I am home from my latest travels, freshly and rightfully scratched by my cats whose pedicures are long overdue. I sit quietly on the sofa, cross-legged, sorting my thoughts into wants, needs, and dislikes.
When my resentful kitten can’t resist me any longer—though judgment lingers in his eyes—he comes next to me and pushes his big black noggin towards the open palm I offer. He keeps coming until his entire face is nuzzled deeply into my palm, which has served as the warm belly of his missing biological mother for fifteen months. He sits down next to me with his nose pressed firmly into my palm, eyes closed, his twelve-pound adolescent build at attention. I gently cup his face with my fingers, and his shoulders relax.
These are the times we have our best conversations.
“Mama,” Leo murmurs into my lifeline.
“Yes baby,” I say.
“It was very hard for me when you were gone.”
“I can see that,” I coo like maybe the Beaver’s dad would in his most feminine moment, but no more than that. “What was the hardest part?” I say to Leo. I smile even though I don’t feel like it, trying to look like I know what to expect even though no one is looking at me.
My palm is now warm and moist, Leo’s face buried into my gentle grasp of his head. His shoulders are beginning to droop, and the drool has come. It doesn’t seem like my baby wants to concentrate on the negative; maybe he just needs to get something off his beautiful chest.
“Hey,” I say, gently rocking his head to wake him up a little. “What was the hardest part?”
“Well I just kind of end up feeling like a second-class citizen when you choose all that other stuff over me,” he sighs onto my loveline.
I’m making the people who live in my own house feel like second-class citizens. My God what a horrible person I am.
How many wet noodles would Dear Abby recommend.
I put Leo to bed later that night, pulling my white sheets around his black stubbiness, his nose this time firmly embedded into my armpit. When I wish I was asleep but I know Leo is, I sprawl forth my spirit unto the Lord, as far as I can get it untucked from the binds around me, and ask what the expectations are these days. I don’t use swear words, and I keep my tone as even as possible.
“The expectations are the same as they’ve ever been,” the Lord says to me.
“I cannot believe you picked that line to convey to me what I already know,” I say before I realize I’m talking back again. “You know I hate that song.”
I awake in the morning when it’s still dark outside, a piglet in my armpit. Two of my smallest movements usher in the other loves of my life. We play tiny-catch and make forts inside; I make coffee and fill the bowls.
Excursions are made in laundry baskets held high to the ceilings with the holder shouting out appropriately-matching lines from movies, the most cherished still wondering if they are cherished at all.