This is a story about my best friend……
When I was seven, my parents gave into my incessant whining for a cat, and got me a Maine Coon named Charlie. My parents, sister, and I would sometimes look at him over the years and say, “If cats could talk, Charlie would have a lot to say.” I always thought that Charlie had seen more craziness in his life than most people, so what would he say?
I imagined for years him opening his tiny mouth and speaking fluent English and I hoped he would keep my secrets. At the same time I hoped he would spill everyone else’s, I wanted him to be my voice and acknowledge all the trauma that happened in our home. Again, yet a decade later, I want him to be my voice. If Charlie could talk he would shout, “Stop!” when mom was mad at us and yelled and threw things. He would tell her, “They’re just kids and they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.” After he got mom to calm down, he’d tell me and Alissa ghost stories until we fell asleep.
If cats could talk, Charlie would smoke a cigar and tell stories about being a homeless kitten.
If cats could talk, Charlie would sing me lullabies after dad got mad that I crawled out of bed again and shouted at me. I thought the “tuck” wore off if I moved too much, and if the tuck wore off the boogey man would get me. After the first two times, dad wouldn’t want to tuck me in again, so Charlie would reassure me that I was safe and sing until dreams came.
If cats could talk, Charlie would hum heavy metal under his breath, as we blasted Taylor Swift.
If cats could talk, Charlie would have answered for me when the cops came to ask if my bruises were from my mother’s hand. He would say, “These girls parents don’t come home much, but when they do they’re mad. No matter what, the drugs don’t let them see clearly and they yell, and sometimes become violent. The girls are trying so hard to be good.”
If cats could talk, Charlie would always have the best knock knock joke.
If cats could talk, Charlie would have talked mom out of the room she locked herself in after taking the bottle of muscle relaxers. I wouldn’t have been screaming and banging on the door convinced my mother was going to kill herself when I was twelve because Charlie would have saved the day, like always. Later that night when mom was recovering in the hospital and I was alone, Charlie would have reassured me, “It’s not your fault.”
If cats could talk, Charlie would have a British accent and would be sarcastic and funny.
If cats could talk, Charlie would have told my dad that mom was cheating on him with that 18 year old boy who was a long time friends’ son. Maybe then dad wouldn’t have to feel so bad.
If cats could talk, Charlie would scream, “Put me down!” after I held him over my head and spun him and sang ‘I just can’t wait to be king’ and called him my little lion.
If cats could talk, Charlie would have told me, “I love you so much no matter what,” when I sat across from him on my bed and outed myself as a lesbian to him.
If cats could talk, Charlie would assure me that it was okay if I gave him pizza when dad wasn’t looking or even shared my glass of milk. He would keep repeating, “I love you, but I can’t stay,” when I begged him to live to be twenty.
If cats could talk, Charlie would have told me, “You are so strong and you will get through this.” When I came home after my friend’s brother and friend raped me the day after my 19th birthday, I would cry and tell him the awful things they said to me and he would reassure me that despite what they said, “No does mean no! and it’s NOT your fault.”
If cats could talk, Charlie would have told me, “I know. I love you too!” when I sobbed and apologized for all my misgivings and told him I loved him more than anything in the world and thanked him for being my life-long best friend and my voice as he took his last breath.
On second thought……
If cats could talk, Charlie wouldn’t.
(photo of Charlie supplied by the author)