I find my cat’s presence very relaxing. He comes in the back door about 17 times a day and the opening and closing of the door is a pleasant diversion. He wants food, or a warm place to curl up, or a bit of company, and I can understand that.
I swirl him up into my arms and am careful to support his back because he is so big. He then sits up with his huge paws on my left arm, which I hold like a bumper-bar for him, and he cranes out over the sink, looking out the kitchen window to see what he can see in the bamboo stand at the bottom of the garden.
I can do a bit of thinking while I’m holding him, telling him what a lovely boy he is. This morning, about lunchtime, he came in and tried to trip me into giving him something to eat by winding himself around my legs. “Oh Chris,” I say. “His name is ‘Baxter’,” says my girlfriend. I swing him up in my arms, with him lying back looking very handsome, his paws in the air.
“Oh Chris …” I say again. Then I launch into my litany, which always grates with her.
“When you were little, I used to hold you like this …” My girlfriend comes in on cue. “He was never very little. He was even big as a kitten.” I am undeterred. “When he was small I used to hold him like this …”
Then Baxter begins to wriggle and I let him down gently, giving him a long stroke.
“See. He’s sick of it already,” she says. “He knows it’s a load of mush.”
Sometimes at night I go out on the front porch when my girlfriend is still watching the television and smoking.
I make little rustling noises with my feet, and in a few moments Baxter will appear, usually from his eyrie on the roof.
He plops down on to the fence, then on to the porch and curls himself around my ankles. I swirl him up into my arms in the dark; and it is then that I can call him Chris.
“Oh Chris. I remember when I used to hold you just like this.”
I remember how my son Chris used to react in mock disgust at this soppiness and wriggle to be let down: and I would let him down gently.
I haven’t seen Chris for many years now. We had a meal at a seafood restaurant. I gave him $50, a book of maps of India and a Swiss Army knife to say bon voyage as he was going off on a six-month holiday. He was nearly 20 then. He came back all right — I have heard — but never got in touch again.
Perhaps it was his way of letting me down gently?
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