As a now no-longer single woman (or as civilised society would lead me to believe), I often find myself thinking about men. It’s something I can’t leave home without considering. Years of being stared down as an adult woman makes me ever so cautious and sometimes confused about whether my lack of eye contact makes me a bad person. It doesn’t. I hope I learn this soon.
Matt and I celebrated his birthday this past Saturday, with lots and lots of intended joy. I am happy he’s alive and especially on his birthday, where I get to make him his (and every other man in this country’s) favourite breakfast: Biscuits and gravy. I throw all my rules about eating flour over flour out the window just to make him happy. (PS: There’s nothing wrong with flour over flour. I am just not a biscuits and gravy person. Biscuits are what I eat with tea and gravy has not even a pinch of flour in it.) It was a nice day. I was ready to call this out best day yet. I called him an a**hole once but that’s only because he took advantage of my going easy on him and passed me thrice on the Go-Kart track. I was only thinking of one man on Saturday.
Much much later, at the end of the day, it happened. The other most important man in life had his heart broken. I would love to make this about me. Find a way to say this loss is the hardest for me. It is hard. So damn hard. But for my father I know it is a lot worse. This is the same man who complains about feeding all the animals in my house (including us) but does it anyway. He says he does it because nobody else will, but I know beneath that rationale there is love. My cat Bidli, the same girl I saved from a harsh season in Bombay and who in turn saved me right back, died on Saturday. I will fall short of words if I remember every moment that led me to believe she was in my life for a reason. She was there to connect me with my family. There was no way I was going to subject her to a plane ride and quarantine when I moved here. They let her stay with them and she became theirs. Most of all, she became my father’s. Jane says it feels like a bad dream. It’s the harsh reality of being an outside cat. There’s no way to keep them in when you live in a house where everybody is welcome. It’s kind of how I ended up on the other side of the planet, I think. She was a good cat. Loved by a great family and “only fed” by the greatest man in my life. She was very spoilt. I am so grateful.
The next day, I had to go to work, fortunate for the opportunity and miserable at the circumstances. I’m not sure of the way people call in sick after a pet dies. I don’t even know if it’s an acceptable excuse. I did what I had to do, getting there much earlier than I needed to be. Usually I consider getting some tea or reading my book in a park close by. Neither of the two felt like the usual so I just sat in the park, watching the early sun wake up streets. There wasn’t much to look at other than the inside of my head. Two men walked past, seeming to come out of nowhere. I smiled but apprehensively. I’ve had men in Washington say the most inappropriate things to me just because I acknowledged their existence while walking by. One of them stopped, and said hello. “Good morning,” I said back, hoping that he doesn’t give me a reason to be pissed off. He smiled, I smiled and the two of them walked to the other side of the park. I was too much in a bubble to notice what they were doing, but they never once sat down. I wasn’t worried. Ten minutes later they seemed to have finished what they were doing and walked past me again. This time, one of the men say bye and told me to have a good day. I will, I thought. I would try to at least. Just when I went back into my shell, the two of them stopped. The older man who hadn’t said anything at that point looked right me and asked: “Are you okay, Miss?” “Yeah, is everything okay,” the first man added. Both of them were concerned, I was convinced. “I’m fine, thank you,” I said. I wasn’t but we say these things as they help us go from one moment to another. Little white lies that only hurt us. I was so happy somebody cared enough to ask and complete strangers at that. “We’re good guys,” the man said before the two of them walked away. For the sake of all of men who identify as men, I am sorry he had to say that. For my sake, I’ll try to be less cynical about their kind.
Bidli would’ve wanted that.
“Kind old ladies assure us that cats are often the best judges of character. A cat will always go to a good man, they say.”