Aloof

I have a bag of cat treats on the table in our kitchen. We don’t have a cat. It’s for the best, I’m pretty allergic to cats, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing we had one. There are quite a few cats in the neighborhood who use our yard as a passageway to other places. Not as many as there used to be, the neighbors behind us moved and took their quiver of mousers with them.

None of these neighborhood cats like me. I try to befriend them and they all look at me as if I’m the human embodiment of a trip to the vet. It infuriates me more than it should. Good for them for being safe, they don’t know me, maybe I’m trying to trap them. I’m not, really, I just want to give them a cat treat, scratch them on the cheek and then immediately wash my hands so I don’t break out in hives.

When I was a kid we had several cats and I was allergic to all of them. I’m pretty sure we all were, but when it was mentioned that maybe a trip to a doctor was in order, my mother would just say, “We’re just a sneezy family.” The allergist I saw as an adult raised his eyebrows at that comment. “No one is ‘just sneezy’, you are very allergic to cats and dogs and need to be medicated. Oh, and you should never have pets.”

“Not even a fish?” He didn’t respond to that, just kept writing notes in my chart. When you ignore your allergies for a long time the relief that comes from medicating yourself is frightening. It’s like my sneezing switch got flipped off. I was worried everything I was normally trying to expel from my nasal passages was collecting in a bin somewhere in my body. Shouldn’t I be sneezing? Yes, but not as often as I was. I still sneeze sometimes, but I haven’t broken a rib sneezing since I saw my allergy doctor.

On the way home from Derek’s recent half marathon, I saw a cat in a yard and said hello as if it were a human. Normally this would illicit an aloof response. Maybe a paw lick, or a hunkering down onto the ground, or the cat would just run away. Instead this cat, his tag said his name was Henry, ran towards me, his slack belly swinging in the breeze, and dropped to the pavement at my feet. He was wiggling so much it was hard to pet him, but I did. And then he did that thing cats do where they treat your arm like prey. I gave him another pat and left, buoyed by the encounter. Maybe I should start carrying the cat treats on my walks around the neighborhood.

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