“Say goodbye to Asa,” I held my cat and faced her towards her best friend of six years.
When splitting up cats that grew up together, you have to make sure the cat staying sees the other cat leave, otherwise they’ll be confused and look for the other cat. Terribly sad, I know, but I learned this watching My Cat From Hell.
When Jane and I got our cats in 2010 we didn’t think about what would happen if we ever had to split them up. “We’ll just have to live together forever,” I told the lady at the cat adoption place when she asked who would get both cats in case we ever lived separately. The cats have moved around quite a bit. They’ve lived at my sister’s house, a couple of my apartments, Jane’s apartment, and then back to mine. But now Jane lives in another state and she could really use the comfort of Asa right now. That dreaded day has finally come.
I packed a small bag, placed Asa in his carrier, and went to LAX.
“I have a cat in here, do I just carry him through the metal detector, or…?”
“Well yeah, you can’t put that thing through the x-ray machine. Hold on to him tight, yesterday some lady’s cat ran off. It sucked.”
I bet it did, sir.
I unzipped the carrier and pulled Asa out. LAX was reasonably busy for a Friday night. I wasn’t flying to Vegas like I assumed the gals wearing heels and fake eyelashes were doing. I wish women would stop getting dressed up to fly. This isn’t the sixties and you’re just making the rest of us look really bad. I squeezed my cat and made it through to the land of worthless duty-free products and sad expensive jewelry that is clearly only purchased by psychopaths.
I bought some water and a bag of sour patch kids, even though a sugar high is the worst thing you could do to yourself right before boarding a plane. I had the whole row to myself, so I sat Asa next to me and rubbed his head. I started watching Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, because I wanted to win the “Saddest Looking Girl On A Plane” award.
After my layover in Indianapolis I flew to Detroit. While waiting for my final flight to Kalamazoo, the guy sitting next to me started eating a Frosty from Wendys. At first I thought, “why the fuck would anyone do that?” then I looked through my bag to find my boarding pass and saw the empty bag of sour patch kids I had for dinner. I felt like a judgmental asshole. Layovers should be the time when anything goes. Maybe that dude was on his third flight? I was on my second, with a fucking cat. I started writing a Craigslist missed connection for that Twix bar I should’ve bought.
On the tiny death machine plane to Kalamazoo there was a kid sitting behind me, who was the most excited person to ever step foot on a plane. He kept yelling, “there’s so many airplanes out there!” I wanted to turn around and say, “yeah it’s an airport you fucking idiot!” but for some reason I didn’t think his mom or the elderly couple sitting within earshot of me would appreciate the joke. Also getting kicked off a plane with a cat in Detroit is just too sad, even for me.
Once in Kalamazoo, my dad picked me up from the airport, which is only a five minute drive to my house. Well, their house. I guess I lived there for 18 years so technically it’s “my” house. The streets of Kalamazoo seem to get narrower and the houses look smaller each time I go back. It never feels the same. The longer I’m away, the more I forget the names of streets. The newly built businesses are jarring and look out of place. I’d prefer Kalamazoo to never change, but there’s only so long Uncle Ernie’s Pancake House can stay in business I suppose.
I’m convinced that my parents are the only people left in America that smoke indoors. Winter is the worst, because the windows stay shut. I didn’t realize how potent the residue was until I moved out and came back. I guess my wish of Kalamazoo never changing is present inside my mom and dad’s house. They did get new carpet, though! I let Asa out of his carrier and gave him some water before driving him over to his new home.
The reason for this trip was to surprise my friend Jane with her cat that she hadn’t seen in almost a year. She’s been through a lot– mental illness, domestic abuse, drugs, jail, basically anything terrible that could happen to a person has happened to her.
I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be upon seeing me. She could just grab the cat and slam the door, or hug me, or tell me how horrible of a friend I’ve been. I had no idea, but I definitely wasn’t expecting a warm welcome.
I parked my parents’ car on the snowy street, walked up to the front door, and before I could knock I heard Jane yelling “holy shit, holy shit!” She opened the door and couldn’t believe I was there. She started crying and hugged me. I felt so much relief. I hadn’t seen her that happy in over two years.
I spent the day with her. I took her grocery shopping (she only bought wine, but I didn’t care). I showed her pictures of my sister’s new baby, which made her cry. The wine had a lot to do with that too. We ate lasagna and played Apples to Apples, her favorite game.
Around 11pm I had to head back to my parents house. She didn’t want me to go, and honestly I didn’t want to go either. We stood outside in the snow and she hugged me, and cried, a lot. I held back my tears because I didn’t want her to get even more emotional. I joked about the next time I come over I would bring a random cat, and then just keep surprising her with cats. She told me how much she appreciated me doing this for her, and those words meant more to me than she will ever know.
I backed out of the driveway and waved goodbye. As soon as she was out of my view I started crying harder than I ever had. I was so happy, and I already missed her. After a horrible few years of seeing Jane in unimaginable pain, and trying to help her with no success, I finally saw the real person I had been friends with for 16 years. I couldn’t have asked for anything else at that moment. She still has a long road ahead of her, but seeing even this small bit of progress gave me so much hope.
Past stories on Jane: