Oh my goodness. Listen up, kittens.
I have very big news.
I’m pretty sure I’ve found the single most catlike man who ever trod the earth.
With apologies to David Bowie and Mark Twain, a certain waiter in a certain tiny diner may take this pointy-eared crown.
This gentleman — we shall hereafter call him Flavian, although his real name is far cooler than that, if that’s possible, which it is — exudes Cat.
He speaks fluid, flowing Cat. Cat tumbles forth from him in whiskery tendrils that even actual cats acknowledge.
Cats are naturally loath to compare our kind to theirs. Dote on us in our dunderheadedness, certainly; but relate to us, only rarely, and only in such cases as Mr. Rogers, Betty White, and Flavian.
I did not dodder into that diner expecting to meet the shiningest cat-human hybrid on all known or unknown planets. But there he was, ponytailed and languid, not a day under sixty or a minute past magnificent.
If he’d simply moved like boneless liquid, that would be enough to earn any self-respecting cat’s admiration. But there was so much more.
When we sat down, Flavian immediately, repeatedly, unironically addressed both my husband and me as “boss.”
“Can we get two Diet Cokes, please?”
“You got it, boss.”
“Where’s the ladies’ room?”
“Just over there, boss.”
You see the resemblance, right? If there’s one thing every cat learns on the first day of Royal Catademy, it’s to Make The Humans Feel Important.
Make them feel like tiny peach-fuzzed emperors, for every last one of them is terrified he doesn’t know how to rule his own life.
Make them feel like they are the sun, for not a soul among them doesn’t sometimes wonder if she’s a dust ball.
Make them blush at their own beauty, for each ragged, radiant specimen has seasons of seeing Swamp Thing in the mirror.
Make them expect oases of kindness and respect, because they’ll all do their time in the desert. Repeatedly.
Make them believe they are the boss, because they don’t even know where to find the bathroom.
Kittens are especially exquisite at this flavor of Flavian catliness: from the moment they lay their marbled eyes upon you, they erupt in awe and wonder. Even the humblest saint of our species can’t help but feel like Captain President Commodore Chancellor Queen Constable Gorgeouspants in the presence of a single kitten. Doolin and Dublin and Donegal and their kinkittens demonstrated this delectably upon arrival.
But older cats, like older Flavians, know how to season this gift with a special blend from the back kitchen of their years. Like diner fries with a little something extra (I think it’s either oregano or The Mystery Of Mercy Itself, not sure), a cat like Mishush knows how to make hash of your self-directed hesitation.
When Mishush shuttles up your person to perch atop your shoulder and proclaim you Precious, it’s a fine and fearsome thing to watch your wobbles straighten into self-respect and self-affection.
(It’s also a fine thing that Flavian does not shuttle up persons’ persons onto their shoulders, or else we would be writing a very different blog today.)
But making us believe we’re the boss — at least of our own strange, holy little patch of lifeland — is not enough to make a man a cat. And this is where Flavian’s feline finesse exceeds all others.
If there was one phrase the cat-dressed-as-man purred more than any other, it was this: “Easy. Easy.”
He said it when you decreed your dinerly desires for salad and grilled cheese. (“Good. Easy. Easy.”)
He said it when you declined his offer of sweets. (“No dessert. No coffee. Easy. Easy.”).
He said it when you asked where the salad bar was. (“Just there, boss. Easy. Easy.”)
He said it when he overheard your conversation about The Big Lebowski. (“The boss abides. Easy. Easy.”)
I think he said it when he overheard our conversation about intractable geopolitical gridlock. (“Peace in the Middle East. Easy. Easy.”)
He definitely said it to himself when “You Spin Me Round” came on the jukebox. (“Like a record, boss baby. Easy. Easy.”)
He said it for any and no reason.
He said it constantly.
He said it so much, we started to believe that he was right. Maybe everything — even the awful and inexplicable things, the deserts where we get lost and the rubber cheesecakes on the dessert tray and death and despair and stubbed toes and the fact that the Proclaimers are no longer making music but Kid Rock is — could be easy.
You don’t need me to point out that the easing of aches is cats’ core competency. We hire them to be our personal CEOs for precisely this reason. You may be facing the tallest walls and hardest hurts in all your years, frozen with fear when you see your smallness reflected in a glacier of woe. You may have too much to do, too few companions, and next to zero recollection of the days you knew you were a boss.
But out leaps Joshua, languid like Flavian and flavorful like hope itself, and your perspective gets sunny-side-upped to your liking. (Do you like your perspective a little runny in the middle? I’m one of those goobers who actually prefers it “done” to the point of “rubbery.” And if you’re gonna scramble my perspective, please actually burn the edges a little. Burnt perspective with a splash of hot sauce is divine.)
All in spite of your sorry-sighing self, you’ll make a meal of hope when your lap is a platter of tabbitude. And if you order the Big Boss Breakfast (which you should), Elijah and Carrot will come along and comfort all the chaos right out of you.
And all those glaciers and goblins, the to-dos and the tragedies? Easy, easy.
Or at least as close to that as mere humans can come.
But we still have yet to discuss the most delectable feature of Flavian’s catliness.
Let every cat in the vast fellowship of the feline, living and dead, now surround this screen.
Are you ready, kittens of both species?
In response to the question, “can I get my grilled cheese with Provolone?,” Flavian uttered these words.
“We have all cheese.”
We. Have. All. Cheese.
And the cats saw what Flavian had done, and it was good.
You and I may never aspire to such feline heights as Flavian the waiter, but perhaps we can return from time to time to dine at the 24-hour kitchen of wisdom. Someone like Flavian makes you feel like everything is going to be alright, and that’s well within even our humble human powers.
Let’s remind each other who’s the boss: every living creature.
Let’s stare down our sorrows and tow each other’s battered ships back to the easy harbor.
And, for heaven’s sake, let’s make sure we are always well stocked with all cheese.