I think we always remember our first pet as an adult. The animal that you choose on your very own, or, the animal that chooses you. Not the pet your mom or cousin brings home, but the pet you have to dig in the couch for enough money for food and use any means possible to get them fixed...even if it means having your crazy boyfriend's best friend's mom do it on her kitchen table while speaking very loudly on the phone in her native Swiss.
When I asked my friend in Springfield, IL if I could move into her house when I was plotting my escape from New York, she was ecstatic assuring me "It's cheap and easy here". Then she told me the house cat was preggos and picked the closet of the room I moved into as her birthing room. Okay, I thought. That's cool-this is like real country living.
The night the kittens were born I was pretty hung over. I may have just passed out an hour or two before (the Bitch and I were party buddies-you may recall her from my episode called November 11, 2001) because all I remember is that we suddenly had pookoos (as the Bitch called cats) and kitehs. They were all variations of black and brown stiped tabbies and oh. my. god. they were freaking adorable. When I was told I could pick one, I was on top of the world. I could never have a pet in all the places I had ever lived since moving out of my grandpa's house when I was 18 (where I left behind a horse, two cats, and three dogs...heartbreak). There was one time when my friend Kylie left me her "room", her Subaru and her dog Zeke for a semester when she studied abroad in Mexico. That was amazing. Zeke and I were besties, and we did everything together. The last time I saw him, it was years later and he went right up to me. I cried. I loved that dog.
I decided I would let a kitten choose me. Okay, maybe I thought that, or maybe I thought I just couldn't pick because I literally LOVED THEM ALL. ALL the piggies. They mewed with such sweetness, it felt like the world was just a little sweeter having them around.
We were watching a Lakers game and Kobe Bryant was killing it, as usual. I always had to root for the Lakers because my uncle Mike, who was the closest thing to a male role model in my life, loved them. Kobe scored like his billionth point when one of the kittles jumped up on my lap...and passed right out. I thought my heart was going to burst into a million pieces. One had chosen me. So naturally, I named him Kobe. Koobah Kobray for short. Kobra for even shorter.
So then I moved out and moved in with the guy I was seeing for two weeks at the sandwich shop I was working because I was sick of being asleep in the middle of the day between my two jobs and being jerked out my deep sleep as she screamed at her mother on the phone. I hadn't even had sex with this guy (who was a Hobbit and was 6 years younger than me...like he was still 19). I brought Kobe.
Moving in with a guy in his tiny one bedroom apartment when you barely know each other is not advisable. Oh sure, you are thinking, everybody knows that. But I was desperate to get out of The Bitch's house and he was the only other friend I had in town. It was terrifying. He complained about my cat, and I actually tossed Kobe hard enough that I was convinced I broke his wrist for months after. See, I have some major daddy issues. Living with guys always brings this out in me. No matter how old I was-from 12 to 40, the worst of my insecurities come rushing out like a random water fall from an otherwise calm desolate landscape. It isn't pretty and it is no fun for the guy or me (ask all 5 of them, rest their souls most are happily married now, despite my attempts at destroying them as men for no reason other than I have absolutely no idea how to control the demons of insecurity their male scents awaken). I hated myself so much after I tossed Kobe. I sat alone writing feverishly at the tiny kitchen table in our terribly broke ass apartment, chain smoking. I wanted to die. How could I let the Hobbit's few words about being annoyed with Kobe make me act so violently to the kitty I loved so much?
We finally moved out of that tiny, terrible joke of a living space and into a larger one across the hall. It had windows! That was a huge step up. The Hobbit and I were steadily playing shows and being in a band. We'd drink energy drinks and pop Yellow Jackets full of ephedrine. The governor of Illinois banned them pretty near that time, but we enjoyed the spastic adrenaline stimulant and giggled and had awesome sex and lived happily ever after...for at least a few months. Mostly we fought and I was slipping deeper and deeper into a depression that may have lasted 15 years...the jury is still out on whether or not I have finally kicked that terrible affliction of depression...
When we got evicted from the wonderful place that had The Garden, we were forced to move back into the house where Kobe was born. It had been our practice space for most of that time in the basement...and that is where we dwelled.
I projected my shame and sadness on having gone from a beautiful house with a garden to living in a basement onto Kobe. He was an escape artist, so we tried trapping him and our new little rescue, Baby Cat, or Isaac (named after the lead singer of Modest Mouse-a band that was pretty much the reason the Hobbit and I got together in the first place) in the basement.
Baby Cat was amazing-he was so tiny because we found him and his siblings in a box outside in the dumpster behind the sandwich shop. We had to clean his anus and nurse him to health. He was a trouper-he got so strong and spunky and would perch on our shoulders.
The morning I saw Baby Cat in the middle of the busy road that our basement dwelling was located was one of the single most traumatizing moments in my adult life. Sure-I saw some shit as a child. I had an abusive, meth addicted mother, but as an adult, I was rarely in a stressful situation I had not created myself. I came in the bedroom balling my eyes out, and, like the champion the Hobbit was, the guy went out and used a shovel to scoop his favorite kitteh off the black top.
I had always loved the book Where the Red Fern Grows, and the idea of bury a pet under a fern was inevitable. To be living in a place where ferns were growing like crazy in the amazing soil of the Midwest seemed to be the only gift the universe was giving me during those dark times.
Of course, the Hobbit buried him there. For me. For him. For both of us.
Kobe was nowhere to be found. I stayed home from work that day, crying like a boy had just broken up with me and I was 15.
Shortly thereafter, I left Springfield on a Greyhound bus headed for Austin, Boulder, Tucson, and LA. I got on Paxil, and returned to IL a few months later, even though the Hobbit broke up with me in an email. I deserved it. I treated him like shit because I hated myself so much.
I rescued a crazy Calico when I moved back to Springfield and named her Leeloo after Mila Jovovich's character in the 5th Element. That cat hated my fucking guts and lacerated my arms a million times before I finally found another home for her.
All I wanted was another cat to call my own and love on like Kobe. He was such a lover-he slept on a bed with a pitbull (the Hobbit's dog), me, a Hobbit, and a baby cat. He rarely scratched, and was the coolest hunter-we watched him work in conjunction with the pitbull one day from the balcony of the place with the Garden. Together they terrified a squirrel and killed it! It was terrifying and amazing to witness at once.
My friend said the cat she had for over ten years, Lily, was brought to her by the universe because she asked and asked. I did the same after watching Lily for a week.
A week later, I got an email from one of the teachers I taught with at the high school (oh yeah, I got a real job-more on that another time) with a picture of Sam, a tuxedo cat that was being kicked off her friends' farm for being too friendly. I couldn't believe it. I ran up the stairs and into her classroom.
"Can I see him?" Sam was the name of my first goldfish I buried in my backyard when I 11, and Sam was the name of the white cat I had at my grandpa's house.
He was so weird-he was rolling around in the cage like a ferret-I had never seen a cat roll around like that, purring hysterically.
I have had Samcat for 15 years. He's 16, still rolls and purrs like a maniac. I have never tossed him, nor spanked his butt. He is a prince.
But I will never forget Kobe. One time, on a walk, I thought I saw him He looked at me-I called his name. I used to walk him like a dog. I thought the recognition flickered in his eyes. He turned and walked away. All I could think was, yeah, brother, I would walk away from this crazy bitch too.
Luckily, Samcat never has.