4 min read

From the Desk of Sir Thomas Catface IV

The one with the adorable cat pics 😻
A black cat asleep on his back on a green blanket, exposing white fur belly underneath, arms spread akimbo
Rest like no one’s watching, or about to break your heart.

“He’s never had bad touch,” West said. His cat Thomas was born in a homeless encampment with a lot of hard drugs and not a little violence (reminder/stereotype check: the violence I—and many others—have experienced happened minus hard drugs and inside suburban houses), but the people and environment treated him just fine. The farm in Washington where I usually park has a barn cat that would rip your face off if you picked it up, but Thomas climbed into my lap at a gathering crowded with hundreds of people and pressed his mouth to mine. And that is how we met.

He’d no doubt kissed many other people that day, but over multiple visits and some months of knowing him, we fell pretty deeply in love and long story short I am his current custodian on this earth. He’d been with other trans queers before West, and now he’s with yet another, and while he loves everyone I did notice that when I introduced him to a couple of children recently, it was the trans one he pressed his face to over and over, his forehead to hers, when she bent close enough.

The same black and white cat lying stretched out on his side with his arms over his head, against a grey blanket, white fairy lights on the window above him.

Thomas—no relation to my penis, with whom he coincidentally shares a name, unless you consider coincidences magic which I absolutely do—is not afraid. My penis is like that, in that when I’m freaking out, resting my hand lightly against it invariably raises soothing internal wisdom along the lines of you are fine or it is fine or don’t worry about it or you know what you’re doing. Thomas, he’s lived in many places with many people, all houseless, and when he goes to sleep he stretches out like there is no threat in this world. He lays himself out and back and open like he’s actively trying to expose as many soft parts and organs as possible.

The same cat lying back with his stomach exposed, on a blue blanket under a window framed by gold drapes.
The cat stretched out across a striped chair and paisley ottoman.
The cat lying back on the green blanket with arms stretched way overhead.
The cat stretched out on its back again, on a white blanket, chest and stomach exposed.

The other day, I felt a little unsettled for a while until I suddenly burst into tears. When I breathed into the feeling there was an ache in my heart. As usual, I thought, My heart is broken. I’ve felt that countless times, for a long time; I imagine myself chronically heartbroken, developmentally heartbroken, and have wondered if it’ll ever change. If that can change. But as I continued to breathe and cry through it for a while, I started to feel something different.

That my heart was broke open.

Maybe it’s the same thing. That’s certainly also long been true for me, that I am quick to love; that I can love even my most violent perpetrator; that I let things in, however that has cost, still costs. Maybe my heart is embodied by Thomas’ shape. God breaks the heart over and over until it stays open, or You have to keep breaking your heart until it stays open, people say, variably attributing Rumi or Hazrat Inayat Khan, and I’ve never fact-checked its provenance but whichever Sufi said it, it’s true you cannot live without heartbreak, so maybe I’ve been living fully and full-out since childhood.

The thing about Thomas (the cat, not the penis) is: He has had bad touch. No one’s had eyes on him all 24 hours a day for the whole two years of his life, so maybe he’s been mishandled by a human, but he definitely has been by another cat. One was attacking him regularly—brutally if given the chance—for a few months until he joined this sweet, soft, vehicular nest I’ve made for myself (if your takeaway from the above photos was, That guy has a lot of blankets—you are correct!).

It doesn’t stop him from opening up. God knows it hasn’t stopped me. I often feel like I should have been more guarded—against the world, against shitty men, against love, against this cat! Yesterday I let him outside like he’s gotten used to from his former owners, indoor/outdoor living-it-up, but that morning he’d somehow managed to get his collar in between his jaws. I noticed when he suddenly started freaking the fuck out, rare for his dapper, lazy, man-about-town constitution; it was trapped in the corners of his mouth, strangling him. His own collar! Someone had tied the quick-release latch on his collar shut, probably because it was broken, so I couldn’t get him easily free and had to grab and slip a pair of scissors between his neck and the choker.

He paused to breathe heavily, raspily, through his mouth.

And then he flipped out again and scratched the shit out of my hand. His left thumb claw was shattered from the effort to get free, bleeding.

I held him steady enough, saying his name as calmly as I could, to cut him free without further injury. And then, despite all the trauma, he was recovered.

The cat lying on its back again, arms up and chest exposed, in a pile of white fluffy blankets.