Last night I hid in the bathroom with the baby. I could hear my husband underneath the floor, and from the sounds I could hear, I was able to imagine him there in our basement, defending our small cat from the larger one, the howling felines, the scrambling, clawing sounds of a cat fight.
I started to feel tears welling up, standing there on the cold tile with my five month old in my arms. Our cats are five years old. They are sweet, cuddly. They love new people. They spend almost every night curled up on the couch with us before we go to bed. They sleep together outside our bedroom door.
Now it seems that Piwacket would like to terrorize and maim Ouija. Now it seems Piwacket is possessed.
I don’t understand what is happening with her. But I do understand a fight. I do understand when you feel your gut driving you into conflict, harsh words, raised voices. I have had a few cat fights myself.
My sister and I got into a fight this week. On a scale of one to ten, ten being Ripley versus the Alien and zero being two sloths in a tree, it was a 6. And over text messages no less. (Feel free to leave your digital relationship advice in the comments.) We may or may not still be fighting. I’d say smoke is still rising from the singe of our flaming arrows.
My sister and I have gone to mini-war with each other so very many times over our 30+ years together. In a world of Alphas and Betas, she is an Alpha and I am a Beta Plus. (No?) In our youngest days, hair was pulled. People were shoved. Names were definitely called. Weapons wielded? Depends on what you call a weapon.
Don’t get me wrong. The two of us aren’t constantly in the ring, so to speak, but growing up we could really go toe-to-toe. I’m surprised we don’t have more stories of broken housewares.
Given our childhood fights, our friendship is actually a pretty great love story, the two of us finding a sudden and strong bond over the sight of our brother’s departure to college and the realization that we would be right behind him. We clung to each other like two asteroids about to be flung into space.
Since then, over half my life ago, my sister and I have become incredible friends. We bonded over our similar lots in the changing family dynamics. We bonded over our love of TV and pop culture. We bonded over our the discovery of our shared spiritual values.
We also bonded over our rage. I don’t always know how to talk about it, but there is part of my heart that is full of rage. Alongside the gratitude I have for the welcome, the pride, and the love I have found as a gay man, I am angry, so so angry at what my culture took from me during my years as a young gay boy.
My sister understands my rage. I can’t speak for her, but I do know that it is unjustly hard for women to simply exist in America. I also know that my sister is mad at so many injustices that were laid out before her while history kept pushing her to walk over this seemingly never-ending path of hot coals. I can’t speak for what she has gone through in her life, but I can tell you that when I share how mad I am at what our culture has taken from me, she understands what I’m saying.
She gets me, but right now we are fighting each other, about something so small but something that still strikes a chord so deep in both of us.
After a few days, I am still mad. I think she probably is, too. Then, she sent me this gif:
Our cats began fighting a couple of days ago. Piwacket howled and chased Ouija through the house, tail fully extended and puffed, ears back, back arched, howling. Ouija screamed a cat scream I’ve never heard. One of them sprayed pee all over the floor. Ouija hid under the couch. Piwacket moaned the moan of blood lust.
We put Piwacket in the basement for the night. Then in the morning, Charlie opened the basement door. Piwacket stepped out gingerly, rubbed herself against the doorframe, cute as ever. Then, suddenly she dashed off to maim her sister. The howling. The cat screams. The hissing. The urine everywhere.
Charlie intervened, picking up Piwacket, catching her in mid run-of-terror. Possessed as she was, our dear cat swiped at Charlie, smacking him across the face. With blood running down his face, Charlie and I made a mad dash to secure the cats, get Phoebe into a safe spot and get Charlie off to the doctor. While he was getting antibiotics, I called the best cat whisperer I know – my sister.
Panicked, I gave her all the details. She gave me compassionate, wise advice in such an uplifting tone that terror gave way to confidence and care. At the end of the call, in her kindest voice, she said, “Brent, this is the hard part. You got this. I wish I could be there to help, but I know you can do it.”
Our house cats were in the middle of a terrible fight, and so were me and my sister. We have been fighting all week, but I needed her. I know she heard the desperation in my voice, and suddenly our text message flaming arrows disappeared. Poof – they were gone.
On her advice, Piwacket is spending a couple of days in the basement to cool off. Ouija is nervous but takes every chance she gets to crawl into a lap and rest.
My sister and I have cooled off, too. We are firecrackers, the two of us. We are firecrackers who love a flame. But our love for each other, our deep friendship, it is so big that it wins over anger every single time. No matter how big our fight, my sister let it all go to be there for me and my family.
Today, I find myself scrubbing urine off the floor and wrangling frazzled Piwacket into a carrier on the way to the vet. But I am bouyed by her, my sister, and a sibling love that feels like gravity, like to meteors holding onto each other, flung out into space, but still, at least, together.