Ruby and I are unlikely buddies. I was a dog person growing up. I put up with my wife’s cats because she puts up with me. We’ve had several cats together. We get along. But they have always been Sandy’s cats. And she has always been Theirs. Until Ruby. That cute little grey ball of fur walked into our lives and proceeded to play hide and seek with us. For years. She still does it. Every time I get up she has to walk around the house and duly check all venues of escape are clear. She’s a cat of trauma. Door knocks. Zip. Loud noises. Zoom she’s hunkering down in the basement. Ruby trusts no one. Clearly she trusted someone once and it was the worst mistake of her life. I’ve watched her escape from me daily for years. The way her fat butt scoots to get under the bed is a stitch.
But I know those take cover tactics are trauma that gets in yer nerve endings. Someone taught her that.
Ruby is a bitch. She had scorn and revulsion for the dumb black Joe cat who only wants to play. We get to watch their pathetic failed friendship over and over like an unhappily married couple. She paws and hisses at poor Joe regularly. And she finishes all of Joe’s meals.
She expresses only her impatience at feeding time. She is quite the Karen. “You call this service? I’ve been waiting for hours.” She regularly harasses the staff by which I mean my wife.
Somewhere along the line I became tolerable. She would blink at me from across the room.
Then I discovered she was sleeping in my chair at night.
The one day she clambered up the headrest of my Lazy boy recliner.
And thus our ritual begins.
I act surprised. I say, “Who’s that? Is that Ruby? Hi Ruby.” See what I did there? She snuck up on me. She’s a predator supreme. And believe me, we have no illusions about each other. She’s knows a meat eater when she smells one. I have seen her kills. She’s seen mine.
Then I reach back and gently run my hand down her twitchy back.
Which triggers the next step of the dance. I’ve never named it something clever like the coping dance. The gestures we superstitiously repeat to calm ourselves. The next step is Ruby changes her position head to toe and I have to keep rubbing her spine until she has reversed poles on the fat leather pillow of the Lazy Boy.
Sometimes I rest my arm there until I feel and hear her purring.
Sometimes I say “ She’s a good girl.” Though the truth is more complicated. What I mean is that I am not a punisher. I hope to never be a punisher. Someone who hurts because they were hurt. And those kind of hurts stay with you. Until they are you. Although would I know it if I was one? Stuck in a pattern of abuse.
“She’s a good girl,” I coo.
Nobody wants to hurt you. Nobody is mad. You are safe. I know. I was a good boy.
Sometimes she’ll reward me with a flick of a tail to the side of my face.
Sometimes a love bite if I invade her space.
I can’t say Ruby is my cat. I don’t take to cats like that.
But I think I am hers.