Perhaps a week before I was to be admitted to Lakeside Memorial Hospital in Brockport, NY for an exploratory laparoscopy on my ovaries, I walked from the apartment complex I called home to the village. The town "hub" was comprised of Main Street--a short strip of stores and seedy bars essential for the college student, which I was.
"Papa Joe's" was the University's local nutritional center, where the most un-New York like pizza I'd ever tasted was pounded out by a highly proud native named John. A typical slice towered over an inch high. Though looming in height, it stood quite sparse in toppings. The all-important mozzarella cheese, gooey and stringy in most "Famous Ray's" and other joints "downstate," seemed to be in low supply in this area rich in cows and farmland. When confronted by saavy students familiar with pizza's true merits, John would resolutely guarantee that "Papa Joe's IS pizza."
At one spot on Main Street, a small iron bridge sat above a slim stretch of Erie Canal. Beyond this regularly raised drawbridge leading toward the hospital sat a small pet shop. Into this store I wandered on this warm spring day at the end of May. The semester was finished and I had lots of time on my hands waiting for Dr. Garg to remove my six centimeter cyst on my left ovary the following week.
Facing my second surgery in less than a year left me feeling afraid and alone. (The previous summer I'd had a Pilonidal Cystectomy, or a cyst removed from the base of my spine). Despite these feelings I wouldn't return home to my family. Rather, I played house during infrequent moments of lucidity when not partying during a dead end relationship. I was broke, unfocused, hundreds of miles from family and thus felt it was a good time to splurge thirty dollars on a tiny, helpless, needy thing that would love me unconditionally. The great reservoir in me, like an achingly empty womb, as well as the desire to love and nurture that I was subconsciously afraid would be taken away from me with this surgery, was palpable.
As soon as I stepped inside the store, a cage sitting on the counter filled with about five kittens caught my attention. I walked right over, and the pet store owner obliged my interest by taking them all out and placing them on the counter for closer inspection.
They all scampered about the confines of the counter, curious about the world beyond their birdcage. That is, all except for Kitty-Sam. She sat, legs splayed and sleepy-eyed. Immediately, I was smitten. Not only was her lethargy endearing, it also made her seem more vulnerable, in greater need of nurturing like an under dog-or cat as the case might be.
I put down my cash, took my receipt and carefully walked with her clutched to my chest for the entire two mile walk back to my apartment. Once home she seemed too tiny to put on the floor. I feared accidentally stepping on her, so I placed her on the queen-sized bed. And for the longest time she didn't seem to realize there existed a world beyond the blankets. Sure, next to a BIRDCAGE she had shared with four other kittens, she must have felt her new digs an enormous improvement on space and living conditions.
After my surgery the following week which changed from a laparoscopic procedure to cutting and the removal of half my ovaries, Dr. Garg came into my room and announced, "If you want to have children, you'd better do it now." I spent a full five days in the hospital and returned home to bed.
Kitty Sam remained a faithful and comforting presence, both to give snuggles to as well as to receive them from. She stayed with me right there, for as long as I lay recovering. It was the start of a super close bond. Funny thing was, the boyfriend I lived with neither liked her much nor was liked by her too well.
In some ways, Kitty Sam was more like a dog. We would go out later on that summer, behind the apartment building. I sunbathed while she explored on the hilly grass leading to the train tracks. She would only go maybe ten or twenty feet, then rush back to where I lay on a towel. I would feel her whiskers tickle my face and hear her ever-present contented purr in my ear. It seemed like she were checking in with me from time to time, like a little kid loving some independence, yet still wanting to know mom is close by. When I wasn't lounging or reading that summer, I threw her little sticks and a tennis ball that she would run after, pounce on, then pick up in her mouth and return to me. We were quite happy with each other.
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