Billie the Healer Cat

Can’t get blood from a turnip.  Promising to write every day for an hour at the end of it.  It’s like trying to lie down on a bed of nails and not knowing how.

There are so many emotions in each day. It can feel like an invisible but magnificent success to have gotten through another day of mothering two babies alone.  In each formerly mundane day I am faced with processing emotions like guilt for being on edge, grief for having no warm body inviting me to rest on, envy of the “in tact” nuclear families I see, regret at having not known sooner to demand better treatment… oh gawd, how it goes on.

Through out each day intense sentences, memories or paragraphs come to me.  I’m driving, or engaging my two year old, or nursing my infant and this thought, these perfectly aligned words come and go.  I want to save them and write them down, but I can’t.  There isn’t time.  I want to make sure I get to the keyboard later to recreate the scenery, but I fall asleep when putting the boy down to bed instead, or nod off while rocking the girl and wake up an hour later with a kink in my neck, a baby in my arms and a void that I fill with Life cereal instead of pre-heated paragraphs.  No one wants to read my gripes.  But we all feel this.  These days of exhaustion are universal.  And they will pass and I will be stronger.

I have an amazing cat.  This is not a situation in which I am blinded by bias.  My cat’s awesomeness is universally agreed upon.  She possesses all the best qualities of a cat and then some pretty cool unique qualities usually reserved for dogs.  She seems to love me with a steadfastness and it sometimes buoys me.  Her name is Billie. I named her both for a favorite jazz singer of mine and for my uncle, who passed half a year before I got her.  My then girlfriend talked me into going to get a cat because I talked about it so much.  I was afraid I’d get a cat who’d be a dud – a hide under the bed, bites-your-ankles-and-hisses-as-you-walk-by cat.  I wanted cat that was out of its totally insane kitten phase, but was still close enough to it to be silly and cute and cuddly.

Billie was small and as soon as I saw her face I had to hold her.  And as soon as I had her out of the cage and saw how chill she was I knew she was my kitty.  She has the sweetest doll face and her nose is exactly half dark and half light pink.  I just loved that.  She is wacky all colors calico, mostly grey, black and white but in some areas she has orange too.  She is extra fluffy and never weighs more than nine pounds.  I got her from the Chicago Humane Society for $55.  A week after I brought her home she got an upper respiratory infection and stopped eating so she had to go back for 2 weeks before I could have her again.  When she finally came home for good I had to give her both pills and liquid medicine twice a day for 14 days.  I had to lock us both in the bathroom and basically sit on her to get her to take that stuff.  She had the sniffles for a long time after that.

She used to sit at our back door around 6 PM every night and yowl with volume shocking for something so tiny.  She has sharp, pointed yowls – more like yelps.  Like she’s saying, “Hey! Seriously! Over here!” Very staccato.  I figured she must have been an indoor/outdoor cat with her previous owners.  She was so sweet she had to have been house broken before me and her routine, I imagined, was to be in all day and go out when the owner got home.  I assumed she got lost and picked up, which led to me getting her.  I felt bad having her cooped up and joked to my roommate that I was going to get her some crickets to hunt, so she could exercise properly.

I lived in that apartment for one year.  That year I began taking internet dating seriously.  I was unemployed for longer than a month.  I fell in love with an unresponsive girl and was dumped by her.  I moved into the apartment’s “pantry” so we could get a third room mate and save money.

When I moved out of that place and into my own studio apartment I learned that Billie could be left to her own devices outside and be trusted to come back.  I was really upset the first time she got loose.  I blamed myself, but really it was because I was moving, semi-drunk and she wanted out.

When I was driving to Washington I had Billie in a larger carrier with my other cat, Willow.  Something happened on that drive that caused Willow and Billie to become enemies.  Billie liked Washington.  She had five acres of undeveloped land to roam.  She had a cat door.  She did as she pleased.

Every day I used to take a walk with Salamander and the two dogs.  Billie came with.  She even occasionally enticed Willow to come too.  I’d be walking down our rural one lane neighborhood road with two good dogs, a stroller and  beautiful son, and behind me on the road would be Billie.  Sometimes she trotted right along beside me, other times she was a few yards, or even a couple hundred feet, behind us.  The neighbors and passers-by were enchanted by her behavior.  I felt happy to know she was mine.

When I was driving back to Illinois Billie was on her own again.  Willow disappeared about a year ago after a nasty fight with something that nearly took his eye.  He stuck around  and convalesced and then he took off, preferring more to be wild than have a nightly roof to call his own.  Or maybe the coyotes got him.

Billie has been coming and going as she pleases off and on since I got her.  She disappeared once, for almost two full days.  We had a beautiful reunion just across the road from a back lot and alley way.  I cried I was so happy she’d come back to me.

On the road back to Illinois we experimented with how to care for Billie.  We drove eight hours a day and stayed in  Best Westerns every night.  I was the only driver because my mom doesn’t know how to drive stick shift.  Eventually the simplest route was the one that worked most.  We made one long stop every day to burn energy and stretch and eat lunch.  All the other stops were quicker, in and out, affairs.  At this long stop, I parked somewhere apart from any other crowds, took Billie out of the car, carried her to the area I had scoped out for her and dropped her off.  She’d take care of her business and come back to me.  She still wants to be going on walks with us every day, but we don’t go as often.  It’s harder in the frigid air of Illinois.  I’m looking forward to Spring.

When we were on the road I had known Billie wouldn’t use a leash or a harness.  We bought her one any way.  She wriggled out of it and took off across a parking lot.  I waited and called for her in that special way she knows.  “Billie chick-a-pow” or “Billie chickie-pea”  She’s going to stick with me.  She is, sometimes, a reminder that I know things.  She is a gentle reminder to myself, to be good to me.