Note No. 40

January 2, 2010

Sometimes I do the strangest things.

Yesterday, if you had seen me, I was standing in the main square cradling a bag of frozen strawberries and four little cartons of yogurt in my arms. And I was also holding about 12 empty six pack rings, even though I am apparently maybe wasting my time trying to save the pelicans.

And I was also talking to The Cat Lady.

The Cat Lady, who walks around town with a bag of kibble at least once a day so that swarms (and I mean SWARMS) of felines are running around her and through her legs, following her to the various corners of downtown where she bends over and distributes food.

The Cat Lady, who never used to even make eye contact with me, because she saw me one night throw my keys at the wall, so as to scare one of the 17 tomcats that was about to go into my gate, where a mama in heat had been teasing the boys all week, resulting in hysterical growling, hissing and near knocking over of patio furniture.

Let me be clear here: I did not hit the cat with my keys. I would never hit a cat with anything. Spray it with water? Yes. Cause it physical pain? No.
But when she saw me do this, she looked at me in horror and asked: “What have they ever done to you?” which I actually thought was: “May they come after you!” until I talked about it afterwards with my boyfriend at the time and realized that I had confused the direct object and the subject.

My entire non-relationship with The Cat Lady, in fact, has been fraught with such misunderstandings, because when I tried to explain to her a few nights later that I would never intentionally harm any animal and that I had only been trying to scare the cat away, because I have guests and a hotel to consider, well, she seemed to not even hear me and merely replied: “What about the corn?”

“What corn?”

“The corn you threw.”

“What corn I threw?”

“Someone threw corn.”

“It wasn’t me. I have no idea who threw corn. I haven’t even eaten any corn lately.”

“Well, someone threw corn at the cats. It was out here.”

“Well, it wasn’t me.”

And at this point, I just had to leave, because the exchange was clearly going nowhere.

So, when I found myself in an ACTUAL CONVERSATION with The Cat Lady yesterday, it was, like, too much to believe.

I can’t take any credit, of course. It was a return guest, Lynn, who brought us together. She is a kindhearted woman, the type that spends her Caribbean island vacation inside of an artificially-lit operating room spaying and neutering dogs and cats, because she can, because she is a trained veterinarian, and because there is such a need for it in this place that is not even her home. During her last visit here, she had gone to The Cat Lady’s store and picked out a bunch of souvenirs to take home, expecting to be able to pay for them and thus help carry on the legacy of the Stoop Kitchen but The Cat Lady was one step ahead of Lynn and would not let her pay for any of it.

That’s what honorable people like Lynn get: generosity to pay them back for their own generosity. But then when you’re a noble person like Lynn, you cannot let such gestures have the last word, because your benevolence is not self-serving and there is a scale here, so you have to do something ELSE in return to make sure you have the most weight on your side, so you leave an envelope full of cash in your wake and make a homemade card with a picture of you and your cats, and ask that kitten-hating-corncob-chucking hotel manager to deliver it to The Cat Lady for you.

Maybe it would be a bridge between us, Lynn suggested, when I told her that I would be happy to carry out the mission for her but that I didn’t think I was one of The Cat Lady’s favorite beings in the world. Yet luck would have it that as soon as I had accepted my charge, The Cat Lady went missing. I didn’t see her on my street anymore and when I went to her shop, I was told she no longer worked there. But it’s named after her! How can she no longer work in a store that is her namesake?

Finally, on Tuesday, I was coming home from a night out with the girls and I saw her in her usual spot, crouched among the parked scooters and golf carts, so I ran into my kitchen to get the card that had been sitting on my table for more than a week. When I came up behind her, I tried to make a lot of noise and I started speaking long before I was close enough to speak to her, because I didn’t want to startle her, but I startled her anyhow, because I think humans startle her. I quickly pointed to Lynn’s picture on the card and then I handed it to her and explained it was a gift from Lynn and then we both sort of bared our teeth at each other in what I think might be called smiling before I scurried off.

When she saw me yesterday then, it was her turn to startle me, because she actually walked up to me as I was bent over (I know. The irony) picking up garbage, and she started speaking to me.
Speaking to me.

She was so appreciative of the gift. She has had to give up her shop, you see, because rent got too high and now, she has a small retirement fund she can use to keep taking care of the cats that she loves so much, but there are, like, more than a 100 of them, so Lynn’s contribution was really, really appreciated; and could I pass that message on to her, please?

Sure, I said, before letting her know that Lynn would probably be back on the island in April and that she would most definitely be looking The Cat Lady up.

Then she wished me Happy New Year and I wished her the same before we actually did smile at each other, the kind that involves eyes and all that. Then she walked off and I carried on picking up plastic rings to take home and cut up.

I think we might be friends now. Or at least on speaking terms. And her name is Lupita.

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