Down at the Pub One Afternoon
So there I was again, at the corner pub, minding my own business as I do. I was simply admiring the gentle sounds of the bar accompanied by Christina ‘s humming. In the afternoons on Tuesday’s it can be a bit quite. No deliveries. No phone ringing. Nobody disrupting my meditation which can be spurred on by her humming over the dull din of the various machines. It’s a nice time for the two of us.
But that moment, as it often happens, is ended when some person walks in. And just as often, that person is loud or noisy or just makes themselves aware by breathing hard. So why should this afternoon be any different?
I heard the breathing (my eyes were closed as I was in the middle of my mantra) and it took a few seconds for Christina to notice the person. Finally I heard her say “Well hello, Jeff!”
I had to open my eyes to see who this Jeff-person was. I never heard his name but I did recognize his face. Seemed like a nice guy and, if I may say so, there was something about him that was familiar to me. Some people are just like that. So since I felt that everything was alright I got back to my afternoon meditation by just staring off into the distance.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you, baby. How’ve you been? And how’s Veronica?”
“Yeah, it’s been a bit of time. And I guess I’ve been just okay. And her name was Valerie – and she’s gone. And I’ll have an Iron Butterfly.”
“Oh darlin’, I’m so sorry that she didn’t work out.” She turned to pull the bottles off of the top shelf from the front of the mirror that was behind the bar. Over her shoulder she asked, “So that number six or seven?’
“Number nine in five years. There were a couple that didn’t last long enough to speak of. And I guess that I’m just not cut out to have someone live with me the way I want them to. And I guess my preferences or ‘rules’, as two of them said, were just too much for all of them.”
“Well, hon, you just haven’t found the right one yet. Keep trying, you’ll get there.”
“I don’t think that I will. Not for a while, at least. I’m just ‘too vague and yet demanding’. At least that is what Valerie said. And I do think that she is right.”
Christina slid the generously filled rocks glass towards him. “Too demanding? C’mon. I just don’t see it. I mean what does that mean? These are jut roommates, right? Not girlfriends. Not lovers. Just roommates. And as I remember the rent you charge I super cheap.”
“Cheap? Try free. All they have to do is buy their own food, do their own laundry, keep their rooms neat and just follow my rules. And it’s that last part they all have had trouble with.” He lifted the rock glass and sipped the contents, closed his eyes and it looked as if he felt a chill. He smiled to himself. She then placed the Dr. Pepper on the bar and gently slid a straw down into the bubbling brown liquid. He almost at once drew off the straw.
“Free!?! They stayed at your condo for free?”
“Yeah. Free. And with 24 hour access to the kitchen, unless I’m cooking. And 24 hours access to the laundry room, unless I’m doing my laundry. And cable, satellite, Wi-Fi, internet, use of the exercise room and library…”
“There’s a library in your development?”
“No. In my condo. Just like the exercise room.”
“How big is your condo?”
“ It’s a four bedroom with two master suites. And the afore mentioned chef’s kitchen, library, exercise room, full laundry. And both casual and formal dining areas, two dens , a home theatre, both steam and dry saunas. And a studio, a greenhouse and a private sundeck that looks over the river that leads to a small marina. And it’s about sixty-five hundred square feet in all I believe. Oh, and the attached eight car garage in which I use only five of the spaces.”
Christina stared at him for a moment. “That’s’ a condo? Sounds more like a couple of houses to me. Maybe even three!”
“Well it used to be several condos, but as people in my unit would sell I would buy them. Eventually I owned all of them and one day I got this idea to just start having walls knocked out and join the whole place together and…”
“What do you do for a living, Jeff? I mean what drugs do you traffic?”
He laughed. “No. No drugs. I write software. And I’m pretty good at it. And a few of the things that wrote were pretty clever so I sold them to other people to market with just asking for a small percentage of the profits. And they became popular. And now I make a decent amount of money each month that I reinvest. And I keep writing software. And that’s what I do.” He took another sip from the rocks glass and smiled at her.
“Wow! And you let these women live there free? What did you want from them?”
“Nothing. Just to follow my rules.”
“Nothing? What are your rules?”
“They are pretty simple really. Besides the keeping their rooms neat and clean up after themselves. And keep the noise down. And, this may be the hard part for most of them, and when I need company to sit in the room with me when I am writing my programs. Besides that, they are free to do whatever they want.”
Christina gave him a curious look. “Whenever you want company you want them to do what?”
“Simply sit in the room with me with I am programming.”
“And do what?”
“Nothing. Just sit.”
“Sit?!? Are they allowed to talk?”
“Oh no… no that might break my ‘creative flow.”
“Oh no the pages make noise when turned.”
“So I guess and iPod is out, right?”
“I might hear whatever they are hearing – it would throw me off.”
“So let me get this straight, you just want someone to be in the room with you. Just sitting, not sleeping because they might snore or moan or something. Just to sit and besides that you don’t want any other interaction, right?”
“When you put it that way… No, no… it’s not like that. I want a relationship – but outside of when I’m working.”
“And how many hours do you work a day?”
“Well, it depends. Like right now I’m in between assignments so I don’t need that. In fact, I’d like to go on a road trip with someone for a couple of weeks or so. You know, go someplace we’ve never been before. And drive with the top down along the backroads and byways. And eat lunch in places called things like Mom’s Kitchen or The Golden Mile or even just a truck stop. And to smell the honey suckle and spent diesel fuel and fries in grease. And to race trains that parallel the road. To hear the radio crackle as it tries to keep a station tuned in or the just the sound of the wind and tires on the pavement. And at night stay at some roadside motel and knock back a few drinks at the pool. And yuck it up all along the way. But when I am working I need for them to it to be quiet and un-disturbing, if that’s a word. And to sit there so I am not alone. Is that too much to ask?”
He then took a rather large sip off his drink and looked at her with eyes searching for some sort of confirmation that this was completely reasonable.
Christina poured herself a cup of coffee then leaned on the bar getting herself a bit closer to him. She smiled then said, “No, what you want is not too much to ask of life. But it is of one person.”
“Really”, he replied with an incredulous tone, “and why is that?”
“Because you are asking… what you are asking… well, for a person to do the part about sitting the room and doing nothing… that’s the part the people just can’t do. We are not built that way. At least most people aren’t. And if you did find someone like that I’d sleep with one eye open as that just isn’t natural.”
He took another large drink then dropped his head and said, “Then it’s hopeless, isn’t it?”
She reached out her hands and placed them in his. “Of course it’s not. I thought that a man of your intellect would have figured this out along time ago. You want a partner, but what you need is actually two partners. One for work and one for play.”
“On the surface I like the idea. And I think that may be the way that might work. But you said that what I want from a person isn’t natural. So how is that possible to accomplish?”
“That part is actually easy, more or less.”
“It is?” he asked with bit of doubt in his voice.
“Yeah, it is” she replied confidently. “First, of all of the past ‘roommates’, which one did you have the most fun with when you went?”
“Hmmm” he replied and as a note I’ve never really understood that sound that people make. He continued, “‘I would have to say… that would be… yes… it would be Fonda. Fonda Peter.”
“Fonda Peter?!?!?” (Imagine her expression).
“Yeah. Her father worked at a company that edited lists of names. And they usually were last name first, etc. And he thought that the name would have been cute as in his line of work her name would have been Peter Fonda… like the actor… you know, Easy Rider.”
“Oaky, there are so many jokes in there…”
“That’s what she told me but I never got it.”
“Okay, let’s not dwell on that.” Christina took a sip off her coffee. So what you want to do is make amends with Fonda and start the ‘fun’ relationship. She doesn’t have to live in your condo, although I don’t know why she wouldn’t want to, but if she doesn’t… You will see her as a person you want to hang with when are not working. Someone to have meals with or go to the movies…”
“Sure, to go theatre with. Or to go sky diving with if you felt so inclined. Just someone that you want to do non-work stuff with. To go enjoy your downtime with. To do and see new things. To explore life with. Someone to make noise with”
“Oaky. I get that. And I want that in my life. And I also need someone to still be there in the room with me being still. And you said that is almost impossible for a person to do. And I was told on one occasion that a request of that nature borders on cruel and unusual punishment. How do I find someone like that?”
I was beginning to really get into my afternoon reflections. Their voices were starting to drift as this conversation seemed to be going nowhere. Then the conversation grabbed my attention.
Christina answered his question like this. “Not a person. You need a cat!”
“A cat?!?! Really?”
That statement woke me up. I looked at her. Then at him. Then at her again. I wanted to hear more.
“Sure. Why not?” She smiled at him (and I had to agree with her – why not?).
“I don’t think that I have ever thought about having a pet.”
“A pet is a dog, or a fish or a number of any other creatures that require a lot of attention from you. But a cat is different.”
“Aren’t they dirty?” he dared to ask.
“Actually, cats are very clean. The hardest part is the litter box.”
“Where they poop and such. It has to be cleaned on a regular basis. But since you like your place super clean then you must clean it often and this would just be one more thing to do that takes just a few minutes a day. Or there are machines that will automatically clean the litter and package the stuff in a sealed baggy for you to toss in the regular garbage.”
“But they have fur.”
“All but one type has fur. There is a hairless cat, but…”
“That sounds really weird.”
“Yeah, they do look a bit odd. But there are long haired and short haired cats. But with a few minutes of grooming a couple of times a week, the shedding will never be noticed.”
“But what about the companionship. I mean, how is a cat a good company?”
(He obviously never has been around a cat.)
“That’s yet another issue. First you have to bond with the cat, and like a good partner, it may take a few visits to the shelter to find just the right one. You’ve already have spent years trying to find the right human. A cat as a companion, you will see, will be much easier to find.”
“The cat will find you.”
“Well, when find yourself at the shelter, one will come to you and that will be that. You’ll just know.”
“That sounds like magic or something…”
“In a way it is.” She smiled at him. “But that’s when the relationship really begins. See, when you are working you just want someone to hang out with you , but silently. That’s what cats do best! They jut hang out. Of course, every day they like a to play a little, snuggle a little and of course they eat a little at a time. Sure they eat several times day but usually they are discreet about it.”
“But I’d have to remember to feed the cat. And I’m not good at remembering things like that.”
“No you don’t, unless you feed it wet food all of the time, which many vets do not recommend. If you get a gravity feeder you would have to fill it once a week or ten days or so. Plus there are gravity water bowls. Get those things and everything will set. Just put the food and water in your office and the little puss will come in and join you. Put a chair of some kind in there with you – they like to curl up on a chair in a place where they feel safe - and you will find that after they eat they like to find a place to preen then nap. And from time to time, toss an empty box on the floor.”
“An empty box?”
“Yeah”, I saw her face light up a bit. “Cats have a fascination with empty boxes. Doesn’t matter the size and often if it seems too small it turns out to be just right for them.”
From personal experience, I knew that she was right on all counts for far. I kept listening although neither were aware of it.
“But don’t they need to be petted all of the time? And aren’t they demanding? And wont that be an interruption to me?”
I needed to hear her response to this. For personal reasons.
“Cats, like people, all have different personalities. Some would like nothing better than to sit in your lap all day and some, well they are a bit aloof and just enjoy your company at a distance.”
Why they both looked at me… well, I wasn’t quite sure. So I continued staring off as if I wasn’t interested.
She smiled. “And like people, most cats are loving but it is often on their own terms and in their own way. They decide when to be petted, when to play and when to snuggle. But also like people, they are also creatures of habit and routine – like us. You can pretty well tell when they want attention, and it may not be at the same time of day but more after a certain event or series of events that happen. For example, one cat I know has this routine that after he eats in the morning, he preens himself for about a twenty minutes, wanders to the litter box, preens again for another fifteen minutes or so then jumps up on the counter and wanders over for a few pets then strolls to a quiet place and takes a nap. Just like clockwork. Every morning. Not only do I count on it, I look forward to it because when I do pet him, he purrs. And research shows that the sound frequency that a cat purrs at often helps a persons’ stress level fall and even fade away completely”
I thought to myself about what she just said. Creatures of habit? – just glad that I’m not one. But the purring effect is good for a cat as well.
“So a girlfriend and a cat? And this is a good idea?”
“For you and your perspective girlfriend.”
“Cats are naturally wary of others and people for certain. But a good indicator that a perspective girlfriend is good for you is if the cat comes to her for pets or runs away as if it feels like it is threatened. Of course, some cats are territorial and will at first come to her demanding pets in exchange for ‘passage’ as it may be. But if the woman is not compatible for you, the cat will let you know in a myriad of ways. Anything from hissing and scratching to pooping in her shoes.”
“Oh yes. If they think someone is not a good fit they can show you in many ways.”
He took another sip. “I never thought of myself as a ‘Cat-Person’ but I guess in many ways I am like a cat, huh?”
Christina smiled at him. “In many ways your are.”
As he finished his drink and she her coffee they had small talk about things that I didn’t really care much about, so I quit listening. As I faded back into my afternoon mantra and meditation, images of being a cat in her house rolled through the back of my mind. She’s always asking if I want to spend the night. And I have from time to time. It’s nice when I do. She talks to me and I listen. She let’s me sleep on the couch which is comfortable and warm. I really do need a change of routine. I don’t need to be spending all of this time in the pub or wandering around. She is a good friend who cares for me. And is seems that I’m welcome to be a silent partner to her.
How to mix an Iron Butterfly
* Coffee Liqueur
* Irish Whiskey
Gently mix equal parts in a lowball glass. It’s that easy!