My mother was afraid of cats and of dogs and my dad had had a heartbreaking freak puppy accident as a boy, and we were poor and We lived in the project and was allergic.....so pets were limited to a little turtle and some fish that was that.
But When Michael Shepard from the building connected to ours and who was my age and deaf and dumb invited me up to his apartment to see the litter his cat, Meow, had just birthed, I was in heaven. Five or six of them, all squished into meows big white belly and so perfect. We sat in love for a few minutes and then Michael signaled to me to follow. He set up a few empty cans at the far end of the long foyer and he walked back to the cats, scooped one up and proceeded to bowl....to slide the baby boy between the narrow walls and into the stacked cans. He screamed in delight and I stood in shock. He went back into the cats and one by one committed these and other acts of abuse that still haunt me.
I ran home and begged and cried to rescue one and dad tentatively agreed to trying out a kitten... a safe distance from my mothers horrified glare and reach. A few mornings after Sammy came home, me terrified that this divine and pure connection was only a tease , I came out of my room and saw my petaphobic mother bending over sleeping one pound Sammy, delicately stroking his angel soft black and white pelt. I asked.....so u like him? She said of course I like him.
I was so happy. For me. For Sam. For mom.
To me Michael was a fucking monster.
But I had some problems of my own.
my little mind was a place where I ran and reran scenes of violence... vigilantism and street gangs and Kung fu and rnazis are pretty much all I thought about. It was the only way I could find any power. Any control because I was a little boy learning from a family that was unhinged with horrible behaviour and craftily hewn cloaks of sufferring.
And I was a fucked up kid.
And so I found myself hugging him, a little too hard. Dropping him from a little too high. Patting him, a little too swiftly. And other things. I hurt this baby. And I loved him. And so I was confused. And Sammy was confused. He would cuddle with me and purr and sleep with me and seem happy to see me.
Except when he was triggered.....and this happened for years whenever he would see my bare legs.
Less harmful but more savage than the abuse Id delivered, in those moments he was a wild, crazy beast and he'd use all fours to wrap around my calf and bite the shit out of me....he couldn't be removed without scratching deeply into my flesh. I'd cry and my mom would be mad at him and Id feel guilty for bothering her with this thing that was not his fault but mine. I never told her. I've never told anybody.
I used to talk with Sammy as we cuddled. Ask him if he could forgive me. He never said no.
And I quit hurting him...it might have only been a few times....I was 8 or 9....its a blur, but deep soul damage was done.
Sammys long gone but he'll always be my cat.
I got more cats and have been a bit of a crzy cat person, I walked animals for a few years and i have paws tattooed on my dominant arm and I had sons who were born into a home with cats then my first dog around six years ago and then a second dog and I cannot equate any human bond to those I feel (usually immediately ) with animals....with the possible exception of the connections I had with my sons. When they were babies.
Before they had egos.
Before they spoke.
I've carried this around in the darkest locker of my regret. Seperate from and more shameful than..any of my lying or my stealing or cheating or sexual stuff or knocking johnny byrums teeth out or torching my brothers m car....all my failures and all my regrets do not begin to approach the canyon of remorse I feel for hurting this helpless boy.
The other day I lay in bed with Oliver. He a big black lab mutt....really kind and middle aged and affectionate and a little needy...sorta like me. Our eyes were inches apart and I asked him if he knew Sam. If he could tell Sam for me that I was sorry. That that even tho it was wrong I need to be ok now...you know....I need to be happy. He listened more intently than I could ever hope to do for anyone. And I asked Ollie to see if Sammy would forgive me. Oliver took a huge breath as if he relatd to the weight of this matter....as if he too loved Sammy ....he took it ON....he turned his head lay his cheek on the back of my folded hands.
And he exhaled.
And let it go.