Milestones and Missed Cues

“Happy Birthday, you old son of a bitch.”

The black office chair swivels around to reveal Fat in the power seat, appearing like a Bond villain. Her paws thrust into the air in celebration and unleash a sad supply of multi-coloured confetti that slowly drifts to the ground.

Propping the fridge door open with my elbow, I down some more juice from the carton and shake my head. “Son of a bitch?” I know there are times I look a little androgynous and all, but I identify as a woman and also lack the parts to be classified as a man. I like my ovaries, thanks.

Fat stares at me from the patchwork office space beside the tiny kitchen as she silently processes the tone of my voice.

“You’re right. How callous of me. You’re nobody’s son. From the top, people.” Fat grips the edge of the desk to turn the chair so it faces the wall again. “Take another guzzle from the O.J. The sound tipped me off to your entrance.”

Well, I am still a little thirsty. I slug back some more orange juice. Fat responds to the cue as I wipe my mouth in the crook of my arm.

“Happy Birthday, you old bitch.” Fat shoves off the desk too hard and instead of coming to a graceful stop facing me directly, the chair spins in an entire circle to only give me a fleeting glimpse of the ungraceful feline before she disappears from view. I love that chair.

“Shit.”

I imagine she’s on the opposite side of the faux leather chair sulking at her poor second entrance. Failure on two counts. That’s got to affect your self-esteem. I put the juice back in the fridge and approach the feline’s seat. I grab the backrest and pivot the chair in a semicircle.

“I didn’t even get more confetti for the second go-around.” Fat leans back in defeat until her head rests against the fabric. “I let you down, Boss. This was going to be the highlight of your day.”

“It’s a little early to be calling the best part, isn’t it?”

Fat waves her paw dismissively, “You don’t have friends; this was the biggest acknowledgement you could hope for. I wanted to point out the honour of accumulating another year’s layer of decay and disappointment. Oh hey,” Fat brightens momentarily when she digs between her pockets of grey fur and produces another pawful of paper confetti that she tosses with lackluster, “Congratulations on keeping up with the Crypt Keeper.”

“Uh, thanks?”

Fat scratches her head, clearly perplexed. She zeros in on my face.

“Boss, how old are you?”

I pick up the feline from on the chair and struggle to keep her in my arms. “That’s a rude thing to ask.” Thankfully she doesn’t get aggravated enough to use her claws.

“People only respond like that when they’re super ancient and ashamed of their age.” Fat squirms and twists for another fifteen seconds before entirely giving up and submitting to the housecat treatment.

“I’m not ashamed of my age. I’m thirty and perfectly fine with that.” I pet her head softly and scratch behind her pert ears.

“Thirty, huh? That means you’re about due for your first mid-life crisis.”

“Does that mean I can start a life anew and be as impulsive and crazy as I want?”

Fat slightly purrs, “You bet it does.”

“Fantastic. It’s settled then. I’m going to buy a taco stand.” I smile. That sounds awesome. I could eat a burrito every single day if I wanted. Cool.

“That is a terrible way to unravel into a mental breakdown. You don’t know how to do anything right, do you?”

Pet Names For Humans

“Don’t call me that again.” A sugary sweet smile forces itself across my face. I wave at Boyfriend as a means to excuse him and sent him off to work. The door shuts behind him and I press my spine to the back of it. My head eases backward and clunks against the peephole instead of gently resting against the wood like I was anticipating.

“I’m so happy that I was here to witness that. That’s a much better goodbye than the warm ‘love you’ that most couples half-assedly throw out as they venture off to work. You sure started Boyfriend’s birthday off right.” Fat sits on the green hall table as though it’s a throne. The delight is painted across her face like clown makeup. Bright light from the hallway skews the feline demon’s shadow on the wall. Her tail flicks with evil contentment as she observes my expression. I know my forehead is wrinkled and I am colossally aware that my mouth has formed the classic pursed lips which signal girlfriend discontent.

“Did I say something you didn’t care for,” I know the dramatic pause she takes is just to punctuate the next word, “Honeybear?”

The automatic reaction is for my arms to cross over my chest and deepen my stink face. I look over my shoulder as though the door isn’t there and I’m staring at the foul moment from fifteen seconds previous when Boyfriend called me that wretched name. I don’t, nor have I ever, dabbled in cutesy.

My thumb points in the direction where Boyfriend of fifteen seconds prior almost spoke his last words meant for this earth. “So that actually happened and I didn’t imagine it? Such a shame.” I shake my head. “Pet names? That’s not a prerequisite of a long-term relationship, is it? Because I don’t have enough bile in me to spew all over that situation.”

“I would think that you would be a lot more grateful that somebody out there tolerates you, let alone loves you. I, for one, am tremendously surprised. You were well on your way to becoming a crazy cat lady and he came along and ruined it for me.” She stops, fumbling to rephrase when she realizes she used the wrong word, “ruined it for you.” He grey paw jabs outward to punctuate who she means.

The lock clicks loudly when I turn the bolt in the door. The bad girlfriend ghost can stay in the apartment hallway.

“Why does it bother you so much, anyways?” Fat cocks her head to the side. Were I not accustomed to her, I might have found this cute, however, I’m all too aware that she’s fishing for me to discuss my feelings. That’s generally my no-no zone.

“Clearly, you have never had a pet name you hated.” I scoff as I dig my umbrella out of the closet. It’s typical Vancouver outside, and I’m not willing to forget my bumbershoot two days in a row.

“Really?” Her voice is suddenly sharp and there’s an edge to her voice that’s punctuated by a gentle sarcastic hiss. “You call me Fat and I have no idea what a terrible pet name is like? You’re absolutely right. I don’t understand at all.”

“You’re not my audience. You don’t get it. That’s something else entirely.” Frankly, I forgot that I gave her a real name when I brought her home from the shelter. One botched ovariohysterectomy can change a name in an instant.

“C’mon, boss. You’ve liked pet names in the past, haven’t you?” Fat, displeased with lack of space on her perch, shoves a candle off the side of the table and onto the carpet. Neither of us acknowledge the candle in its new habitat.

I dust off the memory bank and search the archives from a decade prior. I stifle a laugh. I’d long since forgotten one particular pet name I had from a past life. “Hot Pocket. But to my credit, that was an era where I was stoned all the time and hot pockets were the munchie of choice.” Ah, youth. To my cardiovascular system, I do apologize but at I did not and do not regret it.

“Do you think maybe Boyfriend called you Honeybear because you add honey to your tea from that bear-shaped bottle? I noticed something that came up a few times when I was reviewing your case file. I dare suggest, but you might have issues with affection and intimacy, boss.”

My eyes lock in the space directly in front of them. I try to rationalize like Fat tells me. I do like honey in my tea. I’m not a fan of that juvenile bottle though; it’s slightly preposterous. Bears enjoy eating elk too, doesn’t mean there are bottles of elk innards in a bear-shaped bottle out there. At least, God I hope not. I’m getting a little off the tracks, affection issues? Perhaps. I don’t know. I wasn’t aware my dislike of a stupid name could be translated as such. I prop the umbrella against the door as a reminder as I don my thinking face.

I dissect the idea as much as I can on my own, getting frustrated that she made me take a step back and acknowledge my behaviour. Ignorance is my favourite state after California. Was the proper human response to just accept the pet name with reluctant grace and live with it indefinitely? “Nope. Cant’ do it. ‘Honeybear’ lives and dies today, Fat.”

“How nice that you get to veto a pet name. Apparently ‘Fat’ will continue to stick around…”