Reaching for the cat's belly
Gray Kitty, our resident feline, reluctantly shares her home with us. Lew and I were lounging on our bed, petting Gray Kitty and chatting about nothing much. He petted the cat, and she purred. I would pet the cat, and she eyeballed me. Then she slightly turned her head toward the juiciest, pinkest part of my hand. So, I switched up the section I was petting, hoping to bring some tactile happiness to our picky cat.
“Just don’t pet her belly,” Lew warned. Yeah, right. I reached out tentatively and stroked her gray, furry abdomen.
SCRATCH—she reached out decisively and scratched the shit out of my hand.
How often do we do this? We poke and prod someone, knowing we’ll get a rise out of her. I’m not talking about monkey wrenching here; I’m referring to taking a psychological poke at those closest to us because of personal levels of frustration. When stress reaches epidemic proportions in our lives, the urge to take a poke at those closest to us seduces like the sirens’ song. Who can resist? Yet, when we start reaching for the cat’s stomach is the exact moment we need our allies at our side, purring, not with claws extended.
Lew and I are connected by the belly button. Sometimes, though, a kink develops in the spousal umbilical cord and it throws our neat, little arrangement into a flux. That’s when we resort to stroking the cat’s belly. We know, intellectually, our strategy doesn’t succeed in doing anything but pissing the other person off, and that the resulting cycle of stroke, scratch and fend is difficult to reverse.
Why do we do this? Why do we pick fights, hold grudges and generally make life miserable for those we love, and need, the most? Why is it when we’re angry, tired, scared or frustrated we start petting the cat’s tummy, even though our beef isn’t with the cat? I’m not quite sure; it probably has something to do with comfort level and ease.
In this current, ugly setting of major uncertainly, it’s pretty tempting to reach for the cat’s belly. Economic instability, genocide, soldiers taking entertainment photos of war dead, liberty slipping away like eroding sand, fear of tomorrow—it all makes petting some feline stomach look all the more attractive, because it’s up close and personal in an unfeeling, hostile, sterile world.
It’s kind of difficult to rage against the machine alone, however. There’s no one to hold you up when you’re too whupped to carry on. So abstain from belly stroking before being alone is the only option anyone affords you. I, personally, have to strain against the ensconced temptation to take a poke at Lew; it’s an enticement that grows exponentially with chaos. We don’t function well without each other. That cord needs to remain open; with a smooth line of connection, we can then deal with all the outer world crappola with some sort of diligence and effectiveness.
My hand is healing up, but there may be a scar. I hope there is this time; a visible reminder that scratching the cat’s belly only perpetuates hurt and misery. I need something tangible, up close and personal, to plug my ears from the treachery of the sirens. The emotional rush is a lie, a song leading our ship to splinter on the rocks of deception.