More than the other cats, Oregano is attuned to moods.
Mine, mostly, as she long ago decided that I belonged to her, if not exclusively then primarily.*
Which is why, when I’m ill or upset or downcast, she crawls onto my legs, my lap, my chest, and curls up there, patiently, until I am restored to health and happiness.
And when I’m on the mend, but not yet mended, she stations herself a short distance away and monitors my progress.
And, finally, when she’s satisfied that I’ll live and endure, she slips away.
For too long, I was insufficiently grateful for this, for her. Her short, stumpy legs display an unerring precision in the way they can locate all of my internal organs in the span of four movements; she does not always retract her claws when she strokes my face with her paw; she has bruised my nose, split my lip on more than one occasion with her loving head-butts…her affection is, most of the time, a blunt instrument wielded with good intentions but without much skill.
She is as sullen and stubborn and occasionally spiteful as I am — no coincidence, perhaps, that our eyes match; for this reason and others, it took a long time for me to appreciate her properly, because respecting her ways requires acknowledging parts of myself that I…I was going to say ‘dislike,’ but I think what’s closer to the truth is “know that I should dislike, because others do, yet but clutch with a sly, secret pride.”
I cannot help but admire any being that so purposefully, so consistently refuses to live up to expectations, or to compensate for shortcomings. One of millions, perhaps billions, of black cats, Oregano’s distinguishing features are not the kind that win admirers: allergies; pudginess; back legs that don’t quite work the way they ought to; a jealous streak; a certain efficient brutality that has gained her the nicknames “Thugregano,” and “Stomparella;” the list goes on. And yet she does nothing to compensate for what most would call flaws. She is loyal and loving, true, but these traits she reserves for almost no one in the world.
No one, really, except for me.
I can say with certainty that no living creature cares as much about my welfare and tho’ I often think, “don’t waste your affection on me — given the many demands life places upon my attention, I don’t expect I’ll ever be able to reciprocate,” I take, not as much as I can hold, because that void will always yawn wide, but as much as she can give.
And she gives, willingly, what she has, this cat.