Penelope waits

Penelope waits

“She’s very funky and puts out weird vibes, but she’s a sweet girl when you actually pet or interact with her.”

I love it when my coworkers write about me on the internet.

I jest. The observation above was, of course, not about me. When my coworkers talk about me, they need adverbs, dioramas, and Mod Podge.

But you can’t blame me for feeling sensitive. After all, they are talking about Penelope, the cat who is very me.

Penelope is very you, too.

Penelope is every honest animal who ever waited for a ship to return.

At fifteen, she has already seen the sea. She has welcomed good news and happy faces. She has been rewarded for her patience with kisses and stories. Odysseus already came home, and Penelope danced like a new bride. Her ship came in.

And then it left.

On the far shore of “a certain age,” Penelope should have been secure. But continents can shift without any of our permission. A dowager cat was suddenly drifting on an island with no umbrella drinks or ukuleles. Penelope’s beloved adopter had to make a far journey, by no fault of his own. He would not return.

Penelope waits for her ship to return.

We do our part at Tabby’s Place.

We greeted the queen like a revelation in whiskers. We have loved her as though we’ve waited all our lives to meet her, which is, of course, true. If Tabby’s Place is anything, it’s an amphitheater of anticipation. It is affection with its shoes on, sitting by the door, living in pure readiness.

It is the sanctuary for hearts who need to remember they are sweet.

Penelope remembers Odysseus. Penelope remembers a simple life where the old, familiar shore knew the shape of her toes. Penelope cannot forget that her ship already came in.

We ferry her salmon nuggets and storybooks. We promise that the harbor is crowded with ships: yachts, and paddleboats, and doting dinghies like us. Love can strike twice, ten times, a thousand times. Love comes even at fifteen, even at sunset. Love is here. Love has not forgotten her.

Penelope knows this. Anyone well-loved is inoculated against despair. She can smell the sea from our landlocked county. She can smell the good intentions beneath the other odors and vapors we emit.

Penelope waits

She hisses and exercises her rights to be funky. She publishes vibes like zines, daily observations of her own tides. Some days, she salts the Community Room with anger. Some days, she RSVPs “regrets” to the entire dizzying dance.

Penelope remembers that days are soft as oysters. She is taking her time stringing them together like pearls. But the strand is growing. The hours of purring and petting are forming little landmasses. The old cat is walking the archipelago of our affections. Her chocolate feet are careful, pensive. She remembers too much to run, splashing rashly. She growls when anyone moves too fast.

She remembers that everything can move so fast.

We remember, too. We are all almost as Penelope as Penelope.

She waits for her ship to return. We tell her in a thousand chanteys that is already has. If love is anything, it is patience.

Note: This week, Penelope’s ship came in, albeit on choppier waters than we would have chosen. Following a diagnosis of bladder cancer, Penelope went home with Jae, one of the most selfless foster parents who ever walked this earth. Penelope’s days ahead will be the sweetest of her life. May they be many. Thank you, extraordinary Jae.

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