Madeleine Robins

Cats and Boyfriends

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I have been derelict, for which I apologize.  And I really ought to write a post for SarahTolerance.com first, but I’m mulling something over there, after several posts about Regency sewing (!) and here I can talk about less, um, historical things.  Like cats.  And old boyfriends.

I no longer have cats because we’re all allergic to them.  While it was just me, and I was acclimated to my late cat Alexis, this didn’t matter.  Then I got married and had a kid and, sixteen months into the kid’s life, my husband spent a week in the ICU because of allergies and severe asthma, and I had to reevaluate.  Alexis lived the rest of his feline life with a former roommate of mine who bravely took him on when I had to send him away.

I no longer have the boyfriend because, well: married someone else.

But cat and boyfriend intersected in my single days in a, well, singular way.Shortly after I left college I moved to Boston. There, I fell in love. These things happen. At one point when I had been out of town and returned and called my beau to tell him I was home, he answered the phone in a state of great excitement.  “Come over right now!  The Rabbit is having kittens!”  (The Rabbit was, in fact, a small, tidy little cat, named so because she could use her hind paws to killer effect when attacking a mouse or a shoe.)

I hied over, arriving just in time to see the Rabbit give birth to the third of her huge offspring.  It was pretty obvious, from her kittens, that Rabbit had been playing the field: the only unifying trait among the first four kittens was that they were LARGE.   As we were sitting there applauding the Rabbit for her fortitude, she gave a “meeEWp!” and produced, as a sort of afterthought, Kitten #5, a gray tabby male and the runt of the litter.  And this runt took a shine to me even before his eyes opened; whenever I came over to see my boyfriend the runt would climb up my legs (putting tears in my jeans and runs in my stockings) and plump himself into my lap.  He had selected me as his human; who was I to say him nay?

Fast forward about nine months.  It was early December when my boyfriend went to jail.  It wasn’t something sinister; in fact, the whole affair was tragicomic.  He was told there was a warrant out for him, he turned himself in, was convicted and sentenced to a month in jail.  Jail was what he termed the Billerica Home for the Criminally Bewildered, where his hardest task was not walking out the door: security was less than ferocious.  Whenever I could borrow my roommate’s car or get a ride with another of his friends, I went to visit him.  The visiting area was a large room that looked like the lunchroom of a particularly depressing 1960s school: cinderblocks painted institutional green, and institutional green tiles (why that color I don’t know.  I think it’s supposed to be calming, but really it was just nauseous).  There were tables of the sort that have the benches built in to them (again like a lunch room) at which visitors and inmates would sit.  You weren’t allowed to touch the person you were visiting, but there were no barriers.  There was also no privacy: whatever dramas were being enacted around you were unavoidable; it was hard not to watch some of them.

While I was commuting to visit my sweetie in the slammer, Alexis got sick.  Like seriously ill, with Feline Urinary Syndrome.  If he’d been an elderly cat I might have allowed economics to overpower me; but he was only nine months old, and I couldn’t just say Oh Well when the vet told me it would cost close to a thousand dollars to solve the problem.  I gulped hard and dug into my savings, and the vet rebuilt Alexis, removing his exterior hardware and building him “a urethra like a superhighway” so that nothing could block it.

Now, outside work hours, I was pinging between the Billerica Home for the Criminally Bewildered and the vet’s. Finally I got to bring Alexis home and pamper him (when I wasn’t on my way to Billerica…).  In memory this period of anxiety went on for a very long time, but in fact, my beau was only in jail for three weeks (time off for good behavior).  As was my cat.

The beau and I split up a year or so later; Alexis and I were together for another twelve years after his inadvertent sex change.  During that time he broke his nose (hereafter referred to as his nose job), and got lost in the basement of a synagogue when I moved from Boston to NYC (his foray into religious conversion).  I used to tell him that if he asked for contact lenses that as going to be the end of the relationship.  But he never did.  In his own way, Lex knew when he was well off.

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