I’m allergic to cats. I’m allergic to a lot of stuff: dust, mold, tasty food, even willow trees. I know because once, a doctor poked my back for fifteen minutes and said so. She also told me that I’m allergic to cats, but I already knew that.
I’m allergic to cats, and Rita comes inside to tell me that we have a visitor.
“What sort of visitor?”
At this point I know she’s not talking about the plumbers that were supposed to arrive an hour ago, so I follow her outside to see a black and white cat with long whiskers mewling by our back door.
I’ve spent a lot of my life avoiding certain things, and cats are one of those things. Unlike with dust and mold, I can simply shut my door on this creature and I know that it can’t come in and bother me. Yet, also unlike dust or mold, this cat is cute.
It shivers at us and, this being the onset of a cooler fall, I’m afraid it might freeze to death during the night. Still, the afternoon has only just begun. Perhaps it will go home.
Rita pets the cat along its shiny, clean fur. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Most cats I’ve met are aloof, and don’t want you to know that they enjoy your attention. This one is different; it arches its back into Rita’s hand and closes its eyes, fully relishing the experience.
“How do you know it’s a she?”
Rita explains to me that cats are girls and dogs are boys until proven otherwise. I explain to her that she can’t let it inside because it’ll get its hair everywhere. Hopefully it will go home before dark.
I wish I could tell the dust and the mold to go home, too, but their home is my home, and to be fair, they were both here before me. I live in an old house, and it has had nearly a century to fill itself with things my nose doesn’t like.
“What should we call her?” Rita has been begging me for a pet since she moved in this summer. The no pets policy of our apartment has done nothing to stem the tide of animal suggestions, including English bull-dogs, fish, dinosaurs, a baby seal we could keep in the bathtub, and now this cat. She might as well suggest dust mites; I’m allergic to cats.
I’m allergic to cats, and yet I can’t help but love this one. Rita stops petting her and she meows loudly at us. One part of me wants her to shut up, but another wants to feed her and take her inside. There’s no collar around her neck, and we don’t know any of the neighbors.
I live in an old, old world, one that has had plenty of time to create a bunch of things my nose doesn’t like, but looking around me, seeing the maple trees and spruces and ash and everything else that only bring me joy, I’m forced to reconsider. Even though I went to college, and I know what pathetic fallacy is, I can’t help but think that this world has spent its lifetime creating things to help me as well. There many more things that my nose loves, even if I’m too stuffed up to smell them sometimes.
I wouldn’t mind having a cat as long as it lived outside and caught its own food. I tell this to Rita, so she examines the cat’s paws. They’re pink and spongy, clearly the paws of an indoor cat. I wouldn’t have known to look. The cat must be lost, and yet she handled it so well. Instead of panicking, she thoroughly enjoys her new surroundings. She sniffs around our feet and the bushes under the window, unafraid of what she might find.
I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding things. I even avoid allergy medication out of a desire not to be too dependent on things. But I am dependent on things. Food, for one. Mostly food, but also a few minor things like my family, friends, and Rita.
In a vain effort to convince me to keep the cat, Rita suggests we call her Mouser.
“That’s no good. Every third cat is named Mouser.” If only calling her Mouser would make her good at catching mice. We’d all be like the seven dwarves from Snow White. And I would be Sneezy.
Perhaps I don’t want to fix my allergies with medication because it would be admitting that there’s a part of me that needs fixing. I want to feel like the way I was born was the way I was meant to be. People are always telling other people how to fix themselves, but what if people don’t want to be fixed? Every time someone suggests a different form of benadryl to me, I can’t help but take it as an insult. If I were named Sneezy, people wouldn’t offer me solutions; they would just know that sneezing is my way of life.
I squat down and pet the cat, and her fur feels sleek under my palm. “What about Sir Mou?”