“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” – C.S. Lewis
“All this time I thought I was the first arrival from my planet.” – Obsidian
“You ain’t. Let’s colonize this place.” – Marcus
For all their fussing and flailing, cats agree on many things: the impermissibility of vegan cheese; the questionable honesty of Tom Petty; the unquestionable need for true friendship.
This may not always be apparent. There are, as you and I keenly know, cats who seem by all accounts to loathe cats. There are cats who
seem to without one tendril of doubt loathe humans. There are surely even cats who loathe salamanders, although I have yet to meet one.
But there are no cats who fall into the center of this particular Venn diagram (that is, loathers of all the living). And, as even the finest flailers of atomic anger learn, loathing can be coaxed off its ledge. Some cats — and here I define “cats” in the style of a 1920s jazz artist — simply must wait a very, very, very long time for the puzzle-piece friends that fit their personal freakiness.
These are the picky cats, the particular cats, the cats who can pluck out a microscopic fleck of fine particulate from everyone’s eyeball, unaware of the ceiling beam in their own orb. I’m looking at Anka. I’m looking at Olive. I’m looking at my own beloved, beyond-reproach, incapable-of-error Bucca. They could have so much more love in their lives, if only they weren’t looking so long and hard into other cats’ faults. (Other cats’ primary fault: being other cats.)
But then there are the lucky cats, large in heart and low on judgment.
They come from shelters and streets and countries many time zones from our own.
They come with their excruciatingly personal stories, bundled close to their chests like handkerchiefs wrapped tightly around their last mouthful of stale bread.
They come without the luxury of expectations.
They come without any reason to imagine that anyone else will ever feel like home.
And they come — to their great and galloping amazement — to find friends who have found the world every inch as strange and savory as they have.
When a Marcus meets a Zeppole, it’s as though the two last speakers of a dead language hear each other’s lonely dialect.
When a Princess Charming sizzles into the scene like a stick of dynamite, everyone blows away in fear…until they all come back, and come to find their interior castles blown open, a little more welcoming to the weirdness of wonder-others.
When trembling oddballs choose to choose each other, it’s a platinum day.
(Tom Petty sang, “Some days are diamonds; some days are rocks.” For those of us who grew up collecting smooth and peculiar rocks and hiding them in Tupperwares until they were too large to lift, this presents a dilemma. Discuss.)
But perhaps the most brilliant streak on such platinum days isn’t the confab of kindred spirits, shimmery though that may be.
Perhaps it’s the humility humming underneath it all.
(HA HA HA I MADE A FUNNY! Humble cats! Cats + humility! Join those forces, and we will once again split the atom!)
Humor me here, fellow creatures of humus (and, I dare to presume, fans of hummus).
Earthy and imperfect, cosmic yet incomplete, cats are confections of strengths and weaknesses.
Like us, each one brings bounties and bruises to the table. No one of them has it all (do not tell them I told you this). They are brave enough to choose friends stronger and stranger than themselves, then to turn around and be the stronger stranger friends in their own ways.
Obsidian’s energy increases Olivia’s speed from its default (“ooze”); Olivia eases Obsidian into unhurried, unworried peace.
Marcus’s caution keeps Zeppole alert-ish; Zep’s debonair zip gives Marcus wings.
In their value, in their worth, in the eyes of love, they are all equal. They are not, however, equivalent, much less interchangeable.
Neither are lonely wonderbeasts like you and me.
Tom Petty sang, “You don’t have to live like a refugee.” But when we’re brave enough to be honest, we know we live like refugees a heckin’ lot of the time. We feel far from home. We worry we’ll not be welcomed. We wonder if we’ll ever touch down on a soft place to land.
But maybe Tom was telling the truth.
Maybe we have it in us to see what’s not in us, and find it in each other.
It’s OK if you don’t understand bitcoin or Billie Eilish or the value of your own soul or how to fold a fitted sheet. Someone else does, and you need them, and they need you.
Maybe we can be catlike enough to hear someone else singing our secret language. We’re not the last ones or the only ones or doomed to be the lonely ones.
Maybe our puzzle pieces can come out and mend gaps and tumble into soft, playful places.
Tom Petty sang, “I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’.” But you and the cats and I — and even dear old Tom, God rest his magical soul — are gonna find sturdy earth beneath our feet, in the form of our freaky, fabulous friends.
May we see them for who they are.
May we be them with all of our hearts.