Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

Skype Calls and Fat

“We are so far beyond not interested, pal. Bye-bye now.”

Fat’s paws press the back of the laptop. She uses her girth to close the old computer while I’m mid-Skype conversation. The feline’s abrupt dismissal of our video chat interrupts my story about finally exploring McLeod’s bookstore downtown. I suppose I didn’t need to mention that after an arduous hunt, I finally found a copy of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. My cat is such a bitch cat; there will be no fairy tale endings on her watch – not even in bookstores.

Hinging from the hip, I try to stay in front of the camera and quickly sign off prior to hitting my chin on the desk and before Fat ends the call by clamping the computer shut. The grizzly-faced dude and I talk over each other in the few seconds we have left.

“I’m going to have to call you back.”

“Kat, what’s happening with your computer?” He’s unconcerned. The way he asks makes me feel that when stupidity happens in my presence, it’s not altogether unexpected. That is off-the-charts rude and presumptuous; perhaps I shan’t call him back. It seems jackassery is running rampant today.

The feline lets out a satisfied smirk and sits on the closed VAIO like it’s a throne. “Dodged a bullet there, eh? You’re welcome. I never thought I’d say this, Boss, but you can do better.” Fat’s tail hugs the perimeter of her meaty haunches.

My forehead wrinkles to accommodate the surprised lift of my eyebrows. “What’s that, now?” If she’s saying what I think she’s saying…

“Hate to see my prize pig settle for somebody like that blond schmuck.” Indicatively, a grey paw taps gently on the computer case.

Beyond any measure of comprehension, the term ‘prize pig’ doesn’t register as an insult; instead my thoughts briefly drift to the fridge contents and the possibility of bacon. In my humble opinion, a pre-dinner warmup is never a poor idea.

“There’s no accounting for taste, is there? It’s like he was oblivious to your terrible personality.” Fat’s musings coax my attention back from hunger.

“I’m going to stop you there, Fat.” My traffic cop hand rests inches from her wet nose. “What you’re thinking is eighty-thousand different kinds of disgusting.” I point to the corner of the desk at a framed picture that was taken a couple years ago at my mom’s house.

The feline sidles up beside it, almost pressing her face against the photo. “He’s already met your family?” The tone in her voice registers as revulsion.

“He’s my brother, you moron.”

Fat’s pupils expand and she stares, unblinking in my direction. Her cheeks puff out as her mouth stays shut, feigning a puke-like reaction. Gag sounds come from her throat as the feline oversells the dramatics. “V.C. Andrews really did a number on you, huh? I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch Flowers in the Attic.”

I stare at the ceiling. C’mon, brain, make this a Namaste situation… breathe in, breathe out. Do no harm to the furry idiot on the desk.

“So what’s up with your brother? Did you give him my regards?”

I shrug. “He somehow got the idea that I was plotting to murder my cat. For some reason he was trying to talk me out of it.”

“You know, I always liked that guy.”

No Secrets from Housecats

“Where were you? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

I’m greeted by the feline’s backside. Fat doesn’t show any sign that she’s noticed me aside from the questions that sound remarkably distant. She’s preoccupied; something on the computer desk holds her attention far more than my entrance ever could.

I drop my yoga bag on the floor and throw a look at the digital clock on the PVR. The crisp white numbers show that it’s not quite seven-thirty. I feel my lip curl in uncertainty as I free my mane from a frizzed-out, sweaty bun.

“Prayer meeting.” I wait for Fat’s head to snap and look at me with alarm and intrigue, but it doesn’t happen. She’s busy reading something on the laptop.

“Well if I know anything about you, Boss, it’s that you love the Jesus.” I see her brow furrow as she leans closer to the screen. Her mouth moves as she silently reads a couple more sentences on the virtual document in front of her. Eventually she turns to give me her consideration. “Sorry, did you say something else?”

“Thanks for listening,” I mutter. “What are you reading anyways?” My head lazily tilts toward the computer.

The feline’s mouth opens with a smile so wide I can see her fangs. Her paw goes to the wireless mouse and scrolls up until I see the familiar banner of my blog. Oh god.

My chest constricts as I do my best impression of somebody who is able to maintain their composure. “I… uh… how did you stumble upon that?” My fingertips drum on the desktop for lack of anything better to do. I’m fighting the urge to drop-kick the good doctor off the balcony in a fit of panic. I’m really not sure if there is any other remedy for the situation.

“It’s on the internet, you idiot. How was I not supposed to find it?” Fat clicks on a post from April 2014. “Really, it’s quite amazing that you don’t even realize how psychologically destructive you are to yourself.”

Taken aback, I abandon my discomfort of the situation when curiosity takes over. I walk closer and crouch beside Fat so we can both read the post. “What do you mean?”

“Suppose the words I say… see, here,” a grey paw bats the screen to a paragraph where I’ve written about her verbally tearing me a new one, “suppose these cynical, bitchy, loathsome things aren’t actually me speaking to you – it’s how you feel about yourself manifesting in a bizarre situation where you talk to your cat and you think the cat talks back.” Fat snickers at something my past self wrote, “I wish I said that.”

My mouth falls open. Agape, I mull over conversations with Fat that I can remember the hateful and bitchy things she has definitely said in the past. At least, I’m pretty certain she actually said them.

“That’s a nice hunchback you’re growing. Trying to get Quasimodo’s job when he retires from the bell tower?”

“Your brain is so full of stupid the excess is coming out your mouth.”

“I thought ugly people were supposed to have great personalities.”

I slowly turn toward Fat and our eyes meet. I falter, questioning what I always assumed was true. “Fat, I–”

“BAHAHAHAHA!”  She buries a delighted kitten face in the crook of her elbow, “I’m just yanking you, Boss. You’re not clever enough to come up with a fraction of this stuff on your own.”

Hear no Evil

“Oh, God. I’ve gone deaf.”

I look up from my book. Fat is parked at the edge of the sectional, while I’m cozy in the corner where the couch becomes perpendicular.  I watch the back of her head bob and weave as she watches Boyfriend’s fingers fly across the ivory keys of the no longer pristine upright piano.

Fat’s voice becomes increasingly fraught with worry, “Oh, God. Oh my fucking damn. I’ve been struck deaf. I don’t have the thumbs or the patience to learn sign language; I’m not a monkey for Christ’s sake.” I see her spine straighten as the metaphoric lightbulb appears above her pointed ears. “Hold up. I can hear my own voice. Wait. Is that the voice in my head? I can’t tell. Hey. Hey, guy,” Fat’s paw reaches out in the direction of Boyfriend as if to will him to pay attention to her, “can you make some noise so I can tell if I’m deaf or not?” Her paw pathetically sweeps side-to-side in the air. Boyfriend plays on, letting his body lean into the notes he plays, completely oblivious to the feline behind him.

“For a self-appointed shrink, you’re a colossal dumb ass.”

Fat jumps with shock and comes heartbreakingly close to bailing off the couch. Unfortunately, I’m not so lucky as to bear witness to one of my dreams coming true. “I forgot you were there. Book without pictures, I see. I’m proud of you.” Fat momentarily regains her charming demeanor. She blinks twice when my words finally become sound in her brain. “I can hear you.”

“And goody for me, I can hear you too. Seriously, Fat, what’s your deal? We agreed it was time to take a break from the catnip.” I reach my hand between two couch cushions and pull out my bookmark.

“Kicked the stuff. Cold turkey. Don’t need it. Nope. Fine without.” Fat throws looks over her shoulder at Boyfriend between her chopped sentences. “I don’t understand it, boss. The whole thing reeks of voodoo. He’s like the Charlie Chaplin version of King Midas; everything he touches turns to mute. Guess that explains why I never hear you two having–”

“I will pay you fifty dollars not to finish that sentence.” I cut her off, even though it doesn’t matter if she finishes the sentence or not. The next time Boyfriend and I find ourselves on the cusp of a XXX throw down, I’m just going to picture Fat with her pervy ear pressed against the other side of the door. At least we have the forethought to lock her out of the bedroom. Who knows what kind of advice would spring up at our next therapy session if she had a front row seat to that show.

“Aw, hell, Fat. His headphones are plugged into the piano.” I silently hoped I could ride out her potential deafness a little longer for amusement’s sake, but the conversational path we stumbled upon is one that certainly does not need to be travelled. I toss the library book onto the coffee table.

Fat invites herself to curl up against my sternum. Her ears flick as they absorb the surrounding noise. She lets out a contended sigh, “Creepo downstairs is listening to old school Alanis Morissette. Neat.”

I scratch the back of her ears, “You can hear that?” Aside the hum from the refrigerator, I don’t hear anything.

“Believe me, boss, when I’m not having a deaf day I hear lots of things.”

I’m instantly uncomfortable. If she can hear the downstairs neighbour’s music… I crane my neck to look down at the feline, she has some sort of nervous tic with one of her eyes. I watch it rapidly close and reopen. Almost like it was intentional.

She repeats the end of her last sentence, “Lots of things.”

2014: The Year of Something

“I always thought Baby New Year was a costume for portly, middle-aged Chris Farley types.” Fat pauses mid-thought, giving me just enough time to know that she’s going to beat me down with a verbal left hook. “Though I suppose a dumpy, middle-aged woman does the trick too.” Fat, sitting on the dresser, tilts her head to the side as she perversely stares at me in my skivvies. “Thunder thighs and all, you’re working it, lady.”

I try to let her eloquent attack wash over me. New Year’s Eve is not a time for your feline companion to bring into existence the subject of holiday insulation under your skin. It’s at least three different kinds of rude. Still, she’s not wrong. I have gotten a little meatier. I hurriedly get dressed so when I do confront her, it’ll be easier to face the mirror that is unfortunately situated behind the beast.

“Sweat pants?” Fat eyes the grey pants that are a shade lighter than her fur. “Wild thing, you are.”

I look down, not sure why I need to check what I’m wearing; I’m fully aware of the clothes I only just put on. My shoulders lift into a shrug. “Yup.” I catch the judgemental look — not that Fat’s making any effort to disguise it. “We’re going to a movie.”

“That’s interesting that you feel you need to justify your wardrobe choice. Am I right to suppose that you’re feeling a little insecure?”

My twin in the mirror catches my eye and we share a quick telepathic exchange:

Mirror Twin: You have looked better.
Me: Agreeing with the enemy? Shut up, Mirror Twin.

 
If I had a moment to think about the sentence before it came out of my mouth, I’m sure it would have been a better burn: “Fat, I haven’t swept in months because your dangley stomach does the job for me.” A smirk emerges across her tiny mouth and Fat playfully bats her whiskers. She knows just how to infuriate me. “What are you smiling at?”

“It’s just interesting to me how defensive you get over something that apparently doesn’t bother you.” Fat stretches, her ass goes in the air as her arms extend. She finishes her cat yoga pose while I silently fume. “Do tell me, dear, does ‘become less porky’ go on your list of resolutions for 2014?”

My incisors put pressure on my tongue as my head shakes.

“What sorts of delightful things can we expect you to fail at over the next 365 days? Get your book published? Be fiscally responsible? Travel more? Read more and watch television less? Write more often? Defy gravity?” As she names several things on my list of what I’ll get to eventually her ears begin to bend backward until I’m left with her brutally honest bitch-cat face. “You suck at doing things, boss.”

I stare at Fat like I’m Pat Benetar and she just hit me with her best shot; it fucking hurt.

“I do things.” Fat’s bitch face is strong enough to make me feel the lie. “I have the capacity to do things.” The intense stare persists. “I’ll do something this year.”

“This is the face of me believing you.” Fat’s expression doesn’t change.

Silence.

More silence.

So much damn silence I want to break the mirror on the dresser so I can verify that sound still exists. That being said, then my mirror twin wouldn’t have a home and things just get weird when one’s mirror twin is a vagrant.

“What would it take to prove to you that I can do more than just start things?” My pride is on the line, I can’t let my asshole house pet make a fool out of me. I kind of hope that the answer is simple, but only idiots think that answers to questions like this are easy.

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. That’s apparently what this year is all about.” She’s paraphrasing me and throwing it back in my own face. That bitch.

I untie the string on my pants and grab some skinny jeans out of the closet. Fat watches, intrigued, as I wiggle, pull, yank, sweat and cry before collapsing on the floor with jeans barely up to my knees.

“Fat?”

Her tiny grey face peers over dresser ledge to peer down at me. “Yeah?”

“Change is hard.”