It all started with a haircut. That’s how I feel, anyway. Stuck in a rut of work, eat, and sleep, I decided I needed a change. Last week after work, eating lunch with Laura, thinking about taking a nap when I got home, I realized I was sick of my hamster wheel. “I think I want to cut my hair. Like, short,” I said as I took a bite of my calzone. Don’t ask me my reasoning, I don’t know what one had to do with the other. But in my head cutting the long locks I’d sported for years made sense. “Ooh, that could be fun,” my ever-supportive friend said with a smile. One hour later I was in the salon pointing at my shoulders. “This short, please.”
Another hour later I walked out of the salon with hair a few inches shorter than where I’d specified. In fact, I had hair to my chin. It felt thick, soft, and swishy. I liked it, I told myself, even though it wasn’t what I’d had in mind. Still, as I approached my car I ignored both my reflection in the window and the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I typically try to avoid doing things impulsively and now I remember why. Finally, back at the apartment I glanced in the mirror—and froze. I look…different, I said to myself. I tried to think of some more optimistic adjectives. All I can think of is that story of Samson and his hair. Who knew all my security was residing in my long locks? Both an interesting and ridiculous theory. So why do I care so much? My roommate, Brooke, every now and then would tell me to step away from my reflection but I couldn’t help but stand and stare. The hair that was with me through college, graduation, and countless other memories in between has been hacked away. If I wanted change, I got it. Thanks to Google and my remedial math skills, I have estimated that it will take almost two years to get my hair as long as it once was. In the meantime, I have a stump for a ponytail. I am a hair gimp.
The night after my hair massacre I got a phone call (seven, in fact) from my parents. I missed every single one of them somehow, but I’m left with a voicemail from my mother. Uncle Donald’s little terrier has had puppies. I am allowed first pick. For a minute, despite a kernel of excitement (puppies!!!), I am really confused. Why are my parents telling me this?
I was “that girl” growing up. The animal crazy one. The one who begged for every little animal that crossed her path. The dramatic rescue became my preferred way of bringing home new members of the family. Cats off the side of the road, puppies abandoned by their mothers…no need to worry, darlings, I will provide you shelter.
Somewhere along the line of caring and paying for my menagerie, my parents got wise. Don’t tell Josie the barn dog just had puppies. Don’t let Josie pet the kitten. Simply say no. And honestly, as I grew older and understood the time and money that animals involved, I learned how to say no myself. After college I congratulated myself with a little black kitten I rescued from a shelter, and I’ve been prepared to be content with just that one little pet ever since. Which brings me back to my parents: Had they lost their minds? They must be getting old. Their memories must be failing. I picked up the phone to check on them, poor old dears. But my phone call confirms: there are puppies…I get first pick…and my parents are saying nothing about the time, commitment, or money involved. Or the fact that I already have a cat. Or that my life isn’t stable right now. They are leaving this up to me. Wait…they are acknowledging I am an adult and can make my own decisions. Somebody get me a chair.
After I recover, I talk to my roommate about the potential puppy. Besides the fact that I already have picked out a (hypothetical) name for my (hypothetical) puppy, I have to pat myself on the back for being so logical about it all. It almost makes up for my hair. Oy, my hair. I put a hand to my mop of hair. It’s triangular in shape. Like a brown yield sign. It occurs to me I look like Lucy from Charlie Brown and the Peanut Gallery. And with that horrible thought, in all my yield-signed glory, I climb into bed, roll over on my side, and pull the covers up to my chin. As I close my eyes, something feels damp on my cheek. One eye opens, confused. I’m upset about the hair, but I’m pretty sure I’ve held back the tears so far. Did I leave wet towels on my bed again? Dang it, I hate it when I do that. Wait a second…I turn and take a little sniff of my sheets.
“WHAT DID YOU DO.”
I am talking to George. That would be that innocent kitten I rescued from a hard life on the streets earlier this summer. That would be the damn cat that just peed on my sheets. After washing my face, I proceed to strip my bed of sheets. George reclines on the floor looking perfectly disinterested in the chaos. As I pull out some clean sheets, I remember the day before my cat peed on the carpet right in front of me. Not only was it right in front of me, it was right in front of the litter box, too. This repeat occasion in a highly difficult-to-ignore location makes me wonder if good ol’ George is trying to tell me something. I turn to Google.
“Cat not using litter box”. Click. “Why is your cat peeing in your personal space? Well, it could be sick, stressed, or something has changed to upset your cat.” Thank you, Sherlock, that was absolutely worthless. “Your cat could be stressed”…My cat is possibly the most pampered animal on the planet. Next. “Your cat could be sick”…considering I just spent $140 on an emergency vet bill not a month earlier, I can’t quite allow myself to digest this possibility. Next. “Cat and change do not get along. You name it- cats hate it.” I allow this to marinate for a minute. A lot has changed in little George’s life. His litter and diet, for instance. That’s an entirely different story (but if you reference Phoebe’s “Smelly Cat” song, you’ll get the jist. It’s not your fault, George). Also, I’ve been working a lot. However, one important thing has not changed—at six months old, it’s time for little Georgie to get neutered. So far, since he’s an indoor cat and hasn’t caused any problems, I’ve been letting him stay in one piece. Hmmm. Maybe tonight was just an accident. While making my bed, I notice on the floor in the corner that George has left another, smellier, more solidified message. Oh, hell naw! It is so over. In that moment I make two snap decisions: 1) There will be no puppy. 2) George is about to become Georgina. Chop, chop.
Monday: At the vet, while signing all the necesary papers, there’s an optional blood test for an extra $50 (whaaaat?) and $30 for a painkiller after they’ve made the big snip (“applied if necessary”). Applied if necessary? Does that mean that sometimes it isn’t necessary? How do they decide? And if it’s decided its not necessary, do I still have to pay? I turn to the vet tech: “So…I’m confused. Are the painkillers necessary?” Both she and a grandma next to me look scandalized. The grandma points a shaky finger at me. “Of course it’s necessary, child.” Chagrined and stared down, I put a checkmark next to all the optional charges. Stupid cat is costing me a fortune. I pick up my altered, high-as-a-kite kitty later that day. Considering everything, and perhaps because of the painkillers, George seems to be taking it like a man adjusting well.
Tuesday: I decide to try to salvage my hair. I make an appointment to go back to the scene of the crime and request some changes. On my way to the hair salon, I miss my turn and consequently need to turn around. I end up pulling into a ridiculously tiny Regions bank parking lot. The lot is also at a ridiculous angle- it slopes at some…ridiculously steep angle. Math was never my forte. As I try to peer up over the hill and pull out onto the street, I cannot see the road beneath me. A loud, grating lurch tells me I’ve just driven over the curb. Oops. I check to see if anyone saw. The coast clear, I back up, readjust, and pull out into traffic correctly like nothing happened. On to the salon.
I step out of the salon with an improved haircut. The length is the same, but the shape is better—as in, less geometrical. I decide I still miss my long hair, but at least I will no longer feel the need to hide my face in shame from old friends and perfect strangers alike. I check out the perimeter of my car. Everything looks fine. Swell.
Wednesday: George pees on my bed again. Some unladylike swearing on my part and a load of laundry follows. Google suggests George is angry about something. Maybe so, but isn’t there another way to clue me in?
Thursday: George pees on my bed in the middle of the night…with me in it. Not. Okay. Some more of Wednesdays reaction again, only amplified because it’s necessary to shower and do laundry at 5 am. It’s unlikely he’s sick because the optional blood work I paid $50 for came up clear.
Friday: Two more peeing episodes. Two more loads of laundry. And my two mattresses are propped against the wall so my cat can’t pee on them. Too little too late because they both have pee stains. Okay, George, I get the point: you’re pissed. Well guess what, so am I. I run to the pet store to buy some pee remover for the mattresses. And some toys, just in case my cat is truly bored and lonely like Google suggests. Which is ridiculous because he has a room full of toys and much of my attention.
What also gets my attention is how my passenger door cracks loudly when I try to open it and place my purchases in the front seat. That does not sound good. I open it again. The hinge side of the door grates against the front panel next to it and pops again. It’s loud. Must have been that blasted curb. Crap.
Saturday: Uneventful. Praise the Lord. I ignore the car door.
Sunday: More pee. More laundry. I am ready to hit something. Instead, I try to open my passenger door. This time it does not open at all. Now I just want to cry. A couple friends suggested I bent the frame, and my heart sank at the thought each time. I wonder what I’ve really done and how much it’s going to cost. Too bad all my money has been going to a cat I might not even be able to keep much longer, thanks to his insistence on turning my bed into a litter box. I call the local Honda dealership and some body shops. Closed. I go back to reliable old Google. Scary things. Considering my dad just helped me out of a rough spot earlier this month, I can’t bring myself to tell him I might need more money and why. I know he will be understanding, but I hate the thought of it. I consider the conversation:
“Dad, I messed up my car door. I pulled out of a parking lot…”
“That’s it. I pulled out of a parking lot.”
Nope. Can’t do it.
I decide to take matters into my own hands…wait, what do I do? I pull out my phone and try calling a few people who might be able to give me some advice or at least some encouragement. No one answers, and I realize no one can really help me anyway. But what if I’m not ready to figure it out myself?
No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk
I say it all started with a haircut, this bad week I’ve had, but I guess it really all started with an attitude. I’ve gone through a lot of emotions in the past seven days or so—I’ve felt sorry for myself, resentful, angry, lonely, hopeful, tired, apathetic…but mostly discontent. I’ve been thinking about what I don’t have, don’t want, or want back. What I never felt was grateful for a car, thankful for my friends, and appreciative for the things I do have. So it was interesting when I realized tonight I try to encourage other people to behave differently. Take Eve:
Every Saturday night, I babysit a sweet little three-year-old girl, Eve. Eve loved my long hair. She used to ask me to take it down and shake it over and over. Then she’d tell me to put it up and shake it down all over again. At night, she’d hang onto a fistful of my hair as she listened to me read her bedtime stories. Throughout the reading, she’d interject around her pacifier with ”Your hair is so long. I love your hair, Josie”. Now, when she sees my short hair she looks somber and looks up at me and says “I like your hair long.” I tell her it will grow. She still holds on to my hair during story time, though, and sometimes interjects my reading with a smile and “Swishy!”
Sometimes Eve spills her milk and breaks down into heart-wrenching tears. “It got my dress, it got my dress. I spilled it. I spilled!” I wipe it up and tell her accidents happen sometimes. I let her pick out a new dress and tell her as I place her wet dress in the laundry, “See? We’ll fix it. All better.”
My hair will grow. My car will get fixed—accidents happen. And I’ll deal with the leaky cat without killing him, somehow. And soon it will all be better. And maybe I’m just getting started.
*A Happy Update*
I was nervous as I drove my faithful car to the Honda service center for an estimate. So imagine my relief when Mr. Estimate-man fixed my car for FREE!! All is well. I bent the fender or something, but the very nice gentleman pulled and pushed on the car here and there for ten or fifteeen minutes…and voila. My door opens and shuts with ease. And it didn’t cost a dime. *lets out a sigh of relief*
Also, the George update: A friend suggested last night that my pee trouble started when I changed to a new kitty litter. Valid point. I went out and bought some new stuff, and today when I returned from work and the car doctor….ta-da!! No pee!! Clean sheets! It’s too soon to tell, I suppose…and it kind of ticks me off my cat is so persnickety that he can’t buck up and use whatever dang litter I supply him…but if he’s not peeing on my sheets…I will buy him his litter of choice. Whatever. That’s a cat for you.