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Thursday, February 19, 2004
By Paul Ford
Paws to reflect.
I am getting a cat. There are the mice and rats, yes. But there is also the idea of something live that is here with me. It is great to imagine another soft, hair-covered creature, besides myself, sharing this space.
And why not? I love animals: observing, petting, feeding, scolding, holding. I think about animals almost as much as I think about people. Scooping the litterbox and scraping meat out of metal tins is hardly a burden compared so having something soft sit on my feet once every now and then.
I used to have long-distance relationships, and I was gone every other weekend for three or four days, building lovelike structures in the emotional ether. So I couldn't have a pet. I realize now how exciting they were, those relationships, the persistent adventure of going somewhere else, and being someone else. They were usually with upper-class women who were pursuing advanced degrees. Often I would get painfully lonely on these trips, because my life was bound up in the other person, and I am a man who wants lots of friends near me. But in transit I proved: that I was untied, and could have any kind of life I desired, and that I followed my feelings wherever they took me.
Now, my girlfriend lives a 12 minute walk from my door. We ride bikes. We make Valentines from stuff around the house. When I leave town it is to visit family or friends for a weekend, usually down to Philadelphia. I am most emphatically here, by the Gowanus Canal, typing constantly. The map is smaller, and personal change comes slower than the seasons. There is the weight to be lost, and the inner problems to be solved, and the organization to be achieved, and the taxes to be paid. But all of those things must be done here, by myself; I cannot make them vanish in the magic of a long bus ride or plane trip, to put my feet on the ground a different man with different ambitions. They were always waiting for me when I came home, anyway.
So why not a creature with whiskers and prominent ears? Why not that responsibility? This is my life, here. It cannot be escaped, and I do not want to escape—improve, yes. So off I go. Meow.