I’ve told you about the illegal cat who hates me, right? Our lease says, “No cats,” but that doesn’t stop my roommate from cohabiting with one. And he hates me. “Le Chat Gris” — as I’ve come to call him — does not hesitate to express his disdain, glaring at me over his shoulder as he darts away.
Cats are like teenagers. I think about my parents’ patience when I was a teenage girl. I hated my mom and dad for no reason. I’d glare at them over my shoulder and then vanish into my room, listening to bad music until I was hungry. Then I’d come slinking down the stairs asking, “What’s for dinner?”
When my roommate and I received a note under our door recently, I tore open the envelope. A chorus of voices crowded my mind.
They know we have a cat!
I am not getting my security deposit back!
But no. “We’re installing new smoke detectors in every unit in the building,” the notice read, indicating a date a week away.
I wouldn’t risk an illegal cat. I constantly worry about being discovered, as if we’re housing a fugitive and one day there’s going to be a spotlight in my window and helicopters overhead demanding we come out with our hands up.
For my roommate, it’s worth it. She would charge a SWAT team with the cat in her arms in a final, desperate attempt to keep him.
I showed her the notice. How would we deal with this one? Could she leave the cat with a friend for the day? Could we trust him to be quiet, locked in the bathroom for eight hours? Could we bribe the handyman with cash?
My roommate looked up from the notice, resolution in her eyes. “I know what I must do,” she said. I was leery — this is a woman for whom choosing an outfit is a crisis.
The cat meowed and threw himself on the floor as if acting out a Shakespearean tragedy.
Once, while at the pet shop fetching food for Le Chat Gris on my roommate’s behalf, a man walked in and asked as a joke, “Do you have a spray that makes cats invisible?”
The woman at the register laughed and said, “Yeah, but the problem is we don’t have one to make them reappear.”
My roommate devised a plan. She would simply skip classes for the day and call in sick to work. With no one able to take in the cat and uncertain of how he would behave with the handyman present, she would drive around with him in the car until the installations were complete.
“This is crazy!” I cried.
“What else am I supposed to do?” she said, “He’s my little guy. I’d do anything for him.”
I looked at the cat in her arms. Normally my just looking at him will send Le Chat Gris into a flight of fear, but nestled in her embrace, his eyes were half-closed and I could hear him purring from across the room. She hugged him, and his purring grew louder.
The day of the installation my roommate asked me to help get the cat in the carrier.
“OK, I read about this on Catster. This is how we’re supposed to do this,” I said, grabbing a towel. “We’re supposed to wrap him up like a burrito and put him in butt first.” Just like I’d seen in the instructional video — just one, serene gesture.
As the cat dug his claws into my arm I returned to the thought, “Someone needs to invent invisible cat spray.”
The slashes on my arm began to swell and itch as we contained him on our third attempt. Caged, the cat cried from the pit of his soul — that deep, pitiful, “MEEEROWWW” — a teenager pouting in the backseat on a family cross-country roadtrip. If the neighbors didn’t know we have a cat, they knew now. It became a race against time.
I stepped out into the hall, flattening myself against the wall as I peered to my left and then to my right.
“It’s all clear! GO GO GO!”
My roommate dashed out of the apartment, but just as she approached the elevator door, we heard it rumbling, no doubt bearing a passenger. We froze. We’d have to risk the stairs and their exposure to all our neighbors’ front doors.
I imagined the confrontation: “Is that a cat?” they’d ask. “A cat? What’s a cat?” we’d answer.
But the elevator stopped. We could hear the doors opening on the floor below. I slammed the call button. Our hard breathing reverberated in the carriage.
“Got your car keys ready?”
They jingled as she held them up. The cat continued to meow as if he were dying.
The elevator landed in the lobby. We slipped into the garage. I swung open the car door. She pushed the carrier into the backseat, climbing into the driver’s side.
“You must really love that cat,” I said as my roommate turned the ignition.
Slipping on a pair of shades, she said, “Roxy, may you one day know a love so great you’ll make any sacrifice for it.” Then she rolled up the window.
The morning light swallowed up the car as it rolled out of the garage. I watched for a moment.
I started when I noticed a neighbor taking trash out to the dumpster.
“Was that a cat I heard?” he asked.
The words echoed in my mind as I fumbled for an answer.
“Was that a cat?”
A cat, perhaps, but not just any cat. My roommate’s social anxiety sometimes reduces her to tears.
“Was that a cat?”
And that’s when the cat works his magic. He curls up in her lap and her sobs dissipate, replaced with the sound of loud purring.
“Was that a cat?”
“No, sir. That wasn’t cat. That was the greatest love ever known.”
I didn’t wait for his reaction. I turned on my heel and left, contemplating how one goes about inventing invisibility spray for cats.
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