My Ankle

There’s a bone chip in my ankle, just floating in there, about the size of a 5-cent piece. It’s been there for just over 30 years, and it hurts now and again. I’ve lived more of my life with it there than without.

I didn’t even know about it until years after the incident when I turned it playing roller hockey and since I had health insurance through Uni I got it x-rayed and the student doctor was like, “Damn.” Years later, and the Wifeage reckons we need to get in there and fix this constantly nagging problem. The first thing the Orthodoc says upon seeing new x-rays is, “Well, I can certainly see a multitude of sins…”


Summer of 1993 started with a Senior Kegger for his high school. It was bigger and better than my own, so that’s the one I attended, feeling more at home there than in my hometown. These people hadn’t known me my whole life, and somehow liked me better. He introduced me as his “adopted brother” and told me he loved me like a brother. Everything felt good.

Job opportunities for that summer sucked, but the offerings in the “big” city were always going to be better. When he said that his actual brother and stepbrothers were all off with their various other biological roots for the summer, he offered to have me stay with him in that dingy trailer with him and his dad and stepmom. I was elated.

We searched for jobs together and I searched for them separately. We spent precisely one day working at a car detailing place together, and it sucked so mightily that he refused to go back the next day. I went back out of sheer stubbornness, but then quit at the end of that day. It was depressingly awful.

Then I got a job at a bar downtown, famous for their chicken and beer. I worked the kitchen during the day and was their delivery driver for their expanding delivery menu. I was NOT a good deliveryman, frequently running late because of lack of parking and proliferation of one-way streets in the downtown area. The equipment was sub-standard, only a plastic tub with lid, and I frequently spilled the drinks all over the food. By the time I was backing out of the crowded back lot and crunched my way through another employee’s taillight, the owner/bosses wisely decided to stop offering delivery.

But I kept my job. I was good at kitchen stuff and wasn’t a “stoner fuckhead”. A glowing assessment from one of the owners who would have featured beautifully in one of the shouty and dysfunctional kitchens made for a Gordon Ramsay production. Roger terrified me, but softened when he realised this and I’ll always remember him for that.

It felt good having a job, working and making money. I know the hit one’s pride takes when a day passes without being productive in some sense. I don’t know if that’s what was slowly poisoning our friendship, our brotherhood, but living together was also putting a strain on things. Always a quiet one, he spoke to me less and less as the summer wore on.

By the time we were both planning on going back to the mountain valley of our hometown for the weekend, he was making excuses for why we should take separate rigs. After a while, I spared him that and made my own excuses too. I got the message. Even if his family loved me and I was automatically invited, and expected, at all family functions, I noticed that the invites weren’t always getting through to me.

The end of Summer rolled around and I set my sights on wrapping up my life in Montana, saying my goodbyes and preparing to start my new life at the Big University, far away. I don’t know how much that played into his growing resentment of me either, but I certainly wasn’t treated as a brother anymore. I was a tolerated houseguest.

He had said he loved me like family, but like any and all family I ever knew, the best he ever did was tolerate me. I was never truly loved, I was never celebrated, I was only ever tolerated.

I’d quit my job at the tavern so as to just lay around that last week, leaving my options open before I went back home to pack and then head out for the long drive to Texas. Things improved a bit during this time, possibly because we were both bums, him never finding a job that whole summer, but I don’t really know.

What I know is that i never beat him at anything. Ever. Not since we were both in Kindergarten together. We played a lot of Nintendo games growing up together, card games, board games, you name it. He won all the time, and it was really important to him that he won. I knew that, so when I had chances to go for the throat, I always held back and left him to it. He would even gleefully admit sometimes that he’d cheated. Come to think of it, it wasn’t so important that HE won, so much as I didn’t. It was important to him that I didn’t win.

When we were kids, only learning how to legally hunt, “the boys” would gather and share hunting stories, always bragging about large creatures they’d either seen or been a part of hunting down. None of them had ever personally taken down one as big and as impressive as I had one year, and I finally got to have my time in the spotlight. That lasted about a week and a half until one day he smirked and gleefully told me to shut the fuck up because he’d shot something bigger.

He gave little detail and it seemed like nothing more than blind, stupid luck, but I learned to shut my mouth about the deer I was so proud of. A year or so later when we were out stacking bales at his mom’s ranch I asked if we were near where he shot that trophy buck and he admitted that it never happened. When I remarked that I’d seen the antlers and it was, in fact, bigger than mine, he allowed that it was sunbleached and old and the dog had drug it home from the woods one day.

To him, it wasn’t so important that he brag on a trophy buck, it was that I shut the fuck up. He literally told me that, and I never forgot it.

But as our last summer together was ending, I could feel something in me ending too. My attachment to him. The surrogate brother that I’d chased down and adopted, having nearly zero connection to my own, actual brother, the one that never actually wanted me. The one who resented me and my high test scores and attendance at a big, fancy university so far away. I could feel my wings spreading, on my own steam, and I felt like I was done being forced to sit in his shadow. A place I never wanted, but he always insisted on.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm and mild day, and instead of just idly cruising the small town nearby and finding absolutely nothing to do, we pumped air into the basketball and headed to the park to shoot some hoops. I’d always been pretty bad at basketball, but I was somewhat eager to see how I’d fare against him now that I’d decided to disregard my designated status.

We shot around a bit, and I was doing really well. I don’t think I was talking shit, but I’m sure there was at least a bit, and then he challenged me to a game. Not only had I never beat him before, I’d never beaten anyone at one-on-one. I hated the actual playing of basketball, I only liked shooting, but I figured fuck it, and took him up on it.

No win-by-2 or any of those rules, we agreed, first one to 10, pure and simple. I took an early lead 2-1, and he punished me for it, going up 4-2. I’d been playing off him a bit, hoping to work in the shots that I’d been making that gorgeous summer afternoon. It worked, a bit, and I was scoring at will. He was trying every trick that he had, and most eventually worked. He was up by a steady margin, even if I’d close it, and at 7-5 I started to push in. I wasn’t giving up. I wasn’t rolling over. I wanted to fight. I wanted to win.

I’d tied it 8-8 but he’d pulled another move out his ass and hit to make it 9-8. One more basket for him and he’d have won, again. But I wouldn’t quit. I tried a move that he’d done earlier, faking a charge and then pulling back to draw a fade shot, and I sunk it. We were tied 9-9. His ball, he made his move, took his shot, and bricked it out of bounds. My ball.

I dribbled, stooped, and gave him a look. I don’t know how many times in my life I’d ever actually had “Eye of the Tiger” but I’m certain I had it in this moment. I was going to give this my all. I faked left, then dribbled right, then drove. He bit on the fake and was off-balance, and I had a step on him. I pushed and fended him off as I drove the basket, leapt higher than I ever had before, and laid the ball gently into the basket.

Still in mid-air, I began to celebrate before the ball had finished going through, and I felt him shove me. A foul, a deliberate, after the fact, foul. The ball was going in, the game was over, the foul was pure spite and meanness and sour grapes and sore losering.

The shove had sent me off-kilter and when I came back down to the blacktop I awkwardly tried to dodge out of the way of the metal pole of the basketball hoop, and my ankle came down at an angle directly into it. I screamed in pain, hobbled once and went headlong into the grass just off the edge of the court.

He knew something was wrong straightaway, of course, and came rushing to me as I writhed in the grass. I don’t remember clearly, but I thought I heard him saying, “I’m sorry” somewhere in-between the “oh shit”s and “oh fuck”s. I could be wrong though. Always strong as a bull, he hefted me in his arms and carried me across the court, the length of the park, and loaded me into the car, then drove me home and hauled me in and onto the couch.

The trailer was modest, with only the one couch though, so while it was good that I could lay there with my leg along the back of it, packed in ice, getting up was an explosion of pain and I had to move eventually so the family could all circle around and watch TV.

I fashioned a crutch of sorts from a broomstick and learned to sort of hop from room to room, eventually taking some of the offered painkillers from his stepmom and going to bed early. The next day I wrapped the ankle as best I could, gave him a hug, hobbled out to my truck, and drove away.

I would work the pedals, even the clutch, all with my left foot, the entire way back to our hometown. My brother was coming up from college to drive back with me, a gesture of some sort, and I was to live in his apartment for the first year. I couldn’t wait to see him and start my new life, but I did feel that the ankle was somewhat of an important matter.

Dad, as is his way, didn’t necessarily see it as that. He looked it over, chided me for playing basketball so aggressively, ignored my plea of “I was fouled, dad, and it was the winning shot” and eventually wrapped it with an Ace Bandage, telling me to keep it iced and elevated.

Which I did. All through the drive to Texas, all through the moving of my stuff into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment, all through orientation of the roommates and bars while missing orientation of the campus and my classes. I shopped around at the sporting goods store and found an ankle brace with stiffened sides and laces all the way up, completely customising the pressure points, and I wore it pretty much every day for the next six weeks. Even after i got heat rash (it was Texas) and was bitten by fire ants at some point and itched like fucking crazy (it really was Texas).

I was wearing it when I borrowed my brother’s loafers and wore my brand-new red t-shirt and chinos to school just like all the other preppy Aggies and stepped awkwardly off a curb and rolled it, needing to lean against the giant oak on some highly-travelled intersection on campus. Nobody stopped, nobody gave me a second’s glance. I don’t know why that place was like that, it just was. They prided themselves on saying “Howdy” to everybody, yet when I saw a scrawny girl double-strapping her enormous backpack and trip on the uneven bricks outside the bookstore, she flailed and landed with a thud in amongst the hurrying throngs, but not one of them stopped. Not even me. I’d been there long enough by then, I guess. I’d been infected.


So here I am, October 2023, a full 30 years after I fucked up my ankle. After HE fucked up my ankle. After he deliberately roughed me into an injury I would pay for, for the rest of my life. After my father’s neglect failed to pick up on the severity of the injury – at one point I remember him telling me that it was just a sprain and I needed to toughen up a bit. He seemed surprised that I’d handled all the other times I’d sprained said ankle with more grace and was complaining of pain so much this time.

Kind of like the time that his nurse was taking the fibreglass cast off my right arm after a Sophomore-year football injury, and as she ran the saw up the inner part of my forearm, I was wincing in pain. She laughed and told me off for playing it up. I said I wasn’t and that it really did hurt. She showed me that it’s not a circular saw, that the round bit only vibrates back and forth, and that it couldn’t actually hurt me. Then she went back to cutting and I went back to wincing. She didn’t stop again, but I could hear her snorts of disapproval and exasperation with me as I turned my head and grimaced in agony.

When the saw stopped, the cast fell completely off my arm and I heard her exclaim that it shouldn’t have done that. She asked me, ME, almost accusatorily, where the inner sleeve was that’s meant to be underneath the cast. What could I do? What could I say? I didn’t put the fucking thing on there, did I? How the hell can I be held responsible for what is or isn’t there? As I turned my arm over and ran my finger along the singed thin and blistering line down the inside of my arm, I noted that she’d hopped up and left the room, and I didn’t see her again that day.

I’m 49 years old and still somehow to be held responsible for the failure to accurately diagnose a broken ankle, from three decades ago. I wear a brace most days, and I pay for it if I don’t. It hurts now, more than it used to, and some days when my hip is acting up too, I can hardly walk.

So, if I’m being honest, fuck you, you assholes. For always resenting me. For barely tolerating me. For bullying me and ignoring me when I am a being deserving of love. Fuck you for breaking my fucking ankle, and fuck you for ignoring it when I came to you for help. I’m paying for that shit now, in spades, and it’s not fair that you’re around to split the bill.


They’ve never been mine.

Joseph Wedding 1

I got an email from my mother asking me if I’m still at the address I’ve been at for the past NINE years.

She was thoughtful enough to include pictures of the wedding of the “half-brother” that I was never allowed to claim. Pictured on the left (of the three) is the widow of the brother I wasn’t allowed to mourn and wasn’t ever encouraged to reconnect with. Not even when he called my name on his fucking deathbed.

2023 has sucked fucking balls for me having brothers.

I did try, I’ve always tried. But I now realise what folly it ever was to hope that someone who ran out on her youngest (at the time) son multiple times would ever have any insight into how to help build the relationships between he and the sons that she clearly favoured.

The oldest got as much of her as he could, and it was a lot. Far more than I ever got. She never noticed, and is oblivious to the pain I feel when she’d recount stories of him popping in to have her do his laundry or make his favourite meals on off-weekends. Things that I got to do twice.

The youngest got more of her than either of us other two. She was actually there in his life as he grew up from birth. He’s actually the only son she’s ever really had. I’ve never heard from him on his own, and haven’t had contact with him since he was an obnoxious dingdong 7-yo. She’s also oblivious to the pain I might feel about my own childhood as she’d send me emails over the years of his school accomplishments and the events she’d attend there. Averaging an email every fortnight, she rarely missed an opportunity to tell me all about whatever was going on in his life, completely with pictures, even though I have never, ever asked.

One might suggest that I’m having my nose rubbed in it, yet I still, to this day, have no idea what grievous sin i perpetrated other than falling in love with someone on another continent. If there’s something else, or something that I actually did or said, I’d fucking LOVE to know. I really would.

Because otherwise, that’s pretty cold, and fuck that shit.

4th of July, 2005

It feels like the real truth will never be known. But I know what I believe. I believe you were trying to abandon me for a final time.

I’ll never know what it was that you took. Because you’ll never tell me. Maybe because you don’t remember. Maybe you’ve killed the part of your brain that was capable of retaining that knowledge. Murdered the last witness to your crime. Maybe it died of natural causes. A victim of time and the spongy atrophy of an aging mind.

What I do know is that you took something. They confirmed it at the hospital. They then tasked me with searching around your house to find out. The house empty, your partner and her son up north, I felt like both criminal and cop while I dug through your garbage, rifled through your drawers and picked through your medicine cabinet. I found nothing.

Not nothing though. I found some crumpled-up pieces of paper. Your signature yellow lined notepad sheet filled with your even-more-signature calligraphy handwriting. A journal piece, a letter from yourself to yourself, yet discarded. Filled with your own navel-gazing on how I’ve found someone that is to be the centre of my universe, and how much that’s affecting you.

Was it a suicide note? I never found any other journals or your personal writings but then again, I wasn’t looking for them, was I? I was looking for empty pill bottles or popped-out blister packs. Something, anything, that could account for the massive amount of propylene glycol you had in your system. They couldn’t find a meal and the amount of alcohol you had didn’t account for it either. They weren’t toxicologists, but they’d seen enough to know that you’d have to drink about 600 bottles of white wine to get that much PG in your system.

Radiator fluid, or some other household chemical, was the best guess. Though I never found evidence of anything like that. And I looked. If that’s what happened, then you drank it straight from the bottle and politely put it back, then lay down on the back patio and waited to be found.

And I did find you.

You were asleep, or so I thought. The sun was setting on a hot but beautiful Rocky Mountain day. It was shaping up to be a lovely night to view the fireworks from just about anywhere. At first I felt tender, like you’d just tuckered yourself out doing yardwork or something. That would have been quite like you. Though napping wasn’t really your thing.

Then the sun set, and it cooled quite quickly, so I went out to put a blanket on you, ostensibly to look after you but my ulterior motive was to be just noisy enough, just jostly enough, that you’d wake up and we’d have a good laugh at how much you’d sacked out. But you didn’t wake up. I put the blanket on you and went back inside.

But worry became too much. I moved quickly past the point where I worried about the awkwardness of the situation, all anxiety about social pretense fell away and I stomped back out there and tried to wake you. I called your name, louder and louder, and then took you by the shoulders and gently shook you. I got more and more scared with every passing second, my heart starting to beat painfully in my chest.

Then, you woke up. You blinked your eyes in that confused squirrel kind of way that you’ve always had and looked right at me.

“I just wanted to feel better,” you said. Calmly, clearly, simple as.

“Okay,” I’d said, “That’s fine. But it’s getting cold out and–”

“I just wanted to feel better,” you said again. Same tone, same pitch, as if you hadn’t just said it a second before.

“Yeah ma, no probs.” I knew enough to know that when you were woken up you were a bit dumb at first. I figured I just had to ride this out.

“I just wanted to feel better.” You kept saying it. Sometimes you’d blink at me as if I’d just arrived, and you’d say it again. Sometimes you’d appear to be pondering something, then I’d call out “Mom!” and you’d turn and look at me with varying expressions, and you’d say it again.

And again.

I pulled you to your feet and walked you into the house. You walked on your own strength, though I had to guide you, and when I brought you into the living room you were happy enough for me to bring you to the couch. You didn’t need to be told to lay down, but you didn’t stop repeating the phrase.

“I just wanted to feel better.”

I got the pillows situated and I tried to make you comfortable, but you kept flinching and looking at me intensely, repeating the line over and over again. Sometimes your inflection was urgent, sometimes it was regretful, sometimes surprised. Always the same line, verbatim.

I told you that you were freaking me out, and that I was going to call 911. I gave you one last chance to say something different. I think I even said that if you said something different, then I wouldn’t call them. Then I think I said that if you wanted me to call them then you’d say the line again. I’m not sure what I was saying to you at that point, to be honest. I was freaking the fuck out.

The emergency operator wasn’t great, but she wasn’t bad. When they transferred me to the locals, I described what was happening and they said that they’d better get over there quick. I didn’t argue, and I said that I’d unlock the door and wait. I sat on the stairs and looked out the front door, almost afraid to keep being in the same room with you because you kept looking at me with recognition and my heart would leap in the hopes that you were finally in there, only to have my hopes dashed when you’d repeat that same fucking line.

Then my phone rang, and I wondered if it was the 911 people calling me back. But no, my new wife, calling from her morning in Australia. Ringing several hours before our scheduled time because she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong.

I don’t remember what I said to her other than that the emergency people were there and I had to go. She was great, very understanding, and asked that I contact her when I could.

The firefighters came in with a stretcher and didn’t bother talking to you for long before laying it out and getting you onto it. You didn’t seem to recognise them, and were maybe even a little frightened, so you didn’t open your mouth as much as you had when I was there. But when you did, you repeated that same goddam line. When they’d taken you out to the ambulance and were opening the doors, you looked up at one of them pleadingly, then repeated it again.

“I just wanted to feel better!”

Almost as if you thought that somehow you were talking sense, that you were explaining you didn’t need to be hauled away to the Emergency Room. That they shouldn’t pump your stomach and hook your veins to an IV.

I watched them go and followed in my truck, ignoring various traffic laws as I caught up to them. By the time I saw them wheeling you into the ER I couldn’t tell if you were still maddeningly repetitive, and I had to circle around for a place to park.

Time blurs in my memory at this point. Perhaps I went in and waited for some interminable amount of time to be told what was going on. Perhaps I went outside and rang my wife and spoke to her to calm myself down. Perhaps I just paced around. I don’t know.

What I do know is that they took me up to the ICU as soon as you were there, and stuck you in a room that was kind of like a huge aquarium. They must have sedated you because you were asleep when I got there and I met Joe. Quite possibly the greatest nurse in the history of nursing, he was everything I could have ever wanted. He had a rather imposing voice and boomed his name at you when you shifted and looked around with anxiety.

Blessedly, you’d stopped repeating the line, but you weren’t speaking at all now. At some point, you’d nodded at something he’d said and we both got excited that you might be nearing lucidity, but you still never uttered a word. Better than before, but still terrifying.

Joe talked you through how they were going to hook you up to all the tubes and wires and you were compliant, to a point. When he talked you through the process of inserting the catheter, you jerked roughly, trying to sit up. He held you with a firm hand, smoothly commenting that he figured you wouldn’t like that, but you still didn’t speak.

He talked to me with that same smoothness, working with me and bouncing ideas off in our search for what it was that you had done. Neither of us came up with anything but he was an enormous help in what might have happened and what I should be looking for.

When the doctor came in, a person I don’t even remember at all, Joe was noticeably deferential but when I kept speaking up and pointing out things that Joe had thought of, I remember the doctor being kind of a dick about it at first, like Ken Jeong in Knocked Up, but then settling down and agreeing with every single one of Joe’s ideas and points.

When they left, it was like they hadn’t even been, but I let Joe know anyway that he had solid ideas and was fifty times more helpful than the white-coated egotist. He gave me a look and then told me he’d stay with you while I went out for a smoke. I worked my way out to the parking lot and found a pay phone, ringing my wife back and talking with her through it all. She was, of course, amazing.

But for however great Joe was, nothing could have prepared me for that night. Joe was on a long shift and had promised me that he wasn’t going to leave me for long. And I needed him. Every 5 to 15 minutes you’d wake up and thrash, trying to either escape your bed or tear your tubes out of your arms. Joe was there for enough of them that he started just sticking by, hovering either in the hallway or in the room itself.

Then an even bigger emergency pulled him away. Some car accident had helicoptered in and it was an all-hands situation. I was left alone with you and your thrashing, fighting self. Boy, you’re strong too. I had no idea how strong you really were until I was fighting you to keep you from ripping your IV out. You were seriously dehydrated, dangerously so, and those fluids were vital. And boy, you fought.

The cadence was always the same though, almost like your repeated phrase from earlier. Wake up startled, grab for either the covers to get up or the tubes to pull them out. I’d then grab your wrists and hold your flailing arms from doing any damage. You’d fight, pushing and pulling your arms this way and that, sometimes just straight pushing and straining as hard as you could, to the point that I’d use my weight and hold you back.

Then, as quickly as the fit came on, it would go. Your strength would leave your arms and you’d lay back down. Mostly to fall immediately back to sleep, sometimes to simply go limp, staring blankly out the window. Either one of them might precede yet another thrashing fit. Sometimes minutes, sometimes a half hour, but never farther apart than that.

This went on all night. The entire night.

At first, I didn’t want to sleep, knowing I had to stay on top of things, but then I’d just get my hands in ready positions and wait. It was hours until a nurse came back and all they had to say was to tell me about what was going on with the emergency, and that Joe had sent his apologies. When I said to them that you were waking randomly and trying to rip your catheter and IV out and that I was the only thing stopping you from doing it, the nurse looked relieved and even commented the thanks that I was there.

She didn’t offer to help though. They were still so short-staffed that I was on my own. All night.

The only time I started to notice larger and larger gaps between your fits was when the sky started to brighten a bit. By the time I realised you’d gone over an hour without fitting, it was 5am and I fell asleep in the uncomfortable chair by your bed.

At about 8am, the nurse came in and was bustling about, gently waking me so I could clear out of the way of them taking your vitals and emptying your urine bag. They seemed satisfied that the fluids they’d been pumping you full of were flushing through your system. Whatever it was, whatever you’d done to yourself, you were through the worst of it.

I was cautioned that I might never know the full extent of whatever you’d done to your brain. You might have some brain damage, you might have nothing wrong with you at all. Only time, and someone that knew you, would tell.



My brother David was a cat.

Cats, unlike dogs, don’t pursue your affection. They won’t sacrifice their own dignity for your attention, and they will refuse to engage in anything that endangers their ego, pride or public-facing image. And it will always, always, do whatever the fuck it wants.

A cat won’t sully itself for your love. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t want it. A cat will sit by the window sill, on a perch, somewhere removed, yet still present. Does it hide away under a bed? Does it escape and run as far away as possible?

No, it stays nearby, but just out of reach. Aside from food, engagement with you is on its terms, and only on its terms. And if food is involved, if the cat’s very survival is in your hands, well then yes, they’ll engage with you. A cat will harass you, make noise, follow you and be in your face, even giving you loving attention, because they want food. Once they get it, they are ungracious and ungrateful, going back to doing whatever the fuck they want. You haven’t earned their love simply because you control their survival, you’ve only earned engagement.

But you can earn their love. It just takes years, and you’ll only ever know because they haven’t run away. It won’t be something that you feel every day. A cat’s love is something you’ll only know by its proximity to you. If it stays near you and allows you to love it, then you’ve earned your place with them.

A cat cannot change its nature, nor would it ever want to. It is what it is and it doesn’t even have pride in what it is because that would suggest it has built itself into something or gone through some sort of transformative process. No, a cat is the most supreme arrogance. A cat doesn’t change or grow into anything that you’ll be able to quantify. They’ll never be or do anything purely for someone else’s benefit.

A cat is self-serving, self-absorbed, arrogant and removed. But you can love a cat. You can love it with your whole heart, regardless of anything it is, or does or doesn’t do. You can give all your love to a cat and at the end of their too-short lives never really know the depths of their love for you, or if they even did at all.

Loving a cat is more about you than it is about the cat. It says more about the person you are, the heart that you have that you choose to open up and give to this animal that is incapable of giving back equally in return.

Often, there are even multiple households that will love one cat. If that cat shows up at just the right time in any given window sill, sliding glass door, or even front stoop, they’ll receive a greeting and be welcome in some random home. They’ll come when called, no faster or slower than anywhere else, regardless if they’re being called “Bootsie”, “Bonbon”, “Banjo” or “Buttons”. They’ll show no more love or loyalty to their original “owner” than the retired gent two doors down that puts out the expensive tinned food and then goes inside and leaves it the hell alone.

A cat doesn’t want to be around you if you’re too affectionate, smothering it in your love. A cat will seem to want to be around someone who doesn’t want it around at all, finding the random in the crowd that’s allergic, or claims to not be a Cat Person. They sense the challenge, and pursue it. The same as having to earn your place with them, they’ll endeavour to earn favour from someone removed from them. Someone that’s not a push-over. Someone that’s not going to make it easy on them. Someone that doesn’t need them.

Because that’s the easiest for a cat. To not need and to not be needed. Then everything that happens in the relationship is more dignified. The transactional nature of their interactions will be to feed their ego, if not their bellies. They’ll respect you more the more you respect them.

For these people, the cat will appear to have more affection, loyalty, love. But at the end of the day, no matter who you are, or how you are, none of you will ever truly control a cat. It will always do whatever the fuck it wants, serving its own interests first and foremost. And if it appears to be doing something for you, be that a gift of a dead mouse or gentle licks on the back of your hand, it’s ultimately for the benefit of the cat. The gift is so you’ll keep feeding and housing them. They lick your hand because they want you to pet them. They follow you around the house until you feed them. They are always, always, looking out for themselves.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t love you, and it doesn’t mean you’re a fool for loving them. Because while you can’t know what their love truly looks like, you know what your own does. How it feels to love that cat. Even how it feels to share that cat, to know that others are loving it and it might be loving someone else despite the depth and breadth of the love you give.

Loving a cat says more about you than it does the cat. But if something can be said about the cat that all of you loved, it’s that this particular cat seemed to find pretty good people who gave their love. Even if every memory shared is in some way an example of the aloof, removed, self-absorbed nature that is inherent to a cat, the fact that whomever sharing it had such an open heart and so much love to give says a lot.

And it says more about you than it does the cat.