I Dated a Woman for Her Legs and Stayed with Her for Her Cat
I used to date a girl who had a cat. His name was Mogley. He was named after the human boy raised by wolves in The Jungle Book, although the girlfriend — Brenda — admitted, sometimes embarrassed, that she had misspelled it on accident.
I don’t recall the kind of cat — brand? — species! — that Mogley was, but he was kind of an asshole. Maybe we personify too much when it comes to our pets, but pets do take on the traits of their owners, and Mogley was much like his mother. He was beautiful, quick to anger, fleeting with affectionate feelings and got real lippy when hungry.
When I started wooing Brenda, which should be considered as convincing her to date me, I knew that if I could make the most important male figure in her life respect and like me, her heart would easily be mine. She didn’t have a relationship with her dad, he ran off when she was barely three years old so the cat was my mark. What I thought would be instantaneous, it took seven months of dating Brenda and staying over at her place before Mogley warmed up to me.
Mogley would rub against my leg when I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. Every time I leaned down to pet him, he’d allow one short stroke with the grain on the top of his head before biting me. Usually, these weren’t vicious bites, just nips with enough teeth and torque to let me know who was in charge. He was fascinated with the running water from the faucet and when he’d hear it, he’d jump onto the bathroom counter and shadowbox the stream. Brenda told me that he preferred to drink his water from the sink and that I should close the drain and fill the sink with water. And I did dutifully in the hopes that he’d see this as a sign of peacemaking. And as he watched the sink fill, throwing jabs and hooks at the water stream, I’d move to stroke him on his head, just the way Brenda would do, with the grain, the way he liked. And he’d let me get two strokes in before directing a clawless slash at my wrist and a back-bending attempt to grab some of my skin with his fangs.
“Yeah, yeah. Up yours, cat.”
In the mornings, always at exactly nine minutes before the alarm was set to go off, Mogley would find his way under the covers at the foot of the bed and to my toes to bite each one, fast and furious, the way the Big Bad Wolf dreamed of eating little piggies. Of course, this woke me up, robbed of nine extra minutes of sleep, which was a lot to lose after nights of drinking and screwing Brenda but hardly enough time to fall back asleep. When I reflexively and defensively kicked at him, he’d leap from under the covers, hiss and shriek that horrible shriek cats do when they’re fighting or in heat, and run out of the bedroom, down the hallway and into the bathroom to drink from the sink of water I filled for him before bed several hours earlier.
Brenda’s roommate hated Mogley for this. And she hated me even more for causing it. She may have also hated me because my best friend lost interest in her shortly after Brenda and I became a serious item, having decided that his job as a wingman was complete. And he was right.
So this is how it went with Mogley for those first seven months of the relationship with Brenda. By that time, I had given up hope that Mogley and I would ever get along. Why bother? It turned out that I didn’t really need Mogley’s approval the same way I didn’t need my friend’s wingman services any longer. Brenda and I were hot and heavy. His opinion of me was worth less than the shit in his litterbox.
I stopped leaning down to pet him when I brushed my teeth. I knew his purrs and rubs were bait for a bite. I stopped filling up the sink for him. Let his mother obey his princely demands. I stopped feeding him his can of tuna for dinner and when he would scream long, high-pitched meows for it, I’d ignore it or tell Brenda, “Hey! Your cat needs his food.”
It took me a good three months of hard flirting before I sold Brenda on being my girlfriend. By the end of that third month, I had grown weary of trying to decipher her cues and flirtations, and backed off. Shortly after I stopped showing interest — as in the first day I didn’t call her on the way to work and ask her to have lunch with me — she started returning my earlier advances. Overdue as they were, I took them and played it cool before closing the sale. And because Mogley was just like his mother, the moment I stopped trying to get the cat to love me, he began to love me.
Brenda and I were having a date at her house. A night of movies, pizza and whatever liquor her roommate had stocked in the cabinet. Brenda and I were curled up on the couch, halfway through our second movie, Blade Runner, when Mogley emerged from whatever dark part of the house he was in and jumped on the couch. He gracefully walked along the back of it, slowly, like he was stalking prey. Brenda said, “Hi, Mo-Mo.” He meowed and stalked. I paid him no mind. I kept my focus on the burning question: Do androids dream of electric sheep?
I was several sheets to the wind, having polished off three beers, half a bottle of red wine and two-thirds of a bottle of lemon-flavored vodka, so I didn’t register that the nudging at my chest wasn’t Brenda but Mogley. He was snuggling up to me. I looked down at him.
“What,” I said.
He looked up at me.
“Meow,” he said.
It was a trap. I went back to watching the movie. I put my hand on Brenda’s slim, smooth, tan thigh.
He was still looking at me. His eyes were big. He pressed harder into my chest. He purred loud enough that Brenda used the remote to turn the volume up a few notches. “What!” I said. He went through the motions again. Meow. Lean in. Purr. “I’m not petting you. You’re just going to bite me. Again. You think I’m an idiot?”
“Yeah, yeah. Up yours, cat.”
Then he tucked himself into a ball and settled in the nook created by my body, Brenda’s legs and the couch cushions. Mogley wasn’t a big cat but I could feel all of his weight against me. He wasn’t leaning or pushing, he was nuzzling. The vibration from his purring was making my stomach a little upset. It was shaking up all of the alcohol and shitty pizza I had floating around in there. I started to feel like I might puke if he kept it up. I thought, This is a bold and impressive attack, Mogley. I considered getting up but didn’t want to disturb Brenda or risk the bite from Mogley. But I needed him to calm down. So I petted him.
One stroke on the head. Just the first half of the topside of my index finger. From nose to the back of his head. With the grain. Slowly. He leaned into it. The purring quieted. The vibrations stopped. So I did it again. A different kind of purring. This kind wasn’t loud, it was soft and sweet. He leaned into me with a different kind of weight. The kind of weight a lover has when she is the little spoon.
Mogley and I stayed like that — petting and purring — just as Harrison Ford and Sean Young split the scene and the credits rolled.
Mogley and I became pals. I resumed my duties of feeding him his dinner tuna, filling his bathroom sink, and he ceased his routine of biting me when I petted him and waking me up at 6:21 in the morning by chomping on my toes. For a brief stretch there, life was as perfect as I’d ever dreamed it could be. Brenda’s roommate even resumed her affection for me since I’d found another buddy of mine to keep her from feeling like a teenager’s used tube sock.
But as my closeness with Mogley grew, so, too did the distance between me and Brenda. I can’t tell you what it was exactly or even vaguely, other than to say that Brenda had a reputation for being difficult to work with, unapologetic, irrational and nasty, though a shit ton of fun to drink with. And I knew all of this and had been witness to all of this before we started dating. Part of my attraction to Brenda was that I wanted to be the cowboy who broke the wild stallion. And she had incredible legs. I mean, incredible legs. And she was smart. Interesting kind of smart. She had great tastes in art and music and film and food and had this wild way of holding chopsticks that I couldn’t even begin to describe to you if there were a katana blade to my throat.
But Brenda never directed any of that poisonous part of her personality my way. And during those first seven months, she was the sweetest, most loving and level headed woman I’d known. As that distance crept in, things changed and I became the main target of her venom. And her venom stung, stank and stained.
The details are numerous and dull so I’ll spare you, but I will tell you that I couldn’t ever say the right thing. She made me feel that I was even saying the wrong things wrong. I was too over dressed and too underdressed. I was too thin and too short, then too tall and too fat for someone with my build. On Valentine’s Day, I wrote her a one-page love letter, one of the most honest and emotional things I’ve written to this day, and she accused me of plagiarizing it. Who did I copy? Me. She was certain I’d just repurposed a love letter I’d sent to a previous girlfriend. She asked me what I had to say for myself, and when I said nothing, because I was in such shock that I couldn’t make a sound, she called me a “dumb retard” and stormed out of her own house.
Mogley and I raided her roommate’s liquor cabinet and watched The Godfather II while I drank way too much Irish whiskey and Coke. Three hours later, Mogley, having spent the length of the film in my nook, purring and being pet, had listened to me bemoan being with Brenda. And I knew that he understood even better than I did.
A week after our anniversary, Brenda broke up with me at a crowded restaurant bar. I made a scene anyway. It was my turn to act like the lunatic. She was kind enough to let me go back to her place, clean out my drawer and leave my copy of the key under the mat at the front door. I left all of my crap in that drawer. Instead, I used those thirty minutes to talk to, play with and snuggle with Mogley. I was heartbroken over the idea of Brenda no longer being in my life, but I was devastated that Mogley would be gone, too.
But they didn’t go away. Because like most people too young to know better, Brenda and I kept in touch so that we could keep screwing and torturing each other. Our breakup-makeup lasted longer than our actual, official relationship. I knew so many times and so often that I needed to stop calling her, answering her calls, going over to her place late at night, inviting her to mine even later. But I knew that with each point of contact, I’d have an opportunity to hang out with Mogley — fill his sink, feed him his tuna.
As my closeness with Mogley grew, distance came between me and Brenda.
When Brenda’s brother-in-law died suddenly, she called me early on a Sunday morning, waking me up. She was sobbing uncontrollably. I figured she had spent her Saturday night hooking up with a baker’s dozen of random dudes and was calling to confess her sins and admit her love for me then beg and plead for me to take her back. Although I had been screwing any girl who would let me, my immature and egotistical heart was prepared to call her a slut and hang up on her, figuring that I’d finally, after three years, won the relationship.
No. Her brother-in-law was dead. Aneurysm. A wife and two young kids left behind. She was going to the funeral in Arizona and would be staying with her sister and the kids for an uncertain amount of time. She needed someone to watch Mogley. She hated that she had to call me. But I was the only person Mogley liked and didn’t bite or hiss at. Even her roommate didn’t make Mogley’s inner circle.
I felt for Brenda and her sister and her sister’s kids. The whole family, really. They were all kind, warm and generous people. Brenda often blamed her father’s abandonment on her personality flaws, which had some credence, however, his leaving didn’t seem to disrupt her mom and sister in such a dramatic way. Or maybe I never saw any negatives because I wasn’t romantically involved with them. Truly loving someone gives you access to the ability to truly despise them. Of course I would watch Mogley. For as long as needed.
She brought him to my house with the one toy she bought him, which he never played with, and a 12-pack of canned tuna. She let him out of her arms and he immediately began investigating my house. We could hear him meowing in different parts of the house as if to say, “Here’s where I’m going to puke up one meal,” and “Here’s the sink I’d like to drink from,” and “I found some dirty magazines under the sink.” Brenda, grief stricken or desperate for any reason to not leave me, Mogley or embark on the long drive over state lines to be at her sister’s side, prattled on with Mogley’s caring instructions that she and I both knew were not needed.
“Brenda,” I said. “Go. Be with your sister. Mogley will be just fine.”
Two weeks later, she was back. The time Mogley and I spent as roommates in my house was uneventful. And that’s because when two beings are comfortable being with each other, drama is averted. The best I could say is that we napped, ate, chased each other around the house, watched a lot of History Channel and entertained a few girls, about which Mogley was sworn to secrecy.
When Brenda arrived at my door to take Mogley back home, I handed him to her and started crying. Not a lot but the kind of crying you see in movies when people say goodbye to each other knowing it’s the final goodbye, and one long single tear trailblazes down the cheek. Those two weeks with no contact from Brenda, other than the few calls she made to see how the cat was doing, gave me the space I needed to heal and get out from under her spell. It also made me realize that I had only allowed the bullshit back and forth to go on as long as it did because of Mogley. I had long been over Brenda. I was never ready to say goodbye to Mogley.
But there, in my doorway, I knew I had to. And he knew it, too. He squirmed in her arms and screamed until she let him down. He rubbed against my leg. I leaned down and he leaned into my chest and looked at me with his eyes wide and he purred louder than I’d ever heard. I rubbed his head and kissed his head, then scooped him up and manhandled him in a loving way — a way that made Brenda say, “He won’t even let me hold him like that.”
Mogley and I were pals and our friendship had come to an end because of a third party. Because he was a cat and couldn’t make his own decisions. Or at least, the decision to get in a car and come see me whenever he wanted.
He and I said our final goodbyes — a kiss on his head as he pushed back into my lips — and Brenda took him away. I watched them drive off then got shitfaced on my couch watching Blade Runner. I woke up dreaming that Mogley was an android cat hunting electric sheep.
Brenda and I didn’t speak after that. Not for years. Not until I ran into her at some local political rally for some candidate who didn’t stand a chance. I was covering the election for the weekly alt rag. She was dating the campaign manager. We were polite to each other. After all, there were no hard feelings. She told me I looked good. I told her the same. There was a moment where we both considered heading off to a dark hallway of the convention hall and banging out a quickie. I knew her look, she knew mine. But we let the moment pass. I asked about Mogley.
“He died,” she said. “A few months ago. I mean, that’s what I figure, anyway.”
“He ran off one night. He’d never done that, you know. And I was terrified and totally freaked out. But he was sixteen. He was always a wild creature; you know? I think he ran off to go die somewhere beautiful, somewhere in the woods, by himself, peacefully.”
“Or he was hit by a car.”
“He went quietly and peacefully. I know that.”
“He really loved you, you know.”
“Mogley was my buddy. He was a good cat.”
“Eh, he was kind of an asshole.”
We had another moment. This time she watched my eyes well with tears just before her boyfriend barged in like a bull with a hard-on roaming a pasture of cows. I asked him a few questions about the campaign that I knew I wouldn’t use the answers to no matter what he said, then Brenda and I said our farewells.
“Mogley really loved you,” she said again as she and her campaign manager walked off. She said it in a way that made me sure she was saying something else, something about how she felt about me.
“Me, too,” I said, thinking mostly about Mogley but said in a way that could be considered about her — if that’s the game she was playing.
“Me, too,” she said.
“Who’s Mogley?” her boyfriend asked.
“Oh, he was my cat. Had him a long time ago.”
“Ugh. Gross. I hate fucking cats,” he said.
“You’re not supposed to fuck them,” I said.
He didn’t get the joke.