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Who knows? She could have been climbing Kilimanjaro or floating down the Mekong. Karen Fawcett is always going where she wants to go, and some of those places would not welcome Kitty, the world traveler. So Kitty wound up with me and others—take a number—who would take her in. Kitty is cool—I suppose, with tears in my eyes, I should say was. Pick her up, take her across Paris or halfway across the world, it made no difference. Once she had been in a place, however briefly, she knew where she could eat, poop, and sleep, which is what cats do in any event and in which three areas Kitty always was first among equals.
People everywhere talk about cats as independent—which means indifferent to humans—and Kitty was independent, but always attuned to the people around her, to the point of insistency. I remember she had moved in with me for a couple of weeks while Karen was swimming the Bosporus or wearing a burqa and photographing the Ka’bah, and Jean, a friend, came to visit. Kitty, always out for a new conquest, was interested, and since Jean has a decent amount of padding around him, he looked good to Kitty. I could see her thinking, Man, that’s one cool lap to sleep on. And so she tried. Jean, however, does not like cats, not at all, but he is a gentle man. Whenever Kitty approached him, from his right, never any other direction, he put his arm up to block her and sent her back. But she kept trying. Never succeeded, which may have broken her heart or more likely hurt her vanity, but I am pretty sure she wondered about this dunderhead who had no appreciation of feline desirability and, more specifically, about Kittiness. Her compensation, as always, was to jump up on my lap, purr, offer me her chin to chuck, and take a large bite out of my left wrist. Life is good.
It may sound silly to think of a cat as a glad-hander, a back-slapper, a good old girl, but that’s what Kitty was. Had she been human, she would have been a Rotarian, voting Republican, but no less a volunteer in a soup kitchen, full of liberal guilt and moving up to Vermont so Bernie Sanders, a socialist, could be her senator. It was hard to keep up with her. Where I am always shy, she was always brash. She embarrassed me, making up to total strangers, asking for the sale, their vote, the time of day, some spare change. Why not?
Kitty knew there was nothing to lose. You don’t like me? Not my problem, bub—yours, period. She understood there were times she had to depend on people. When I put her in a bag and hauled her off to a café for coffee—actually, I always drank wine and she had warm milk which I liked to spike—she figured she wasn’t going to get this airing without me, and she liked the idea of hanging out with total strangers and more or less freaking them out. Unlike visitors in Karen’s place or mine or the apartments of the other cat-sitters who looked after her, Kitty had figured these people were not altogether for real, not worthy of complete respect, but certainly worth messing with. So she did—almost as much as I did.
It’s hard to say more. I grew up with cats, lost them all one way or another—age, accidents, kidnapping—and one or two I still mourn as I mourn Kitty, as I mourn no less the friends, the family, and all the others I have lost through the greed of death. But Kitty, like some others, remains somewhere in me alive, lithe, pretty, and affectionate, and God knows I hope this is how she will always be for me and for Karen and all the other people on whose laps she slept and shed, whose fingers she bit, whose hearts she always manage to coax. I hope, I mean to say, that I will always think of her as alive and, even though most of you who read this never knew her, I hope you will feel and believe the same. So I offer a story I wrote about her last year as a memorial and a reminder—or a prompt—about good Kitty. Here it is if you’d like to see it: Coffee with Kitty. I hope you will—and I hope you will remember her from this story as I do.
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© Joseph Lestrange