A Woman Needs Girlfriends

“For a stick and bones frame, you sure jiggle a lot, Boss. Hold still. Stop fidgeting.”

I feel a brush sweep gently across my eyelid. If I was better at being girly I wouldn’t need to enlist the help of the hefty feline. Speaking of whom, my legs are going numb from her weight. Our tiny apartment doesn’t have room for a vanity, so I’m perched on the ledge of the bathtub with Fat balancing precariously on my lap so she can apply layers of makeup to my face. Unfortunately for me, I’m nervous about tonight and that feeling made me jump at the chance for any help. Fat, of course, came to the rescue.

The bathroom is ridiculously bright today. I’m pretty certain she switched out the regular lightbulbs for ones with greater watts. God forbid the feline misses a chance to check out my wrinkles under harsh lighting. Beside the tub, a multitude of products is displayed on the closed toilet lid; I have no idea what most of it is. Where is a good drag queen tutorial when you need one?

“Are you going to miss the spinster life? You were just starting to get good at it. That Chinese restaurant will miss delivering food to this particular shut-in. Their business is going to suffer, you know that right?” She leans over to her make-shift counter to get some more colour on the end of the brush. “Boss, close your eyes. I’m working here.”

The brush goes over the crease of my eyelid. Seems unnecessary; I was more or less hoping for some help with making my skin look better. The situation snowballed pretty fast – Fat’s even wearing one of those makeup tool belts to hold her brushes like the gorgeous people who work at MAC. “What kind of eyeshadow is this? It smells terrible.”

“It’s cigarette ash. I was going for that smoky eye look all the harlots are after. Do I have to tell you to close your eyes again? Honestly, I swear you like being difficult.” Fat cups my face in both paws to assess her work. In the moment I’m entirely dumbfounded, Fat licks the pad of her paw and wipes something away from the corner of my eye with her saliva.

“Could you please stop doing disgusting things to my face?”

Fat doesn’t respond to my, what I consider entirely reasonable, plea. “So tell me about the guy. Where did you meet him?” She grabs one of the bigger brushes out of her waist belt and grabs a small container of blush. God I hope it’s blush. She applies whatever it is to my cheeks.

“He’s a friend of a friend. Funny. Tall.” Remember, self, minimal details are your friend here. You don’t want the cat to get the idea you want to talk. Before you know it you’ll be hugging a pillow while lying on the couch and discussing your mommy issues.

“Gangly doofus. Sounds like a winner.” She goes for my face with something that looks like a hot pink Sharpie.

“Whoa, whoa. What the hell is that?” In an effort to dodge out of her way, I come dangerously close to falling ass backward into the bathtub. I regain balance and hold tight to the off-white edge of the tub.

Her green eyes travel to regard the pen then back to meet my gaze, “Lip liner.”

“Nope. No lip liner. My people don’t do most of this stuff that you’ve attacked me with. I’m taking a stand. This much makeup is unnecessary; I’m neither a pageant queen nor auditioning for a circus. I’m going to dinner and a show tonight. We’re done here.”  I pick her up and drop her on the floor and get on my feet before she can jump back up.

“If you just give me three more minutes…”

When I look in the mirror, I’m entirely horrified. “Fat, I look like the asylum gave me a day pass.”

Only panda bears and Avril Lavigne should have eyes that look like this. The blush is so orange against my pale skin it makes me feel like my face is attempting to outdo a sunset. No is the only word that comes to mind. No. No. No. No. No. No.

“I was trying to give you a look that says, ‘No need to buy the cow’. You don’t think it’s a success?”

I grab the makeup remover wipes. Multiple wipes. A handful. Less than three will not erase the catastrophe that used to be my money maker. I bury my face in the damp cloths and rub vigorously. Paint remover may be necessary. Oh Christ, the audacity.

“Who says concubines get to have all the fun? Excuse me for giving you the Pretty Woman treatment so you can go out and bag us a rich guy.”

When my face emerges from the collection of towelettes, the formerly white cloth is now an absurd rainbow. “I’d rather have a nice guy.”

“Money talks, Boss, and it says, ‘Buy your cat some decent food so she can stop eating the drivel you consider quality.’” Fat grabs a tube of mascara and jumps beside the bathroom sink so she can see herself in the mirror. Her mouth forms an ‘O’ shape as she applies the makeup to her whiskers to make them longer and more voluminous.

I reach for my phone when it beeps. “My cat deserves to starve for what she did to my face.” I read the text, “We can continue this later. He’s parked out front, I’ve got to go.”

“You’re going out like that?” The feline meets my eye in the mirror’s reflection. “No makeup?”

“Au natural.” I nod. “At least I feel like myself.”

“I’m sure it’ll go great and he’ll want to spend all the time in the world with a looker like you. So…see you in about ten minutes?”

 

Indisputable Evidence That A Vacuum Must Be Used

“You copied my outfit.” Fat squeezes herself between me and the Sudoku in today’s newspaper, botching a four I write down in pen. I’ll find out soon enough that this, along with a vast collection of other numbers is far from correct. It would turn out that Sudoku is not a guessing game as my brain would lead me to believe.

“My apologies, Fat. I was unaware you were donning pyjama pants and a tank top this evening.” My pen presses into the paper as I manoeuver around the feline in an attempt to make the four look less like an awkward triangle. I shoot a quick glance up and notice her everyday fur coat, “Did the emperor lend you his clothes?” I make no effort to disguise the dryness in my tone.

“If my clothes appear invisible to you, it means you are unfit for your position and stupid.” She doesn’t flinch when I scowl and raise my slapping hand. “Your issue is with Hans Christian Andersen, lady. I don’t sew real clothes; it seems a waste of time to sew imaginary ones. I would never go so far out of my way to insult your intelligence.” She looks up, her ears point backward into devil horns and she offers a quick flash of her fangs as she smirks, “Give you a soapbox and you’ll do that all on your own. No help necessary.”

That’s it. I grab the newspaper with both hands and roll it up as quick as I can, wind up, and strike the feline on the tip of her wet nose. Fat’s devil demeanor melts away. Her paw dabs her nose, not hiding her surprise that I actually followed through. It would appear that junk punching with rage is not the only special skill listed on my resume.

“You really got me there,” she pulls her paw away from her face, “good one, boss. No wonder there aren’t any flies around the apartment.” Her dark nose twitches and she shakes her head while slightly leaning back. After a couple seconds of this, she seems to have righted herself and sits normally again. I toss the newspaper onto the coffee table and lean back on the couch.

“What I meant was that we match. You copied my signature shade.” Fat looks at the underside of her paw and at my clothes indicatively. I wouldn’t have noticed that my pants and shirt were essentially the same colour as my little furball. Fat makes a bold move and risks climbing up onto my stomach. “Look, camouflage.” Her eyes brighten as an idea hits her, “Hey. Get Boyfriend to come in here and ask him if it looks like you have a gut.” She curls herself into a tighter ball as if to mimic the shape of a beer belly. “Do it.”

“I’m going to have to throw you a big fat no on that one. I will never holler at him to come check out my obesity, even if it is you I’m talking about.”

“Still think you’re fooling him by sucking in that stomach, eh? He may pretend not to notice but believe me, chubbs, he knows. In spite of that,” she leans toward my face to whisper, “I think he like-likes you.” Fat reaches out and lightly touches my thigh, her claws easily pierce the fabric of my dark grey pyjama pants as her scattered brain hits her with another idea. “Oh my God. We should be on a team. We have the matching outfits already.” She purrs, “I love this look. Have I told you that I love this look for us?” She pulls her paw so she can tuck it under her body, but my pyjama pants seem to be attached to her. Fucking great.

“It’s nice to know that if I don’t end up old and grey in matching sweatsuits with Boyfriend, I’ll at least be young and grey with you right now.” Goody for me. If this is where I peak in life… I shake my head at the thought of this being the definitive moment where life is at its best. Oh Christ.

“Middle-aged and grey.”

“Don’t push it. I’m not above introducing that newspaper to your face again.” I wrestle to unhook her talon from my pants. She lets her arm hang limp so I can free us. “You seem a little more scattered today than usual. What’s going on, Fat? I know you’re not on the catnip today.”

Fat lazily jumps down to the carpet. “Sadly I am not.” Her pupils widen. “Fortunately for me, I was scrounging for some rogue food under the stove and I happened upon one of Mutt’s pills. It was covered in dust, but believe you me, it’s doing the job. Started to kick in a couple minutes ago.” Fat starts to smile and abruptly stops. Her head spins to look the opposite direction with stress and alarm. “What the hell was that?”

I listen to the silence. “Nothing.” Note to self: make sure Mutt swallows his pills and doesn’t spit them out, making them accessible to the nip-head in the household.

“Don’t judge me. You do questionable things all the time. It’s my night off of work, I’ve had difficult clients all week. I’m letting my hair down.” She pauses and her eyes grow wide again, “did you know that we match?” Fat flinches as though there is gunfire happening in the hallway. “Seriously, is that a merman banging on the door?”

“Yes. There is a merman at the door.” I roll my eyes. “He’s here to capture you and drown you in the ocean. You should hide for the next few hours or so.”

Fat drops to her stomach and clumsily slithers under the couch. “Good idea, boss. Don’t tell him where I am.”

There’s no denying the fact: I need to clean the apartment. Who knows how many other dog-saliva-coated pills are lingering on the floor? Night off or not, Fat can’t help herself.

Andrew

“I thought it was my job to get pawprints everywhere.”

I look up from where I sit, cross-legged on the floor, digging through a blue plastic bin. A thin layer of dust from the lid adheres to my hands to provide evidence that I’d been digging into the past. My jeans, have two defined hand prints on the knees, and somehow I’d landed another handprint on the duvet.

“You spread pawprints like hookers spread STIs.” I blow wispy strands of hair out of my face and curse them for escaping the confines of my ponytail.

“True. However, I’m much too smart to scratch my forehead after I spread my pawprints around.” Fat stares above my brow, I’m not sure if there is actually a dust smudge there or if she’s trying to psyche me out. I shrug the comment away and lift out a green scarf from the box.

“How many balls of yarn do you think that is?” Fat’s eyes grow hungry with the desire to unravel the scarf and bat the yarn around.

“Gift from my youngest sister. I wanted a long green scarf and she knit it when she was just a wee thing. This thing is so long it could trip up Andre the Giant after he’d wrapped it around his neck a few times.” I half-smile and put the rolled up scarf to the side.

I stare into the bin, the place I hide my heart.

“Lord knows you don’t carry it with you.”

“Did you just read my mind?” I cringe, afraid to find out that my bitch cat is also telepathic. I have a hard enough time keeping her out of my head as it is.

Fat sighs, “Are we really going to play this game where you pretend you have no idea why you’re compelled to open this box? It’s been a year, boss.”

Apparently I can fool myself a lot easier than I can fool the feline. I sift through a couple more artifacts of the past: a well-loved journal, photographs of my former lives, a key to my Granny’s old house. Hidden underneath I find what I’ve been looking for. Just seeing it folded up I hear Andrew’s old school NKOTB ringtone, “Step by Step, oh baby, gonna get to you girl…”

My hands rest on the lip of the blue plastic. The wuss in me hesitates to touch it, half-hoping time might decide to give me a break and work in reverse for once; it’s a dream as fruitless as getting Fat to stop napping in my underwear drawer.

“Your feelings are showing.”

“Shut up, Fat.” I grab the olive-coloured fabric and unfold the shirt. Across the front, is a photo of Andrew. He has a wall clock slung around his neck in the fashion of one Mister Flava Flave and the words above the photo read, “The Flavor of Andrew.” To this day, it is quite possibly the best gift I have been given.

I had to stop wearing this old favourite when the photo began to erode. He told me he could always make me another one, but that’s like replacing your kid’s dead goldfish. It might look the same, but it’s not the same. Any four-year-old can tell you that.

Fat exercises patience while my mind plays the highlight reel: suit shopping, dinners out, learning that stealing a goat from a petting zoo is actually quite difficult, fake fights in Starbucks, his engagement, new puppies, his broken engagement, inexplicable blackouts, broken watches, makin’ bank, the birth of his son, last words…

“Explain that face.” Fat’s paw taps my knee.

I jump, surprised that I’m still sitting on the floor of my bedroom. Fat’s face is a foot from mine.

“I called him a drama queen.” I look at Fat, “That was the last thing I said to him. He was having a bad day and I called him a fucking drama queen.”

Fat pauses, as though waiting for me to say more. “So?”

“What do you mean, so? Even remembering, it feels like the inside of my chest is filled with water balloons.” Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to open my ribcage to accommodate for the newfound tightness in my chest and throat.

“Have you thought about water balloons on the outside of your chest? It might make you look like you actually have some…” She catches the be-constructive-or-I’m-going-to-wring-your-neck fiery gaze emanating from my face, “more discussion on that later.” Fat composes herself, “You can’t beat yourself up over calling him a drama queen. That was your relationship, you were both assholes to each other at the best of times — it was your common love language. He knows you care about him, just like you know he cares about you.”

“Cares? Present tense?” I start to fold up the shirt again, to store it for another day I need to assure myself that my heart still exists within the confines of this blue plastic bin.

“Bitch, please. You best believe his ghost is looking for the opportunity to scare the life out of you. That’s how your friendship works, boss.” Fat looks out the darkened window, “Just about bedtime. Tell Andrew I say hi if he happens to show up tonight. Night.” Fat happily trots out of the room as I stack my memories on top of each other back into a place that keeps them safe.

“Will do.” I close the lid on the box. “Night, Andrew.”

856

Breakthroughs in the Wee Hours of Morning

“If Boyfriend wakes up to cat anus in his face, he’s going to be pissed.” My index finger digs at the corners of my eyes to remove the sleep and residual mascara clumps. Fat remains precariously poised on Boyfriend’s shoulder as he remains dead to the world, asleep on his side.

Driven by thirst and now sixteen percent awake, my torso rolls off the bed so I can reach down to grab my water bottle from the floor. Must tread carefully before I reach fifty percent wakefulness — there’s no return to the land from nod after that level of alertness is obtained. In order to operate on lower wakeful percentage, my eyes close as I drain the bottle and rehydrate. I hear the empty polyethylene bottle hit the ground. Satiated, I once again collapse backward onto my flattened pillow.

Silence. Eerie silence.

Robotically, my eyes open and I stare at the ceiling. Slowly, my neck rotates and I turn to the right. Fat is exactly where she was when my mumbled warning intercepted the nighttime serenity several seconds ago.

Twenty-two percent awake, and more comprehensive than my last statement, I try again. “Fat. Ass out of his face. Now.” She’s a country away on the other side of the king size bed. The feline merely stares, a muted taunt to prompt some kind of action on my part.

“No.”

“Fat.” Somehow my vocal cords are overtaken by what sounds like my ma does when I tell stories and forget to filter for parental ears. Twenty-nine percent awake.

“I’m not done yet. I’m going to make it all the way to the top.”

I follow her line of vision through the darkness and see her intended goal. “He’s not Mount Everest, Fat. Shoo. Go on.” Still in the stages of sleepiness, the last two words mesh together and come out sounding like “Gwon.” Warning sirens go off in my head, we’re at thirty-eight percent wakefulness. Gear down now or wake up at — I roll to the left and lift my iPhone off the bed to check — 3:58 am. “Ugh.” A beat of silence before the sound of the iPhone case connects with the water bottle.

“Typical.”

I turn back over to the right and trade in my desire to yell for a stage whisper. “What’s typical?” Forty-five percent wakefulness. Stop now. Just stop. Red lights are flashing in my brain and imaginary screams of exhausted brain cells scream in agony. I sit up, losing another three percent to the side of the living. “You got something to say, fluffy?”

Fat’s paw tentatively reaches over and seeks support from Boyfriend’s cheekbone. He stirs. She pauses, waiting for him to settle. “It’s typical; when you see something you don’t like, is too inconvenient, or seems difficult you push it away. Just interesting when it happens literally.” Fat’s body drapes around Boyfriend’s neck like a hideous scarf, “You shouldn’t be so careless with your phone, by the by.”

I skip beyond fifty percent wakefulness and right to eighty-one percent awake. Hot damn. The dream of a full eight hours is over; frankly, it never had a chance. “This is about more than just the iPhone.” I kick the blankets off and crawl over to Boyfriend’s side of the bed. Picking up Fat by the scruff of her neck, I keep her hostage in midair. “Explain yourself.”

Fat’s front legs extend like Frankenstein’s monster and her back legs kick, searching for something sturdy to stand on. “Your book, dummy. Where’s the effort? You were so gung-ho to prove me wrong with that one. I have seen no progress on that front. Boss, your goals won’t realize themselves.” Fat turns to look over at the crown of Boyfriend’s head and I already see her eager to have another try at resting on his head like Davy Crockett’s hat. “Having dreams is free, but realizing them requires an output of energy from you, remember? You lazy son-of-a-bitch.”

“That’s uncalled for.”

“Daughter-of-a-bitch. My apologies.”

I toss her into the pile of my iPhone and water bottle. “That’s not what I meant, clown. For your information, I’m taking a workshop with a book agent. So you can suck it.”

Fat shoots me a say-whaaaaaat expression. She nods. “That was a motivational technique, doofus. Don’t act like I should be proud of you; you want to get published for your sake, not mine.”

This is not a good time for a breakthrough. I hate her so much right now.

Aspirations

“This is not weekend behaviour.” The mumbled words mix with the drool on my pillow.

With purpose, Fat reaches out and again touches my cheek, this time lightly pressing her claws against my skin.

My eyes snap open. With Bruce Lee reflexes I snatch Fat’s paw in my hand before her brain can even transmit a signal to her claws to retract themselves. Our eyes lock and I give her the intense death glare. “Stop,” My free hand reaches for my phone on the night stand and I check the time, “It’s 5:16 on a Saturday. Some consider what you’re doing grounds for homicide. You know this, yes?” I release my grip and shove her with my foot until she’s forced to jump off the bed. I roll over, flip my pillow to the dry side and clamp my eyelids together.

“But,” From beside the bed, her tone becomes pleading and pathetic, “So hungry.”

Damn.

I throw back the covers. “I’ll feed you now, but believe me, you’ll be short a paw if you wake me up again this morning. That’s your first and last warning.”

Pre-dawn light already fills the apartment. I rip the corner off the new bag of cat food and pour into her dish. Between the full bag and the groggy hour I overfill Fat’s dish. Kibble spills across the floor. Of course; coordination doesn’t wake up this early. I regard the mess, wishing for telekinetic powers to put it all back in the bag. My brain comes up with a better solution: I pick up Fat’s bowl and pour the contents back into the bag.

“What on earth are you doing?” Fat comes over and looks into the once-again empty bowl.

I point at the mess I made, “Breakfast is served. Enjoy yourself.” I bow in the style of a maitre d’ and take my leave of the kitchen. Fat scowls. Within seconds, I hear her eating off the floor. That’s my girl. I climb into bed and collapse.

The instant my eyes close, I get an idea for a short story. I need to write the premise down before it becomes misplaced in a dream. I reach over to my nightstand, forgetting that I left my notebook on the desk.

Damn.

Frustrated with myself, I kick the blanket off. Ideas like this always shake me from sleep. I rush past Fat, who is essentially making out with the linoleum by licking crumbs off the floor. I sit on my desk, press my back against the wall, and use the office chair as a footstool.

Thumbing through the notebook to an empty page I construct the bones of the story. After the initial outburst of pen to paper I go to the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove. I sit on the desk again and mull over what I’ve written. I cross out parts and draw arrows to others. Some words I rewrite because I won’t remember what they say when I come back to this place. After the frenzied brain detonation, I put the pen down and re-read my sloppy script. What a delightfully messed up premise. I flip through previous pages of ideas and words. I stop at something I wrote a few weeks ago and go over it again with fresh eyes.

Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and peers at the book in my hands.

“How can you read that?” She tilts her head from side to side before trying to see if it’s more legible upside down.

I flip to the next journal page, covered with scribbles and smudged ink.

“It’s the beginning of a story I wrote in Mexico. I might play around with this today.” My index finger taps the middle of the page I’m reading.

“Way to enjoy that vacation.” She flashes a quick smile, then jumps onto the printer and out of hitting range. “Why are you procrastinating, anyways?”

She knows by the look on my face that I don’t follow. Fat sighs and motions with her head at the board on the wall behind me. I turn around and regard it like a stranger; paper cards of plot points and ideas cover the corkboard.

“I’m getting back to it, Fat. There’s just never enough time.”

“Don’t be an idiot. Hunker down and write it. Besides, dating doesn’t have to be a full-time sport. Take some time and finish that story. You love that place.”

“You don’t know what I love. You were yelling at the ex-bachelor on the phone yesterday that I loved him.” I feel the my nose wrinkle at the memory.

There’s movement from the other side of the desk, and I turn to catch Fat strongly nodding her head up and down. “What?”

“Trying out some subliminal messaging.”

“I don’t know if that really works.” The water in the kettle bubbles. I get up and pour it into a teapot. I throw a bag of David’s Tea inside. While it steeps, I stare at the board.

“New idea: If you don’t do something with this in the next week, I’m going to claw the hell out of it.”

“I appreciate the motivation.”