By Santiago Brusadin
I have always had a conflicted relationship with cats. I still do. And she knew it.
I had always considered these creatures basically beautiful assholes, until she came into my life. Like a tiny tornado, this sharp and deep-witted Turkish girl swept me off my feet. I adored antagonizing her just to see her freckled skin blush bright red while she was mentally looking for arguments to counter my silly statements. We could sometimes argue for hours about cats and dogs. Having grown up in a multi-cat household, she just couldn’t understand why I didn’t revere them. I would solemnly state that cats just wouldn’t care about you. They just used you to serve them, bring them food and provide them with a warm home. But dogs would be all about unconditional silly love. And that´s what the world needed right now, more unconditional silly love and less selfish beauty. My argument was, why would I have a cat in my home in Istanbul when there were thousands in the streets? Istanbul, the paradise of cats, the land conquered not by the Ottomans neither by the Byzantine but by these beautifully egotistical creatures.
I was trying to delay the inevitable. And she knew it.
"A street cat," I once said those apparently inconsequential words while opening a third bottle of our cherished brand of red wine. I was starting to be cheerfully inebriated. She already had those adorable red cheeks and a huge, almost cartoonish, smile. I stared hard at her sensual gap in her teeth. Her tawny eyes could drag you into a black hole of lust. So much beauty was unfair to the world. Only a street cat, I reassured half-jokingly. That would be the only way I could accept a cat in my microscopic apartment. But only if it was one . . . like. One . . . like. Through my inebriation, I had to focus to finish the sentence. "Like one that really needed it!" I spilled a bit of wine over the carpet. She stared at me through her wine glass. With one eye closed, she looked extremely alluring. I stuttered. "Like a three-legged cat," I finally proclaimed. We laughed, we drank, we made love and one dinner later she brought me a three-legged cat. Three dinners after that she moved in with me, my big mouth and my newly adopted cat.
She asked me what I wanted to name it.
Tres – I answered without hesitation and with a big naughty smile in my face.
I thought she would accuse me of giving him a degrading name. She didn't ask me why I didn't called him Uç. It would have made perfect sense to give him a Turkish name. She said nothing. She just leaned up and kissed me very tenderly. And he was named Tres.
Everything was adventurous and unexplored for the three of us. We were just starting our common life in our brand new relationship. Tres was just starting a domestic life after a hard time in the streets. He had dry blood all over his face and some hair missing the night she brought him home. He had seen things. The way he looked at you, you knew he had lived intensely in his past eight lives and was ready to be taken care of in his last one. So we learned slowly, the three of us, to take care of each other. We learned the tricks of taking care of our cat while we learned how to nurture our relationship. Everything was fragile and disproportionately exciting. It was just like if a steam train on flames just violently crashed into our chests and the commotion made the rest of the world become just blurry shapes around the corners of our eyes. Our hearts were beating so hard against our chests that everything outside of us became the silence of outer space.
We walked around Istanbul with different eyes. This time around we experienced the city with curious cat’s eyes. With Tres, all the monuments seemed insurmountable. And all the streets seemed like endless playgrounds with his company. A new appreciation for the city grew in us. We fell in love with Tres, while, in the meantime, we fell in love with each other. Like rush hour in Istanbul, we were trapped in a traffic jam made of question marks. And like a fragile boat, we were trying to cross the strait through the center of a storm of feelings.
We would fight over who would snuggle up to him more. We played with Tres on the carpet. We tried to give him some advantage not because he only had three legs but because he always felt a bit constrained in our tiny home, in our tiny existences. Like if he had seen infinite pastures and engaged in bloody street fights that left him a tragic memory and scars for life. Now he had to reluctantly accept to follow a ball of yarn thrown by two humans whose more dangerous experience was getting drunk on a school night.
Tres wouldn't allow any help manoeuvring. He would move rhythmically in waves with a rather adorable zigzagging style. He would sometimes try to scratch his right ear with his missing leg. I would often fantasize what was the story behind the missing limb. I got the impression that she knew but didn't want to traumatize me.
Somehow it struck me too late that this cat was a mirror of our relationship. Apparently, I was the last to know. Our love triangle was a peculiar one. Sometimes Tres and me had some alone time when she was working late trying to save the world. We would watch silly 80s action movies or jump from the sofa to the table without touching the ground because it was lava. I would warn him. She mustn´t know. Don´t break anything. Sometimes they had their moments alone. Then I would see Tres wearing a silly reindeer sweater. I would roll my eyes but then immediately laugh at that dopey clothing. Sometimes it was time for us: for our good old days of laughs, red wine and great sex.
Soon enough we learned that it was not all about laughing, drinking and making love. Games. Fun. Bills. Litter. Repeat. It was not all about petting and cute Instagram pictures. We learned that we had to fight with Tres, to lock him out of the bedroom when we wanted to make love but he disappeared as soon as we wanted to bathe him.
And then because life could not care less about giving you time to prepare, Tres died the first day it snowed that winter. That freezing morning, now engraved on my memory, we woke up wrapped in a blanket of normality, feeling the chill of monotony. We looked at Tres, lying quietly on the coloured carpet. His body, now lifeless, felt different when we wrapped our arms around him. When the tears stopped - because weeping always stops at some point - we looked at each other. And suddenly we didn't recognize the person we sat in front of anymore. And we didn't laugh anymore. We knew that we had succumbed to the real world, a world that tastes as bitter as hemlock. We buried him in the park where she found him, under the weight of the snow and the infinite sadness.
She moved out one dinner later. No wine and no laughs. We made love one last time sharing every single tear we had in ourselves.
I still look for our treasured brand of wine in every liquor store. I buy a bottle every time and never drink it. Life has become a permanent farewell. And where every room had a naughty laughter before it has now the echoes of abandonment. It was the dissolution of a bond that was supposed to be eternal. I was left adrift without my canoe in the storm. Nothing seems real now but I find her in every object. A random litter box seen in a pet shop or a cat paw on dry cement unleashes a storm of feelings. I miss them both. I miss us.
It’s raining outside. The pleasant feeling of security being inside and warm is almost numbing. I want to get hit hard enough to wake up. I want answers to questions I do not know how to ask. I want shortcuts for roads I do not know where they lead to. I finally go outside. It’s raining heavily now. I sit on the sidewalk under a tree and roll a joint. With the first puff the stars seem more brilliant and titillating. Then I see him. And he sees me. A stoner smile appears on my face. Then I immediately start to cry. I hope the rain dissimulates my weakness. I don´t cry for long, just enough to take some of the pressure out of my chest because every weeping stops at some point. I extend my finger unknowingly if it will have any effect on him. Then the tiny three-legged cat and me stare at each other for what seems like an eternity.
Santiago Brusadin is an Istanbul based Msc. Architect and freelance writer from Barcelona. He has worked in Architecture offices in Spain, Poland, Italy and Turkey. He is passionate about design, travelling around the globe and discovering the off-the-beaten-path wonders of the cities. He currently writes about hidden architectural gems, contemporary design and the peculiarities of life in Istanbul for Yabangee and he has been a writer contributor for the English Time Out Istanbul magazine