About 14 years ago, my pet parakeet, Elmo, was coming to the end of his life. I’d had him since I was a child, and he’d flown with us from New Jersey to Ohio after my family moved to the Midwest in 2001. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Who gets a parakeet as a pet?” I don’t know… low effort? A little more interesting than a goldfish? But back in 2006, my family was asking a similar question when a small, multi-colored kitten showed up on our porch one afternoon: “Who gets a cat?”
My sister is allergic to dogs & cats, even the hypoallergenic ones, so neither were ever an option for my family. Yet amazingly, she didn’t have any sort of reaction to the little cat who arrived seemingly out of nowhere, covered in shades of black, brown, and caramel. For the first few weeks, we kept offering it plates of deli meat anytime we heard it meowing at our door, but no further action was even discussed as our house’s lease didn’t allow for pets. From the start, her fur reminded me of the multicolored swirl bread we had as kids and once the name left my mouth, it just kind of stuck, just like the cat stuck around our porch for those few weeks. So as the summer slowly began to end and as my mother’s birthday was right around the corner, and because our landlord at the time was nothing short of a righteous asshole, my family started to ask ourselves a different question: “Who wouldn’t take a kitten in off the street?”
And so we did. And we named her Marble.
Soon after bringing her inside, my parakeet, Elmo, flew off to the big birdcage in the sky. At first, I was pissed off like any 12 year old would have been. There were quite a few close calls of a particularly curious cat getting ominously close to a not-so-sturdy birdcage. But as the years rolled on, I — along with the rest of my family — began to realize just how great of a companion something like a cat could be, and Marble quickly became integral to all of us, like the stitching on your favorite jeans, only getting stronger by the day. It was nice to think that as my first pet’s life was coming to an end, the life of the next was just beginning. Maybe it’s just the hopeful romantic in me, but I like to think that Marble found us for a reason.
In trying to recount some of my favorite moments of her, I’m realizing that I was just too young to write many of them to my memory; most are anecdotes or fleeting scenes, like the way she’d jump & flip in the air chasing some flying feather-covered toy, or the rattling sound of her swatting around these small bright orange, bead-filled balls across the carpet, most of which ended up rolling under the couch until one of us decided to hunt them down for her (after she began to look at us like, “Are you gonna’ get that?”) I can’t tell you how many times her wild, goofy behavior made my parents, sister, and me laugh hysterically, almost cathartically, no matter what might have been happening in our daily lives. She was also extremely photogenic, no matter what crazy position she’d contorted herself into.
But my favorite memory of her was the little spot of jet-black fur on the top of her head. It was always just so soft that I could never resist planting a kiss there. After years of this behavior, it began to seem that if she saw me getting close to her, she’d close her eyes and practically lower her head in anticipation. As cheesy as this is, I’d always whisper something like, “You’ll always be my favorite girl,” when I did.
Through multiple houses, through high school & college; through many bad days, through a handful of good ones, too; through such important parts of my life like Speech Coaching and my moving out of my parent’s place; through my traveling last year to my eventual departure to New York this Spring, Marble was always there. Whether she was running around frantically at 2 am or sleeping the day away on a dining room chair; whether she was crying for attention or curled up on someone’s bed looking to be left alone; whether she decided to come out of hibernation and sit on the couch with us or, even occasionally, sit on our lap and chest, she was so much more than ‘just a pet.’
In October, I was back in Ohio for a friend’s wedding and I had some time to visit my parents and Marble. She was getting older, slept more often than anything, and had struggled for years to keep-on weight because of a bad thyroid. I hadn’t seen her in months and, after spending the bulk of 2019 out of the state (and country,) it felt a bit like ‘coming home’ when I got to pick her up and drive her crazy, even if just for a few hours. Before I left again, I gave her another kiss on-top of her forehead and said my usual line, for what felt like potentially the last time. And on Sunday, November 22nd, I told my father over the phone to give her one last kiss on that little black spot for me all the way from Brooklyn.
One thing I’ve learned over the last 18 months and throughout the cacophony of opportunities for self-discovery that 2020 has offered is that, even when you know there are plenty of blank pages left to fill, even when you can feel that there is so much story left to tell, sometimes the ink just runs out. In the midnight hour of that Sunday morning, before the news came in the afternoon, I swear she found me in a dream, showing up out of nowhere as serendipitously as she first arrived to my family, just so I could tell her that she’d always be my favorite girl one more time. Cheesy, I know, I can hear it when I read that line back to myself in my head. But I’d be lying if I didn’t mention it.
Whether I said it out loud or only in my sleep, I’ll never know. Whether I actually dreamed this or it was just an hallucination of my subconscious playing me for a fool, I’ll also never be certain. Just like how sometimes when you’re away from someone or some place for so long, things don’t quite feel as real as they once did. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a ‘crazy cat guy’ or anything like that, especially given my recent fascination with bulldogs (IYKYK.) But Marble was as much a part of our family as any of us, as I’m sure all pet lovers can attest. Even now when I say it out loud it doesn’t necessarily feel real because she was — and always will be — part of our story; old chapters don’t disappear, dried ink doesn’t always fade. It stains you for better or worse, in this case for the better, and leaves its mark wherever it touched you.
There’s no particular way to end a piece like this. I wasn’t even planning on writing it at all. And a few paragraphs on WordPress can’t begin to encompass a life of 14 years (I’m sure I’ll think of a million new things to say the moment I click ‘publish’ anyway.) So all I can offer is that it was lovely knowing there was this little furry creature who would always somehow give us her energy and attention, just so long as we gave it right back to her (along with too many of those Temptations-brand treats.)
I’m glad you chose to tell your story on our pages, Marble. I’ll never forget how soft that little black spot on your head was, what it felt like when you finally let us cuddle and squeeze and bother you. Thanks for all of the double-winks, your lowered head, and even occasionally swatting my own head with your paw if I really started to drive you crazy. It was a privilege to call you a pet & a family member. Until next time.