Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Cat's Tail

Back in '94 I was newly divorced, living with my two kids in an apartment off Riverside and I-35. I was one of, I think, two women who lived in this complex. The owner, the onsite manager, and almost all the residents were gay men.

Some things, you see, never change.

Being an all-gay complex, of course, the place had a wonderful sense of community, so it wasn't like your normal apartment complex where none of the residents know each other. People used to sit around and visit on the deck by the pool, and pretty much every weekend an impromptu party would break out. Everybody was really friendly, and we all knew each other. One of my neighbors was an aspiring drag queen and occasionally staged elaborate shows. She went by "the Duchess." She'd get all dolled up in improbable blonde wigs and tiaras, and I'd help with her makeup and lend her clothes and jewelry; but she never returned my favorite pair of black pumps. That bitch!

One of the guys, though, was not quite right. A bunch of neighbors were barbecuing by the pool, and he came out to mingle dressed in a T-shirt and his tighty whities. Everyone thought this was a little strange. I don't remember ever talking to him much, but I got a weird vibe off him. He lived alone, but had a kitten, a cute little black-and-white tuxedo kitty he called "Austin."

Which was kind of a stupid name for a cat. I mean, we live in Austin. He should have called it something like "Dakota."

One evening everyone was out and about, not doing anything in particular, just enjoying the summer evening and chatting, when one of the neighbors came running up in a panic. The weird guy, who had an apartment on the second floor at the front of the complex, had jumped out his window. He didn't open it first. Several neighbors ran to the scene, but the jumper, not seriously hurt by the fall, but cut up pretty badly by the glass, had crawled bleeding up the stairs, back to his apartment - and jumped out the window again.

Somebody called an ambulance. Several people stood on guard around him in the parking lot - he was conscious, but not very coherent, and had crawled under a parked car. I don't know what happened to him after the ambulance took him away. He never came back.

Maybe a week or two later, the only other woman I remember living there knocked on my door. She'd taken in the kitten, Austin, but found out she was allergic. So she thought, hey! Elizabeth has cats! Would I take in Austin, just until she could find a permanent home for him?

Did I mention that some things never change?

Of course we got attached to him right away, the new guy in my life and I. He was such a cute little kitty. I don't remember at what point we told the neighbor she didn't need to find him another place. That stupid name had to go, though. We called him "Romeo," after the restaurant where we first went out to eat together, and in honor of our new romance. But two-year-old Katie couldn't say the name properly, so she called him "Moe."

It's a strange beginning to a cat's story. I like to think that, on the balance, it worked out pretty well for him. It's just the ending that hurts so much.

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At March 06, 2008 8:24 AM, Anonymous billy joe said...


Knowing the back story really makes all the difference. When I first read "Romeo" I was was like, "Okay, her cat's missing." I felt bad for you because it obviously hurt you, but I didn't feel anything in particular for the situation otherwise. But after reading your story, it really gave me a much deeper understanding of how Romeo fit into your life. It took Romeo from being just another missing cat in my mind to being a lot more than that.

Of course I knew the cat was more than just a missing cat all along, but without knowing the backstory I had no way to really bring that to reality. I don't want to get off the topic here, but I think this illustrates very well a lot of the problems people have. Communication is so important, and people often make judgments and assumptions about other people simply because they have no understanding of one another. All they see is "my cat is missing" and go on their way never really understanding that it's so much more than just a missing cat.

Take care of yourself.


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