I’ve been thinking about Queen‘s heart lately.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not an empty hole, The Abyss, or Vladimir Putin’s soul and inspiration.
But I’m bereft of words when it comes to Queen‘s heart.
What motivates a cat who comes as close as breath, chirping and burbling…only to bite you bloody?
What drives a creature who greets you with elation every morning…the better to scream and snarl and slash your face?
What lies in the heart of a beast who wants to be so near to you that she’ll brook no rivals…but spurns your affections every time?
Could it possibly be love?
I must confess that I have made nothing resembling “progress” with Queen. As you may recall, since Webster’s passing, Queen has commandeered my desk — nay, my entire corner of the Community Room — permitting no other cats near me.
Initially I welcomed my self-proclaimed sidekick. Surely, I thought, God has sent you to me. I’m grieving; you’re complicated. We need each other. We shall love each other and talk about feelings and wear flowers in our hair.
And surely, she gave me scars that I shall bear to the grave.
Still, I’m as thick as a wall, so I continued to spew optimism. It’s a matter of time! I sang. She’ll realize she cannot lose my love! I blundered. She’ll accept some level of affection! I smiled with my teeth. She’ll show me what she needs, and I shall meet her needs!
Finally, I settled for, She’ll stop screaming at me and wrapping all 400 of her teeth around my wrist without warning! At least occasionally! OK, or not!
Queen is rarely more than a foot away from me. She snores and sleeps and snarls happily (two words that only belong together in the case of Queen). She’s getting something out of this relationship, if it can be called that.
When she seems poised to strike, I shoo her away, with guilt enough for ten thousand penitents. Pardon me, Queen, dear lady, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to squirt you. Again. I’m sorry. Dreadfully sorry. Maybe you could let me keep my skin unbroken this week? Maybe? I’m sorry. I am too selfish. God, forgive me…
Queen is never, ever, ever sorry.
So again, I ask: what drives this maddening marvel of a cat?
I’d like to be able to point to some Great Key in Queen’s story that would explain everything — or, better yet, unlock the hard, hungry heart at the heart of her mystery. What archetypes are you acting out? I ask her. What did your father say to you when you were a kitten?
But there are no clues. Queen was owned once, then surrendered to a shelter because “her family didn’t want her any more.” That’s all we know.
What was her crime? I dare not pass judgment on Queen’s former family. Did she bite them bloody? You or I wouldn’t surrender a cat for that, but still, I empathize. It is wearying to love a creature who loves to hurt you…yet craves your presence.
In her seven-plus years at Tabby’s Place, Queen has known only love, patience, and mercy of a supernatural order. There are no fell consequences for her worst behavior. She cannot lose our love.
Yet she cannot seem to fully, truly accept it, either.
Then again, maybe we’re not so different, Queen and you and me.
There are ten thousand times ten thousand ways to hide from love. It’s one thing to want love in the abstract: as Linus from Peanuts famously said, “I love humanity! It’s people I can’t stand.”
But sometime, the closer we get to love — real, sturdy, not-going-anywhere love — the harder we hide.
Love heals and redeems and beautifies everything it touches, yes — but it also exposes and discloses all the things we didn’t know we didn’t want to know about ourselves.
And worth it. So worth it.
So I’ll keep working with Queen, praying for Queen, making space for Queen. This strange dance may be the fullest expression of love she can handle.
We’re all still in process. And from the overflow of the heart, love still speaks.