When I was a teenager I used to sit in my room and pull skin off the heels of
my feet. It hurt, and sometimes Id draw blood, but I couldnt stop.
Maybe its like that for my cat. Maybe hes helplessly drawn to eating
fabric. Maybe he wants to see how far he can go, how much of it he can consume
without getting sick; maybe he grosses himself out doing it. Maybe when he does
it he hates himself. |
cant be the taste. I guess he goes for the texture. The chewing experience.
The challenge, maybe. I come home to find toes missing from tights, corners chomped
away from napkins, holes gnawed in sweater sleeves. The vet said she didnt
know why he does it; shed never seen it before. Personally I think its
because I named him Rose and hes not as enlightened as I hoped hed
be. Perhaps he doesnt share my outlook on the ridiculous randomness of male
and female, could be he resents his girlie-girl name and lacking English the only
outlet for his anger is to ensure I will never again wear matching socks. If only
he clawed the furniture to shreds like a normal cat, Id do what regular
people do and wrap the couch in aluminum foil.
since he was a kitten hes hunted down cloth stuffs, starting with bits of
string or some fringe from the area rug under my dining room table, then as he
got older moving on to the big time: washcloths, place mats, a mouthful of denim
from my new black Levis. One day when he was still little and exceedingly
cute I spotted a shoelace hanging from his tiny kitty butthole and unable to stop
myself I pulled, squealing in disgust as it kept coming another six inches, but
by then hed been mine for four weeks and how could I have known it was only
the beginning? How would I have known that Id end up with a ragbag bigger
than my pillow and become resigned to wiping my mouth on cloth napkins like Swiss
cheese? Holier Than Thou, my father called me one night in his angry wild man
yell, because Id seen him drunk-stumble down the front steps and bloody
his chin on the concrete. Id witnessed it all with my big quiet eleven-year
old eyes. Hed have a good laugh now, at my holey predicament, if he werent
The cat will
snack on my underwear but only if theyre clean. He reminds me of Hiram,
my ex-boyfriend, who moved out just after I brought Rose home from the Humane
Society. Hiram had a habit of jerking off into my underwear drawer. I discovered
this when one afternoon I came home to find him asleep on the carpet in front
of my dresser, curled up with a gooey pile of white cotton panties. He was contrite
when I woke him up, so I let it go. After that, whenever he started to act restless
I just left him alone with my underthings and went to the living room and watched
TV. It was okay, though. He never yelled or tried to hit me and he took good care
of my bras and panties. I would have married him if hed asked, but he ended
up joining the Navy and lurking around someplace under the Pacific on a nuclear
submarine. My mom still asks about him.
prefers one hundred percent cotton, but sometimes hell settle for a wool
blend. He shuns polyester, rayon, synthetic silk and the granny square afghan
hand-crocheted by my mother in bright green and orange acrylic yarn that I leave,
hopeful, in plain view. If Ive only just missed catching him in the act
Ill find the gooey kitty saliva he secretes, glistening like Vaseline on
a mitten or a potholder. I imagine it lubricates the cloth, eases the scratchy
journey down his beleaguered feline throat.
never been good with animals, not like those people who arrange their lives around
their pets and talk about them like theyre human children. Still, Im
not so callous that Id give him away or something just because hes
got a monkey on his back. Once I tried placing a sacrificial dishtowel in the
hallway. My mother used to leave three beers in the fridge hoping theyd
be enough to appease my father, but just like Dad, who used to hop on over to
the QuickMart for a twelve pack after my mom was asleep, Rose wasnt fooled.
I woke up the next morning to find holes in the bathroom rug.
hed vomit it all up, a pile of multicolored goo mixed with cat food. I too
was throwing up a lot then, but Roses looked and smelled nothing like my
own vomit, which was acidic and colorless, being mostly white wine.
night about six months ago I was in the Laundromat, folding my sheets, which of
course were peppered with silver-dollar sized holes, and this girl with blue eyes
and a tattoo around her belly button watched me and said, "I know a good
home remedy for that moth problem." She was cute, so I brought her home and
we fucked on the floor in front of my couch. She renamed the cat Romeo and made
me herbal tea and the three of us curled up on the rug and watched a movie about
an orphaned talking mouse that is given a home by a family of humans. I think
the movie disturbed Romeo because the next morning I woke up to another textile
casualty. My pillowcase, still slimy with spit and a jagged corner gone. I guess
the wine had me sleeping so soundly I didnt hear the moist gnashing of his
teeth practically an inch from my ear.
tattoo girl, Julie, moved in a little while later so I started staying home nights.
I still bought a bottle of wine every evening but Julie just lay on the couch
drinking her tea and I could feel her eyes on me when Id pour my third glass,
or fourth. Romeo sat on Julies chest and watched me, too. I started to feel
self-conscious about it and asked myself how bad it would suck to try life without
the wine, just for a while. So I did, and for the first few weeks it was incredibly
awful, more awful than anything Ive known, but I do okay as long as I keep
going to meetings. Julie turned out to be sweet, and she doesnt care about
my underwear unless its on my body.
put the natural fabrics on the top shelf of our closet and bought polyester-blend
sheets and paper napkins. It's been forty-four days since Romeo's chewed anything.
Sometimes, late at night when I'm up, wondering if the sound of my car starting
will wake Julie or if she'd smell the wine on my breath when I climb back into
bed, he and I pace the apartment together. He likes her a lot, he really does,
maybe he even loves her. But lately I'm getting the sense he misses our old life.