“I want the newspapers I read to smell like the violins left in pawnshops by weeping hobos on Christmas Eve.”
- Tom Robbins
Sometimes, it feels like my cat has me on suicide watch. Those days she will not leave me alone from late afternoon until breakfast. Then I remember I’m not suicidal. I don’t understand why she follows me from room to room by running ahead of me and stopping in my path so I’ll pick her up and carry her with me. Why is she doing this?
Then I found this Tom Robbins quote, and it all made sense about how I feel - and about what my cat is doing. The above quote actually describes the worst I’ve been feeling – being angry at strangers for no reason. (Word wants to change the ‘angry at’ to ‘angry with’. But my anger is pointed at anything like a laser ray gun and has nothing to do with the targets).
Sometimes I feel like the kind of over-the-top drama queen I imagine speaking in Robbins’ quote, exquisitely refining the details of my infinitely sour black hole of sentimental bitterness and trying to suck everyone in. I feel like the kind of person who says nobody ever comes to my parties all my friends are dead - and my personal favorite I don’t like to complain but...
So why does my cat stick with me? Well, first of all, if I were really the kind of person who is pleased about weeping hobos on Christmas Eve - like I am in that picture of me above - even my self-absorbed cat could smell that oddly sexy ennui. And who would want to be around that tainted vengeful soulless person who dreams of kicking another guy when he’s is as far down as they can imagine. The hobo in the pawnshop is so far below me he’s invisible.
My first theory is based on therapy cat behavior. My cat is reminding me I’m ok, and that the anger part of my grief is burning itself out. The other day, I asked my doctor to please not put the term “obese” on my permanent medical record, and couldn’t we use “gravitas” instead. First time in ten years the bastard laughed when he said no and he says no ALL the time. Hearing laughter feels good. Sharing it feels better. I’ve missed that and realize that my cat may be trying to bring some comfort and joy to balance out the anger. She is grounding out all the sparks.
Here’s another more olfactorily-inclined theory. I’m on very special newspaper smell watch. Seriously, doesn’t that quote describe EXACTLY how complex and wonderful newspapers would smell if they smelled like that? It would be the deeply aged musk of knowledge earned in over a long life rich in painful detail, seasoned with the preserving spice of growth and resilience; of bending but not breaking. That hobo probably dried his tears and had a merry Christmas. I’d be even more inclined to read the newspapers that smelled like those in my grandfather’s basement where they were piled on shelves built against the stone wall foundation which was infused with generations of wet tree roots percolating through the stone. His youngest daughter, my mother’s baby sister, was a school teacher and stored her school workbooks there too. Accordingly, I’ve come to associate that ghost of that old basement smell with wisdom. To me, wisdom smells like barrel aged root beer and old newspapers in my grandfathers house in Northeast Washington DC - which is built on a swamp.
In either case, my cat knows I’m not an irredeemably misanthropic old victim of suicidal senile agitation. After all, my cat has a better sense of smell than I do, and doesn’t have the word violin in her vocabulary. My cat may just like the way I smell.