You Ain’t No Friend of Mine

“Breaking news, Boss. May I have your attention please.”

Fat sits in the apartment entryway like she’s been waiting quite a while for me to arrive home. She doesn’t twitch when my purse flings dangerously close to her face before it rolls to an ungraceful stop in the middle of the hallway.

“Today I have decided that I love Elvis Presley.” She waits for my acknowledgement of her less-than-grand declaration, when none comes, she assumes ignorance on my part. “You know, the King of Rock n’ Roll.”

A groan squeezes its way out of my lungs as I try to both manipulate an object bigger than a door through the doorway and force the uncooperative angle from the hallway to be my friend. I’m sweating; it’s not that glistening, dainty sweat that as a child I believed was the only kind of sweating a lady was capable of. I’m sweating like a lumberjack on an August day. My back cries like it’s thrice its age and my current desire is gaining access to a sledgehammer in order to turn this bulky beast of a thing into a manageable pile of shrapnel.

“It’s like you don’t even hear me. Hello, I’d like a response. Big day over here.” Fat’s paw taps with impatience on the carpet.

Frustrated, I set the giant board down and brush loose strands of hair out of my dewy face. “You’re going to have to move, Fat.” Hands find their way to my hips as I stare down at the unmoving feline.

“And if I refuse?” Green eyes glower in my direction and then quickly flip to a more curious state. “What do you have there?”

“This,” I grab an edge of the imitation antique frame and try again to coax the monstrous and unforgiving board around the corner and through the apartment doorway, “is a ginormous chalk board.” I push, pull, pivot and perspire without progress. Piss. My arms and sanity, demanding a break, refuse another attempt. “And of course I couldn’t fit it in the elevator so I wrestled this beauty up the stairs.” I force a smile and there are a couple hearty thuds as I bang my hand against the frame. “I kind of want to die right now.”

“You look like you could use some help, kid.”

Fat’s voice turns sing-song as she peers at the new arrival. “Awk-ward.”

I turn to address the owner of the voice. Jesse stands with a grocery bag, staring at the hallway obstruction. “So, am I supposed to hurdle over this thing or…”

“I’m trying to move it. Trying being the operative word. Just uh…yeah. Jump it.”

Fat interrupts, her head jutting toward the chalkboard. “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

“Don’t.” I swivel and hold up a warning finger to the feline. I feel very like my mother right now.

“If I try to jump it, I might wreck my junk. Can I help you maneuver this mother of all chalkboards inside?”

“Boss, he still wants a piece,” the feline winks grossly. “Don’t mess it up,” she pauses, “again.”

“Stop. Stop it now. This is a no-interest situation.” Unless less than no-interest is a thing. I sigh, reminiscing about former decisions. Bad call, former self.

While I talk, Fat starts to hum and eventually the tune carries lyrics.

“Wise men say only fools rush in
but I can’t help falling in love with you.”

“Seriously, Fat. I’m going to kill you.”

Jesse sets his grocery bag on the floor. “Miss Fat, always with something to meow about. You know, sometimes I swear you two understand what the other is saying.” He points back and forth between me and Fat as though we can’t figure out who he is talking about. “Match made in heaven, I think.”

“What?” Fat’s head snaps upward to eye the neighbour with contempt. “How dare you, sir?”

I must shoot Jesse some kind of awful scowl too because he holds his hands up defensively. “Easy. Legitly, though. You two are some kind of pair.”

“Legitly isn’t a real word, fool.” Fat and I speak in unison and then regard at each other uncomfortably. It’s always uneasy when she and I are on the same page; we seldom get each other.

“Just trying to help here, girls.”

“Uh, thanks for the offer, Jesse, but I really don’t think the board is going to fit without breaking it. Damn. Guess it’s going back to the store.” I start unwedging the board from the doorway. Pity.

“You sure?” Jesse sees the confirmation on my face and takes it as a cue to grab his groceries and dig keys out of his coat pocket. “Alright, well, it was good running into you. See ya.”

I offer him a lazy wave as I wipe forehead sweat on the sleeve of my sweater.

Fat and I both watch as he saunters the ten feet to his door and disappears inside.

Silence.

I carefully lean the chalkboard against the wall.

And then it starts.

“Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.”

“Shut up, Fat.”

Office Hours: New Skills and Old News

“If you made regular appointments I’d have relevant notes.”

Fat, fur askew from a frenzied search through the unkempt file folder in front of her on the coffee table, shoots me a look of distain. Heavy rain hits the balcony, offering a reprieve from total silence.

“Maybe just catch me up on where you’re at with this mess you call a life.”

I sip my wine, carelessly rolling back on the couch with confidence the cushions will catch me. I don’t know why it took her so long to realize that wine and fake therapy go hand in hand. You never question motive when offered complimentary Malbec.

My right hand moves quickly; learning to sign the alphabet took no time at all. F-A-T. Y-O-U. A-R-E. S-T-U-P-I-D. I laugh to myself and take another plunge into the red wine. W-I-N-E. L-O-V-E. Y-E-S.

“Is your limb possessed?” Fat sees my hand clenched in the‘s’ formation. “A hand that does the devil’s work, it would seem. Beelzebub doesn’t recruit the smart ones, does he? Pity for the underworld.”

My hand changes to let my index finger extend in the direction of the yellow book on my desk. “Check it out. Signing for Dummies!” My other hand swirls the wine in the glass before I swallow it down. “More please.” The empty glass clinks when I set it on the coffee table.

Fat, with toy spectacles perched on her nose, scribbles on one of the random pieces of paper in front of her. I try to read what she writes, but let’s be honest: she’s a cat and cats aren’t known for their penmanship.

“Sign language. Weird choice, but communicating in silence is quite a good decision for you, Boss. People might actually like you if they don’t hear that barnyard sound that you call a voice.” Fat’s pencil crayon drops when she looks up at me with her signature satanic smile. “What else is going on? How’s work?”

“S’good.” I stare at my glass, then at Fat, then my purposeful gaze drifts back to the glass – which should hold wine, but does not. I huff with discontent and flop backward on the couch. My fake doctor is such an ass.

Fat doesn’t show any sign of recognizing my needs. Undeterred, she continues conducting her session. “And you saw your family over the holidays. How are things with them?”

“Cuh-razy.” I see fat lift an eyebrow in question. “That’s right, the broken syllable kind.” My foot lifts, and my toes inch the empty glass toward the feline. She still pays it no attention.

“Broken syllable kind of crazy,” she nods. “It’s nice that some things don’t change. Consistency is good for you, Boss.” Fat picks up a pencil crayon and draws what looks like a check mark on one of the papers by her paws.

“How are your friendships maintaining?”

“Deeeeeelightful.” I see Fat’s head tilt sideways with uncertainty. “Yes, you heard that correctly. Write that down.”

My toes stretch as long as they can until my glass falls over; it rolls lazily until it collides with the feline’s meaty haunches.

Fat looks downward with a slight frown. “Subtlety isn’t your strong suit, is it?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

The feline rolls her eyes emphatically then it’s right back to business. “And how is your neighbour boyfriend doing?”

“Ughhhhhh.” Leave it to the feline to remind me of that. It’s been long enough that I forgot about that weird I-don’t-want-to-see-you-anymore conversation I had to have with him.

“How many ‘h’s is that?” She looks up from her paper, “you know, for posterity’s sake.”

“I don’t know. Nineteen.” I look out the window at the downpour. Belatedly, I react, “And he wasn’t my boyfriend.”

“But you’re still seeing him?”

“Oh no. Nope. We… no thanks. We shine at banal small talk, but actual conversation is quite painful.”

Fat adds more to her nonsense scribbling. Without looking up, she mutters, “Preach on, sister. A conversation with you that has any depth is like seeing a giraffe with two heads.” Fat doesn’t even try to disguise her laughter. “And he lives across the hall. You know I’m a fan of awkward run-ins. Let me know how it goes.”

I feel my face morph into ugly grimace.

“Good catching up with you, Boss.” Fat’s paws sweep all of her papers back into the folder. “Bottle’s under the couch if you still need a refill.”

Picking Up the Pieces While Fat Falls Apart

“When I look in the mirror I look like a cat. Am I actually a middle-aged man?”

There was a shift in Fat’s mood only a moment ago when her purring stopped. I’m lying with my stomach on the carpet, petting her. Fat’s eyes, which were closed with happiness, are now wide-eyed with concern. Her head tilts to the side, impatient that I haven’t answered her question within the half-second of silence that followed her voice.

“I don’t generally spend afternoons brushing and petting middle-aged men on the floor of my living room, Fat.” I scratch the top of her head; she remains nonplussed.

“Plenty of fetishes out there, boss.” The feline’s face sparks with realization. “Oh. Was your sarcasm because you’re an old hag that nobody wants? Sorry. So insensitive of me.”

I sigh, not because I’m exasperated, but because I’m still waiting for her to tire of casting me in the part of an old maid. Her understanding of my self-imposed ban on boyfriends lapses from time to time.

“What makes you question your outward appearance?” My fingers rake through the hair on her back. If she’s been trying to Freaky Friday one of our male neighbours into a body-switching incident, I’d like to know about it.

The corners of the feline’s mouth point downward, pouting. “Because I’m going bald. My hair is coming out in clumps like I’ve been going through chemotherapy.”

With almost precise timing, my hand lifts off her spine with rouge grey hairs clinging to my fingers. Fat’s gaze shifts to my fur-filled hand and I can almost see her ego shatter.

“We can always give you a comb-over.”

Fat hisses.

I blow on my hand and Fat and I both watch the short cat hair scatter into the air like dandelion seeds.

Fat’s chin lifts up and she follows the aerial acts of disconnected pieces of herself. “That was a pretty dumb move, boss.”

Damn hindsight. “I’m going to have to re-vacuum. And dust.”

“Yup.” Fat’s broken ego seems to have been momentarily patched back together. She sits up straighter and she looks around the rearranged living room and newly-hung pictures. “You really got everything here changed around pretty quickly after the ex-boyfriend moved out. Looks like when you’re properly motivated, you actually get things done.”

“Well,” I push up to a kneeling position and rest my hands on my hips, it was a bit of therapy. Needed to reclaim the space as my own. Moving would have been the ideal option, but I’m poor. And lazy.”

“Except even though you needed it, you didn’t ask for help.”

My upper lip curls into an I-didn’t-need-help sneer. No words accompany the face I give the feline, she knows what I’m asking.

“Boss, please. Even though it was hilarious watching you struggle, it took you forever to move that mammoth couch.”

“I did it though, didn’t I?”

“I just worry that the next time you need to do something like that, your hip is going to pop out of its socket. Yes, clearly you can manage on your own, but you should ask for help when you need it.” There’s a brief pause where the feline looks at me with concern, she starts to say something, then stops herself, then second-guesses her decision not to say whatever it is and says it anyways. “You get that I don’t just mean the changes in the apartment physically, right? And when I say ask for help…”

“I got that, Fat. I’ll take that advice like you did when I suggested a comb-over for your bald patches. It’s making you crazy that I haven’t fallen to pieces.”

“Watch yourself, old lady.”

“Mind your baldness, old man.”

The Other Side of the Door

“It’s about damn time you let me in. I’ve been waiting out there for the last forty minutes.”

“I’m aware; you haven’t shut up about it for the last forty minutes. I’m at the point where I want to kill you just to be free of your incessant requests for entry.” I clear my throat. It feels like I’ve been doing shots of glass fragments.

Fat squeezes through the few inches of open doorway before I shut the door behind her. I push the knob in and turn it to the right as the feline turns in a slow circle, taking a survey of the bathroom. Her penetrating gaze settles on my face and her eyes grow large.

“Whoa, boss. You look like shit.”

“Thanks.” I don’t want to look in the mirror. I can say with upmost certainty that I’m red-faced and puffy with mascara in all of the wrong places. I touch a spot on my jaw line. When I pull my fingertips away, they’re painted with black.

“I gotta ask, why here of all places? If I were in the middle of a breakdown, I’d rather have it in the comfort of my bedroom. At least then you can make a blanket fort.”

I resume my post: legs extended across the laminate, spine pressed against the bathroom door, ass uncomfortably numb but manageable if the alternative is leaving my fortress of solitude. Though, I suppose now it’s more the fortress of busybody feline.

“Two reasons, Fat. One,” I hold up an index finger, “It’s the only room in the apartment that I can lock to keep others out. And two,” my middle finger raises, “people seldom follow distraught others into a bathroom; nobody wants to gamble on walking in on another person dropping a deuce.”

Fat’s grey head bobs up and down with comprehension. “Sound logic, boss. Want to tell me why you’re throwing this fit of rage? What happened with Ex-Boyfriend out there?” She tosses her head in the direction of the living room beyond her shoulder.

I can feel the unsettled bile churning in my stomach. When I realize I’m still holding my hand up in the shape of an ironic peace sign, I fume. I clench it into a white-knuckled fist instead.

“He was watching my iPad last night when I was texting with a friend of mine.”

Fat settles her hindquarters on the bath mat and stares at me with inquisition.

I offer the explanation without further prompt. “My iPad is synched to my phone – texts appear on both.”

“I knew that.” Fat touts the obvious signs of pretending to be aware.

“The iCloud afforded Ex-Boyfriend a certain opportunity. I’m pretty sure you can piece together what happened.”

Fat nods, “Sure, yeah. Tale as old as time. Girl gets metaphorically sodomized by technology and in turn, girl’s trust gets metaphorically sodomized by the person who answered the door when opportunity knocked.”

“More or less, yes. Ass-raping all around.” I finally open my clenched fist to see deeply-imbedded nail prints across my palm.

“I get why you’re so hurt by that. You’re a private person…” Her words drift and Fat’s tail flips side-to-side, thudding against the bath mat in thought. “You’re like the Wizard of Oz.”

“That simile requires a little more explanation.” I really hope this isn’t going to be one of her set-ups where I end up getting insulted. Since she didn’t go for the brainless jab of comparing me to the Scarecrow, I’m definitely curious.

Fat rolls her eyes and jumps up onto the lid of the toilet. She stares at me from her perch.

“You only show people what you want them to see. It’s nobody’s business what’s behind the curtain.”

I tap my nose. I hate when she gets it because it makes me all the more frustrated those times when she doesn’t seem to.

“Sometimes you surprise me, Fat. I never think you get it, but you do.”

Fat jumps down from her porcelain podium and crawls onto my lap. My fingers get covered in her shedding coat in seconds, but I don’t care. Surprisingly, she’s giving me exactly what I need right now.

“Of course I get it. You’re my human. I’m here for you, boss.” She purrs and her eyes close as her head lolls to the side. “Just say the word. I’ll scratch the hell out of him for you.”

Boss is Unavailable Today

I’m not entirely certain as to what’s going on.  As usual, boss came home from work and fed me right away – as I’ve trained her to do. There was a heated conversation between her and Ex-Boyfriend. I missed a lot of what was said. Most of their words were drowned out because my food is too crunchy. I need some of that wet stuff… that sounds somewhat erotic as well as delicious. Nevertheless, something happened during mealtime that made boss act like I’ve never seen. She’s currently locked herself in the bathroom. There’s a massive disconnect going on in our home. I need to investigate.

I politely knock on the bathroom door.

“Go away.” Her broken words couldn’t sound worse if they were trying to escape the chaffed area between thunder thighs.

Well that’s certainly strange. She clearly doesn’t know it’s me.

“Boss, it’s Fat.” I figure if I use my slave name she’ll be more apt to let me in. My words become lost within a loud rapping noise. I look up to see Ex-Boyfriend withdraw his knuckles from the bathroom door.

There’s a sniffle from the other side. A gentle thudding sound makes me think she’s sitting on the floor in there, letting the back of her head rest against the door. She’s using herself as a barricade so nobody can get in. Oh, boss. It’s weird that you’re wearing feelings.

Her voice sounds so tired, “Please go away.”

Manners. This is very curious. Ex-Boyfriend hesitates, as though there’s something that he wants to say or do to reverse whatever damage has been done. Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this place?

I shall stand watch until answers are provided for the strange behaviour of this eve. That twat in the bathroom seriously needs some therapy.

My Life in Limbo: A “Documentary”

“Post break-up, day seventeen. The air remains thick with frustration as well as the rotten scent of old garbage that needs to be taken out. Both camps seem to promote an ever-increasing distance while portraying to the outside world that the situation remains okay. The indigenous peoples of the fuck-my-life tribe remain unaware that we’ve managed to interpret their muted language.”

I explode into the apartment, catching only Fat’s last two sentences as her voice travels from somewhere beyond my line of vision. This phony documentary crap needs to stop immediately. My keys scratch the hall table with a forced landing and with the bowling skill of John Goodman, my gym bag travels recklessly down the hallway. It lands at the base of the scratching post and there it shall remain until I kick it nearer the laundry pile.

Fat’s glowing green eyes stare as I make my entrance into the kitchen, but the obese cat persists with her natter. She sits on the counter eyeing Ex-Boyfriend who’s watching a movie on his computer – oblivious to her monotonous droning. It is unclear as to the length of time her voice has granted sound to her observation. If I were to venture a guess, I would suppose she’s been going on for about seventeen days.

“Houseflies become abundant as both camps neglect showering and housework. They’ve silently entered a competition to establish their alpha standing through stench and decay. The local housecat grows increasingly despondent, and considers stooping to the level of using the bathtub as a litter box.”

“Fat, if you so much as joke about pissing in the tub again…”

“Calm down, boss. You know I avoid places where your gross naked body has been.”

This is true. The places she knows about anyhow. I pat her tiny head and then scratch behind her ears. My stomach rumbles, offering a silent threat that it will make my life absolutely miserable unless I fill it with some kind of carbohydrate.

A thunderous purr comes out of the feline, and her eyes close for the next few seconds until I stop petting her. “I’m just tired of all this transition business, boss. I know you are too. Normal life is impossible until he moves into his new place. This isn’t breaking news to you though.” She eyes me knowingly.

Despite my best efforts to withhold my emotions, a heavy sigh propels out of my lungs. I shoot a tired look over to my – for lack of a better word – roommate.

“You guys walk around each other like you’re both wearing inner tubes around your waists. Tell me how you seem to think this is okay.”

The plastic bag of bread crinkles as I take out two pieces and pop them in the toaster.

“We’re not walking around each other, Fat. It’s the situation we’re trying not to disturb. He’s here for another three weeks and we’ve agreed that we’re going to handle this like grownups.”

“And freezing each other out is the way to do that? We’re all living in limbo here. On a side note, I’m going to take it as a compliment that you didn’t wash your hands between petting me and handling food. Thanks.” Fat’s face leans in when I take out the butter dish. Delight warms her eyes. I flick her wet nose and a paw goes protectively to where she got hit.

“Uh… you’re welcome?” It is gross that I hadn’t considered that. No wonder her hair ends up in my food. That’s my epiphany for the day. There’s always at least one.

I peer into the toaster and see the bright orange lines turning my bread light golden brown. The decade-old appliance buzzes with age. “Breakups are weird, Fat. There’s no definitive how-to manual to deal with things. There should be though. I could write it…” My focus briefly turns inward while I consider the idea.

“Sure. Yeah. It could serve a dual purpose: how to survive a break up while simultaneously decorating your house as a pig sty.” Fat’s tone changes from a winning sales pitch to a balking jerk. “Penning a stupid advice book that won’t sell is one way to go.” Fat’s gaze slips back to the butter with longing.

“And the other way to go would be…?” The toast pops and my skeleton almost bounds out of my flesh. Even though it was expected, I’m still surprised.

“Get a limbo stick and make the best of the situation, of course. It would be great footage for my documentary.”

A New Kind Of Alimony

“You know I’m not fond of you waking me through the night.”

I frown at Fat while grabbing a handful of Cap’n Crunch from the box. Fat delicately laps from her water dish, oblivious to my sour puss. I change the song playing on my iPhone then continue packing a lunch for work.

Once Fat’s thirst is quenched, she looks up at me. She licks the residual water from the corners of her mouth and blinks more times than needed.

“I told you I’d let you know when I came up with something. Excuse me for not leaving you hanging.”

“That was two days ago. There’s a statute of limitations on how long you have to deliver on a joke. Waking me up after 1:00 a.m. this morning was beyond unnecessary.” I drop the cereal into a plastic container. Fat’s ears lift at the sound, acutely attuned to the noise similar to her food dish being filled. When she realizes that it’s not the tinny sound of her bowl, Fat’s ears revert with disappointment to their previous state.

“It was a compliment. I like the smell of canned tuna.” Fat smiles genuinely. It hurts me that this is considered a compliment in the feline world. When she hears the second handful of dry cereal hit the Tupperware her face briefly lights with hope before she comes to the same realization as before and her anticipation deflates.

I crouch down in front of a lower cupboard to grab a granola bar and cup of ramen noodles. Fat comes and sits beside me while I contemplate grabbing some corn chips as well.

“So…” She draws out the word and looks at the food in my hands. Fat waits for me to read her mind, but after several seconds of silence, she realizes that’s not going to happen. “You ever going to learn how to feed yourself or is this the kind of nutrition,” she nods obviously at my lunch, “you’ll be enjoying for the rest of your cat-lady days?”

“What are you talking about?” She’s staring right at my work lunch. I don’t understand this feline. I remember there are some baby carrots in the fridge. I’ll grab some of those too.

Fat’s eyes follow me as I stand, toss the noodles and granola bar in my lunch bag and root through the fridge until I find the bag of carrots. I grab one and take a bite.

Maybe she didn’t hear my question. “What’s up, doc?”

Fat shakes her head. “What are you doing? An homage to your childhood?” She waits for me to swallow my food before she continues. “We haven’t really discussed much of what happens now that you’re all alone again.” Fat interrupts when I open my mouth to protest. She holds her paw up to force silence upon my vocal cords. Her voice comes out tired, “Yes, girl power. You don’t need a man. You’re a self-sufficient, independent woman, new age hunter/gatherer and whatever other crock pot clichés you’re packing. I mean no offense, but you don’t know how to cook, boss. I don’t desire to perish in a kitchen fire while watching another attempt.”

The feline looks genuinely concerned, though I’m quite certain it’s more for the threat on her life instead of my abysmal domestic skills.

“Fat, have some faith in me. I’ve got it all figured out.”

I swear I see Fat wince at the thought of me in an apron. I do my best to ignore it. I can’t be offended by the truth.

“As you may recall, the less-recent Ex-Boyfriend, with whom I share Mutt, is a red seal chef.” I grab my phone off the kitchen counter and check the time. Four minutes before I have to leave for work or I’ll miss my bus.

Fat shoots me a look of bitch-please-don’t-travel-down-that-road.

“Hear me out. I pay for all of Mutt’s food, vet bills, prescriptions, what have you. I’ve never asked for any sort of compensation for covering all of that. Therefore, I think that if he wants to continue to share Mutt with me, he should provide me with some sort of…” My still-tired brain reaches for some kind of term that will work, “edible alimony if you will.”

“Bitch, you crazy. Nobody would agree to that.”

I look down at the iPhone still in my grasp and go into my messages. There in plain text, is a response to a text I sent in the not-so-distant past.

“A pan of lasagna will be here on Thursday.” I throw my hands in the air like I’m in a nineties rap video and give Fat the you-can-suck-it face before turning the screen in her direction.

Fat’s eyes widen with surprise as she reads the text. “Not sure that I entirely agree with your methods, but if you can get fed properly through use of extortion I suppose I can’t fault you.” Her eyes squint as she reads something else on the screen. “You sent this at 1:13 a.m.?

“For some reason I was awake at that time.” I glare again at Fat, who, out of habit of my morning routine is planted in front of her food bowl. First I make lunch, then feed the good doctor. “It seemed like it was worth a try. Better to ask for something like this when he’s had time to tip back a few bottles, am I right? Alexander Keith’s got my back.”

The Ol’ Fishin’ Hole

“You seem lighter.”

I lower my book, revealing Fat’s face. It’s difficult resisting the urge to jump with surprise at her unannounced presence. Fat’s front paws hug the edge of the couch as she stands with her back legs on the carpet. She’s close enough that I almost hit her face with the hardcover when I moved. Pity I didn’t; it would have served as a lesson to not sneak up on an old lady. And for a woman at such an advanced age, I don’t know how many beats my heart has left.

I have no idea how long she’s been beside me – my nose has been pressed inside The Night Circus for the first time in a fortnight so I’m taking full advantage of this rare quiet moment. I rest the open book across my stomach and acquiesce to the interruption.

“Thanks. I’ve been going to the gym.” I feel my non-chest puff out with pride and flex my arm muscles just because I can.

With finesse, Fat jumps up beside me.  Somehow, even though she’s much smaller than I am, she hip-checks me until I offer up a half-foot of the couch. The grey beast sprawls across the camel-coloured cushion. The Night Circus takes a tumble when she pushes me aside; I pout not only because I’ve lost my place but because I sense impending conversation with the feline. I knew I couldn’t dodge Fat forever.

“Not what I meant, boss.” She stares at my taut bicep, “You can stop that now.”

My arms deflate, once again, to jelly.

“What did you mean then?” My only compliment of the day and it was worth less than nothing. No matter. When you have a memory that reinvents itself every twelve hours, hurt feelings are generally a non-issue.

Fat shuffles over a bit more to pin my arm down with her body. I would almost swear she knew my next move was to retrieve the novel from the floor.

“It was an observation on how laid back you seem today in comparison to say, any other day as of late.” She stares deeply into my eyes as though she’s trying some form of hypnosis.

With my free hand, I grab another couch pillow and stuff it behind my shoulders so I don’t have to crane my neck so much to see her. “You know what happened, Fat.”

“I am well aware of what happened, yes. You threw away another chance at the house with the white picket fence. I’m sure there’s room for discussion there.”

My arm awkwardly pulls out from beneath her hefty frame and my hands rest behind my head. “What is so desirable about this fucking house with the white picket fence? Maybe what I want is an open-concept loft in a cool neighbourhood. Or a passport and devil-may-care relationship with Visa. Or both.”

“And Boyfriend – I suppose Ex-Boyfriend – was more into the metaphoric real estate in the suburbs. I wondered how that would all play out. If I may pull from the advice of somebody very clever, you two were operating on two very separate energy levels. Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted so long.”

“Ah Fat, the eternal optimist.” My tension may have subsided, but the pain in the ass is ever-present.

“You know I’m joking,” she turns her head to the side and stage whispers to Mutt, asleep in his dog bed, “half joking anyways.”

Her head turns back to me with a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth smile. “What happens now? He clearly hasn’t moved out yet.” Her voice returns to a loud whisper, though I can’t figure out why she’s whispering, “Unless you’re keeping those guitars.”

“I’m not an asshole, Fat.” I eye her with apprehension, “There are logistics to figure out still. He’ll move out when he finds a place. We’re keeping it amicable. I just don’t want the kind of relationship he wants. If I may be cliché, I’m a lone wolf.”

“More of a sport fisherman.” Fat’s hind legs kick me until I roll on my side and relinquish more space for her fat self on the couch.

“Fisherwoman.” There’s a moment of silence where I realize that I don’t actually understand what she means; I’m just inclined to be contrary in spite of comprehension. “Wait, what?”

“Fish in a bowl lead boring lives. You’re all about catch and release and the stories that accompany each one you reel in. You need the fight.” Her paws stretch out a great distance from one another. “Remember the time you caught one that was this big? He was almost too big for the ol’ fishin’ hole.”

I laugh because I’m immature and find dick jokes hilarious and then stop abruptly because my slow brain belatedly realizes what she called my vagina. “Too far, Fat. Too far.”

“I’m just here to let you know I’m here for you.”

“You’re always here for me. You never go away.” I reach over the feline’s body to grab my book off the floor. “Thanks for checking in, Fat. I’m fine.” I start flipping through the pages to find where it was that I left off.

“Yes. Good. You read. I’m just going to sit here and think of other relevant fishing-related anecdotes. Stay tuned for something about a snapper, fishing pole and chum.”

Oh goody for me.

Breakthroughs and Restarts

“Ow! My meniscus!” Fat screams when I slam my cereal bowl on the coffee table, lunge at her like a linebacker and manage to swat her ass before she dives to the safe sea of stained carpet. She sprints across the room to maintain a safe zone between her idiocy and my anger.

“New couch, jerk.” My fingers smooth out the cushion fabric where her talons so carelessly knead only a moment ago.

“My bad.” She yawns and flops on her side in a pile of yellow feathers that she freed from the catnip-stuffed bird.

“You seem quite distraught about it.”

Fat glares, her green eyes glow with a nucular-evil hue. “You damaged my meniscus. Expect a call from my lawyer, lady.”

I grab my phone and do a quick search. “You have no idea what a meniscus is, do you?”

“Don’t be preposterous. Of course I do.” I step closer to her and flip my phone around so she can read the screen. Her eyes quickly scan the information. “In the joints. Huh. Well that’s certainly a surprise.” She lifts a paw to the screen and gently pushes it away, as though the small act will also shove her stupidity away as well. “I deal with the brain, not the body.”

“Don’t really deal with the brain either,” I close the webpage, quickly check Twitter, then put my phone down.

“I meant the psyche.”

“No.”

“The soul?” If anything, this back and forth gives me a solid jumping-off point. The synapses in my brain fire rapidly.

“Uh uh.” I walk past her, open my journal that’s on the desk and scribble down the first few words of an idea.

“Is it time to deal with all the debris you’ve left cluttering up the place?”

I look up, mid-thought, and scan the room. “What are you talking about? I cleaned yesterday.” I hunch over the desk again to finish writing down my idea about… “Fuck. I lost it.”

“I was going for a metaphor with the debris thing. Thought you’d appreciate it.”

“And I thought I told you I didn’t need to talk about it.”

“So you do know what I meant,” Her eyes momentarily grow wide with delight before her normal face returns. “But you need to talk about it. Be an emotional bulimic. Purge those feelings.”

I reach into the desk drawer. “That’s too much, Fat.” I pull out the laser pointer and the red dot appears by her feet.

“It’s that fucking thing again. Don’t worry, I got this.” Fat bounds and I move the pointer over by the television. She sprints and misses. Her head whips around frantically. “Where are you, you little beasty?” I point it on the cat post. When she catches sight of it she gallops and leaps, claws-first. Fat misses again, and the momentum from her landing throws her into a sideways spin. She leaps back to her feet and sees the pointer over by the window. The red spot hovers on the thin window covering. Her head bobbles as she mirrors the unsteady movement of the pointer while I laugh. Fat reaches up and bats at the dot with such force, the resulting sound from hitting the window scares the hell out of her. She jumps like she’s been shot out of a canon.

“What do you expect me to say here? I’m pissed off.” I put the laser pointer back in the drawer.

“At him.” Fat’s tone is definitive.

“No. At myself. I always think I can just have things the way I want them without considering what the other person wants.” I sit on the desktop and kick my feet up by the printer. Fat’s belly swings when she runs over to join me.

“You two wanted the same thing.”

“So I thought. Such a shame, we have great chemistry.” I lean against the wall. “He let me know that he’s actually looking for more than what I’m able to offer.”

Fat nods with what I take to be understanding, “Bigger breasts. Men, right?”

“Not at all close to what we’re talking about here, Fat. But thanks for that. He just decided he wants to settle down and have a one and only. We both know I’m not the right fit for that at the moment. Had to let the whole thing go. From three to zero like that,” I snap my fingers. “And dating a male harem didn’t even blow up in my face, high five.” I hold my palm out, she doesn’t go for it. Frankly, she hasn’t offered any input in about thirty seconds. With a bend of the neck, I see that her gaze and full attention is locked on my chest. “Do you mind?”

She blinks hard and comes back to the conversation. “Sorry, go on.”

“This shrink cred of yours is wearing awfully thin.” Fat pats my forearm with her paw until I take the hint and my fingers scratch her fur. “You know I went to lunch today with a friend of mine. He said that my problem is I don’t jump.”

“He obviously doesn’t know that you jump rope in the underground parking at night.”

“It wasn’t a literal thing, moron. He’s right. I’ve never jumped. Do you think that’s a bad thing?”

Fat’s eyes close when I scratch her neck. She’s silent for so long I think that I might have to wake her. She keeps her eyes shut, “I think that you’re fucked up through and through, but as long as you’re happy that’s all that should matter.”

“True. You can be my soul mate. We’ll get old and obese together. It’ll be so romantic, they’ll make a Disney movie about it.” I chew the inside of my cheek, “I think I’m going to stop dating for a while. This whole endeavor is exhausting.”

“Eureka!” Fat’s eyes pop open. There’s no mistaking my dry expression; Fat maintains a hopeful grin nonetheless. “I think we’ve just had our first breakthrough. Wait,” she looks pensive a moment, reading the look on my face, “you’re fibbing, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am. My life is what awesome aspires to be.”

The Dismissal of Bachelor Number Two

“She wants to tell you that she’s in love with you!” Fat shouts as I press the screen to answer the call and lift the phone to my ear.

I shout back at Fat, who is still trapped on top of the bookshelf, “I’m most definitely not in love.”

“Um… hi.” I hear bachelor number two’s voice and quickly realize what just happened.

“Hey,” I drag out the word as I make a mad dash to the kitchen and retrieve a spray bottle of water from under the sink. “About time you called me back.” I charge at Fat like I’m leading a cavalry. She tries to hide her obesity behind a photo that she hasn’t knocked over. A few misfires shoot aqua at a picture of my twenty-two year old self, I’ve become a casualty from my own weapon. Tragic.

“That wasn’t the most polite way to answer a phone call. What’s going on?” When he says “polite” I dry heave. His perceived gentlemanly behaviour has disintegrated to the notion that he needs to see a proctologist to remove the stick up his ass.

Fat responds before I do, “We’re planning a wedding in the country for you two crazy kids. Tell me you have a straw hat and beige chinos.” She leans forward, challenging me with her look, and continues in a loud whisper, “You’ll be in lace and carrying a parasol. It will be so romantic.”

“If you think I’m getting married, fuck you, bitch.”

“I didn’t say–” the bachelor stammers on the other side of the phone call. I get right close to Fat’s face and spray her again. My unfriendly fire pushes her backward until she’s pressed up against the wall. Fat’s paws wave in the air and I grant her a brief reprieve to offer a retraction.

Fat quickly licks her paw and corrects her askew whiskers. A quick smile tells me Fat isn’t finished. “She’s changed her mind; she wants to have your babies after all.” Fat’s wet fur clings to her body as she jiggles with laughter.

“No babies.” I turn the spray bottle sideways and shoot her gangster-style. Realization hits; I drop the bottle on the floor and finally think to pull the iPhone away from my face and cover the microphone. “What is wrong with you?” The question finds its way through the barricade of clenched teeth.

Of course, now that he can’t hear us, Fat remains silent and in answer to my question, she merely shrugs.

“You don’t know? Of course. Too busy trying to figure out my psychoses that you don’t even recognize your own.” I groan and put the phone back to my ear. “Hi.”

“This seems like a bad time. I can call back.”

“No.” The words rush out of my mouth. “Don’t call back. I need to tell you that I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“Yes, I kind of got that.” He’s using that flustered tone. My memory flashes to the last time we hung out and he used that same tone when he tried to censor my “offensive language”. Shellack just sounds foul; it’s used in art projects, you uppity prick.

I pull the phone away from my face while I sign off. “Good, so we’re done here. Over and out.” I press end immediately and crane my neck to see the pleased-as-piss expression on my domestic feline’s face. “Care to explain what that little freak show was about?”

“I was helping you.”

I cock my head to the side, “How do you figure?”

“Well, now he doesn’t think you’re a bitch. He just thinks you’re crazy – which isn’t entirely wrong.” She snickers.

“In that case, let me return the favour. I’m going to help you figure out a way to get off the bookshelf using your own devices. You’re welcome.” I huck my phone at the couch and stomp out of the room. I’ll kill her. One day, so help me, it will happen.