Every morning, before I go to work, I pour some coffee and sit on the right side of my three-cushion couch. It’s a deliberate spot where I can place my cup on a table barely an arm’s reach away and rest my laptop on the sofa’s right armrest. You see, I need my lap free.
For a long time, there was some variation of this habit, but it wasn’t until the last six months or so that Caesar, my almost 11-year old cat, made it a necessary daily occurrence. He follows me around my apartment every morning, going from room-to-room with the occasional “meow” to let me know he’s right beside me. Before my coffee I’m always in my bedroom getting dressed, and he lags a little behind me when I go to kitchen, then couch.
But pretty much without a doubt, as soon as I plop down and the “clunk” of ceramic mug hits wooden table, he’s bounding down a short hallway, tail up and loose flap of furry skin bouncing back and forth between his legs. Onto my lap he goes.
It’s from this perch that we both start our day, me handling email or taking notes for the stories you’ve read here or on Good Beer Hunting. He’s spinning around, making sure to get the perfect angle from which his chin can dangle so-slightly off my left knee.
For the next 30 minutes, I’m pouring over spreadsheets or interviews, trying to make narrative sense from a collection of data and reporting. I’d venture a guess that most of my stories have started not just with a keystroke on my computer, but also Caesar curling up, ready for his early morning nap.
At night, he joins me when my coffee is replaced by a beer, and if I’m lucky, my wordsmithing is accompanied by the rhythmic sound of his purrs, helping my mind relax and fingers dance across letters. We’re a team, but he doesn’t know it.
I’ve had an oddly high number of conversations recently with people who want to know if I’m a “dog person” or a “cat person,” as if that minor descriptive footnote is indicative of who I am or what I can offer. I’m not sure what they glean from my response, or what they care to automatically assume when I tell them I have a cat, for a variety of practical life reasons. I love dogs, I love cats, I love animals. I’d love to see the face of someone when I tell them I’m a “wasp person” or “hippo person.” The particular kind of four-legged creature doesn’t matter so much as our willingness to show care and love.
Are you an “empathy person?” is what I should ask in response.
We’ve all got friends who join us at the bar or taproom, sharing stories and reflecting on the days leading up to that particular meeting. Those conversations could be full of important life updates or a simple bullshit session between people who embrace how easy that can be.
But every morning, one of the most important friends I’ve made says nothing at all. Letting me get to work while he dreams about birds or treats or whatever it is I’ll never know but would love to make up. We’re both waiting for our return session, mere hours away.