Rumor has it that Tilda Swinton was shafted during the recently concluded 2011 motion picture awards season. Critics and fans heaped praise upon the ginger actress’ performance in the film We Need to Talk About Kevin, which featured Swinton in the role of Eva, mother of Kevin Katchadourian. The film centers around Eva’s struggle to come to terms with her grief and shame after her troubled son launches a killing spree that includes a massacre at his high school and the murder of his father and little sister. In a post-Columbine, media-saturated, trenchcoat mafia world, Eva is living every parent’s worst nightmare, plagued with the suspicion that she might have seen all of this coming.
I haven’t seem the film but it’s on my master movie bucket list. As an avid fan of quality cinema, not to mention my fellow redheads, the picture might have captured my notice anyway. But I am the more invested in discovering how Swinton’s character comes to terms with her sorrow as I experience the same sense of dread and disgust wrapped in motherly affection in feline microcosm.
Jordan, my beautiful all-black, nearly eight year-old cat was a compromise made by my ex-husband Eddie four years ago. Our beloved elder statesmen, Snuggles Inky Bluemel-Sarwate was on his last legs at nearly 16 years of age. Both Eddie and I worked full-time, his job involving copious travel and to boot, I was finishing a Master’s degree in English Literature. Snuggy was left alone for long stretches of time and was beginning to be plagued by a variety of health problems. I couldn’t stand the guilt and after much tearful begging, Eddie agreed to let me adopt him a playmate.
Jordan came to us through the friend of a cousin, a woman expecting a baby in small living quarters. Though I was immediately concerned with Jordan’s skittishness (he spent the first three days of our acquaintance living under the couch), I believe it’s more than coincidence that Snuggy held on for another couple years. He and Jordan fought more than anything, but as neither had front claws and Snuggy appeared to enjoy a late in life challenge to his alpha maleness, I wasn’t too concerned.
It was only after we put Snuggy down in December of 2009 that I began to notice that the miracle cat who gave my beloved life partner (Snuggy, not Eddie) a second wind might be a little, shall we say…sociopathic. I have a friend who’s a trained veterinary assistant. He used to cat sit for us when we went away and one time in particular, he shared with me that he believed Jordan had “problems.”
Stop me if any of these personality traits sound familiar: possessive and territorial (driven by threats to the ego rather than affection), an autistic-like aversion to warmth and bonding, violent tendencies and unpredictable behavior. In short, after I left Eddie and moved into a place of my own, my only companion was Dexter.
These symptoms worsened when Jordy and I were forced into a major downgrade of living space: from 1300 square feet in Eddie’s rental condo to about 600 in my studio apartment. I have bitten for no reason or had my leg attacked without provocation so many times, there are instances where I put on pants even when the weather is sultry. I have a confession: I am afraid of an overweight kitty with no front claws (praise Jesus).
Like many idiosyncratic happenstances, I took my reputation as the lonely cat lady who ironically couldn’t cuddle her pet as part of life. I had bigger traumas to deal with last year.
But this year I am building a new life, one where I am single, cancer-free and happily devoid of drama. I even have myself a nice new boyfriend, a man with not one, not two but THREE adorable, cuddly and loving cats. When I spend time over at Steve’s apartment each unsolicited kitty kiss, each night spent with a warm, furry body curled next to my hip (I’m not talking about Steve), and each excited greeting at the door is both a tremendous joy and a knife to the heart. Another’s domestic bliss has a way of making it starkly clear that we’re doing without.
Here’s another confession: sometimes I wish with all my heart that I could trade Jordan for another cat. He’s like the Sistine Chapel – beautiful to look at but impossible to touch. That often makes me sad.
To complete the comparison to the Tilda Swinton character in We Need to Talk About Kevin, I ponder the nature/nurture question. Is Jordan nasty because he was born that way or am I just a really lax and terrible pet owner? Where did I go wrong?
Mostly I just feel lucky that he’s housebound and doesn’t go to school. There is no father or little sister to off. My relationship with Jordan is all about damage control. I’ve given up trying to get through.