I’ve been trying to write and re-work this piece.
Just before we got you, Ben and I got into a fight at Target. We stood there, in the curtain aisle, screaming at each other about which ones to buy, what colors to choose, why is our apartment such a goddamn mess? We had just moved into our first apartment together. Boxes were everywhere, and we were both on edge.
“Let’s just wait,” he said, tired. “The apartment is a mess, there are boxes everywhere.”
“I don’t want to wait that long,” I said. I can tell you that my voice had a slow whine to it.
“Olga, it’s a week.”
“I don’t want to wait.”
“It’s a week.”
Ultimately we waited. Me, anxious the whole time. We spent the week looking at possibilities on the shelter’s website. Ben was sure that one-eyed Ivan was the one. When it was time to go to the shelter, we brought my mom with us.
I don’t like ginger cats, and I barely glanced in your cage. My mom did, though. She kept circling back to you, positive that you were the one.
“If you don’t take him, I will,” she threatened. She already had two cats of her own.
Ben didn’t look at you either. He had his hands full with one-eyed Ivan. Everyone kept coming to talk to Ben to sell him on him. Apparently no one had ever wanted Ivan before.
We didn’t go home with Ivan either. He had a slew of health problems and wasn’t receptive to us. I found an all black cat I adored but he didn’t adore Ben. I kept circling back to two senior aged brothers. I melted at the sight of them holding each other’s paws through their respective cages.
We settled on a two-year-old tabby named Popeye as one of the cats we’d take home and kept an eye out for our second choice. My mom scrutinized each cat and kept pulling me over to you, sure that you were the best of the bunch.
You were named Einstein back then, because your fur stood at all ends. Later I would check your paperwork. You had another name before you arrived at this shelter, it was Jace. Back when you were Jace, you were at another shelter getting neutered. We would have missed you by a few days if we came when I wanted to.
You had two other names before we gave you Jonesy, after the female cat from Alien, one of Ben’s favorite movies. My mom loved it so that settled that.
Ben was sold on you too. We agreed on Popeye and Jonesy.
“I don’t know if they’ll get along,” the assistant said. “We can put them in a room together and see.”
They never did put them in a room together but it didn’t matter. When we arrived home, Popeye followed Jonesy around the apartment, squishing himself into the closet, under the bed, wherever he could get closest to him.
During the past couple of weeks, he stopped sleeping on the bed with us but when I walked out of my bedroom, I turned the hallway corner, he would be sitting there. He would meow.
I walked out of my bedroom and he was sitting near his chair, that he could run under if need be. He meowed repeatedly at me, a succession of hellos that I attributed to hunger. Knowing what I know now, maybe it wasn’t hunger. Maybe it was his way of indicating pain, maybe it was his way of saying good-bye, that he’d be gone before I returned from work.
I brought the cans and the plates out to the cabinet, and he jumped up, as did our female cat. He pushed her a little out of the way. I laughed.
Later, he hopped off the cabinet and nestled onto his favorite chair. Truth be told, all of the four chairs were his favorite. He rarely deviated from that spot. I was across the room and could see him out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was odd that he hadn’t ran to me as soon as he finished breakfast. Most mornings we sat at my computer desk, me with my coffee and him trying to get a sniff.
When I would leave the house in the mornings, I did my good-bye rounds. Sometimes I’d get lucky and he’d meow good-bye back. He would be the only one. I leave for work at 7:38 most mornings to catch a specific train. Nearly twelve hours later, he would be gone.
You have other cats.
When we brought home the carrying case, sans you, our other cats searched for you. Even Atlas, the one that didn’t like you.
I think of all the reasons why your heart gave out and what I could have done to prevent it. What could I have done to keep you alive? My two-year-old ginger midget. We had a lot of nicknames for you: J Bonesy, Ginger Midget.
I’m still searching, by the way.
I continue to find orange tufts of fur around the apartment. I know not all of them are yours. Morgan, after all, is our other ginger. But I can tell which ones are yours based on where you used to sit. On our chairs, on the computer desk. The cat tree. You were the only one to use it. I pick them up as I find them, running my fingers over them.