored him enough, he settled in for a long nap.
In my lap, on my legs, the cat who doesn’t snuggle and will shit on your belongings if you so much as cross him, that cat, the animal who is impossible to impress, he fell asleep right there. Snored, even.
I did not move. I was not going to put this at risk, this moment that suddenly redeemed all of my pathetic efforts throughout the week to somehow gain this little animal’s favor. Not for the four hours that he snoozed and slumbered did I move, though at one point my legs were so asleep that I thought I was going to be like those people who sit too long on the toilet and then end up dying there because they throw a blood clot. It was light outside when he settled in, and it was well after dark when he finally blinked his eyes open, regarded me for a moment, grunted heavily and disappeared back into his hiding spots.
Tina laughed when I told her about it, and she still laughs at me — but it was important to me, and taught me to appreciate the strange, moral nature of that peculiar cat. I later learned his intolerance of injustice, and saw for my own eyes what it looks like when a tabby cat appears in your doorway to tell on the wrongdoings of others. I came to appreciate the fact that while he wasn’t always in my lap, he was always within about ten steps, listening carefully to everything and just… making sure. Keeping a lid on things. Watching out.
So when he did come around for a pat, when for the first time I heard — at the barest limit of my ability — Biggs happily purr, it really mattered. It was a big deal, as much as that first conspicuously lengthy nap, and I always took advantage.
I share this memory because it’s really my favorite one of Bigelow, that first impression that let me get to know him, at the same time that he deigned to know me. And I prefer to share those details than the ones of the last week, during which Tina and I learned the intricacies of feline heart disease, watched the rapid progression of congestive heart failure, and were allowed to snuggle Biggs one last time before saying goodbye. Those aren’t as fun, and they can’t help convey the happiness that our funny, dignified, careful, patient, legally-minded and loving cat brought to us.
It was a hard week. It was very hard to see him go, and we already miss him. So this is for our good friend Bigelow, who we love.
Back to fun and food this week though, we promise.