Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Strange Bedfellow

As I’ve written before there was a nine-month stretch when I shared my Baltimore apartment with a cat.

When it came sleeping arrangements, Archie was mercurial. There were times when he’d join me in bed, flopping as he was wont to do, his furry brown back with the black stripes in my face. Other times, he’d have no interest in joining me at night, preferring instead to wander the darkened apartment, leap atop the kitchen cupboards, or find other places to rest.

Regardless of how he spent the night, the mornings were mostly the same. Around five he’d come into the bedroom and leap onto the bed. If I didn’t get up with enough immediacy he’d proceed to my nightstand, where he’d knock my phone to the floor. Then my pen. Then my legal pad. A few times, my clock radio. I’d get up and feed him and go back to sleep--on work days for an hour or two, on weekends for quite a bit longer. Sometimes Archie would join me in bed after his breakfast. Other times he’d go about his cat business.

There remains one, specific Saturday morning that was different. When I went back to bed and rolled to one side of the bed to fall asleep. An hour or two later, I woke, rolled onto my back, and looked to my side.

Archie lay there beside me, head propped on a pillow, facing the same way I had been. He opened his eyes and blinked away sleep just as I had. I rubbed his tummy and he purred.

And I thought of how different and the same an animal friend could be to a person. How Archie assumed my posturing in that moment, shared my bed, shared my sleep. And how in the seconds to follow, I knew exactly what to do for him to make him happy. To help him rest easy again.

And I thought of how rarely people do that for another. Sure, rubbing my fingers against someone’s chest and stomach would be a bit presumptuous in most circumstances. But I thought of all of the times I knew the right compliment or question or comment might brighten someone’s day; let alone the impact of a pat on the back or a hug. I thought of all these moments that I had let pass.

It was hard to feel too guilty on a Saturday morning, though, when I had forgotten to draw the blinds the night before, and sun poured in from the east warming Archie and me both, and the sky was a clear blue. And though the floorboards creaking overhead informed me my upstairs neighbors had begun to stir, I didn’t yet hear the bass of the sub-woofers from my young couple across the hall, or the Mandarin cries of the first morning argument from next door.

In that moment, there was only me and this cat. His purr turned to a snore and I kept rubbing him until I was sure he was asleep. I watched him for a while in this state of simple contentment. I breathed in and breathed out, and let all manner of heavy thoughts take flight from my mind as I, too, returned to slumber.

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