May 23, 2024

Pete

Pete the cat sleeping peacefully with his tongue out
photo caption: one of my favorite photos of Pete sleeping on a bedspread.

I’m allergic to cats. Maybe I never told you. When I went to the animal shelter the day we met, I actually met with two separate cats before you and your sister. The first cat, an older longhaired gentleman, set me off sneezing immediately. I lasted a few minutes before I had to decide he wasn’t for me. On the way to the viewing rooms was an enclosure with three-foot-tall glass windows wrapping around it. When I walked past to see the longhaired cat, I saw you both sleeping peacefully inside. Your tiny twin bodies were curled together in the bed you shared. I don’t remember the second cat all too much because you were awake when I walked past again. Your golden eyes locked with mine and never let go.

I came back the next day to get a second look at you. You were a Russian Blue and Waffles was a tabby. You were both about six months old. I picked up each of you and buried my face into your soft fur, daring my allergies to spring to life. I ignored the faint tickle in my eyes anyway.

two cats resting in a small cage waiting to be adopted
photo caption: adoption day for these two kids, Waffles and Pete.

When you came home, I got to know you first. Waffles was still groggy from surgery but you were up and curious almost immediately. You sniffed around the room. You hopped on my lap and accepted every bit of love you could extract. You loved it when I scratched your cheeks and your chin. Your expressive eyes shone out from a sea of perfect gray fur.

In those days, most of my friends lived nearby and were in their twenties. Friends stopped by my place pretty much every day: playing games, cooking, eating, and loving on you. During your fourteen years you never met a person you didn’t like. Every single pair of hands was connected to a future friend. You’d strut into the middle of a room and flop down, begging with your eyes for people to pet you. Sometimes you’d let out an urgent meow, what one pet sitter memorably called a honk. The message was clear: I’m here! Love me! And it worked every time.

Then there was your tongue—your signature! After a particularly good grooming session your tongue would escape from behind your tiny teeth and just hang outside your mouth. Blep! I couldn’t help but smile. Every time it happened felt like an event. We have a lot of pictures of you like this.

Pete the cat awaiting cuddles with his head cocked, winking, with his tongue sticking out
photo caption: now do a silly one!

Then I met your future parent Jamie. You took to them immediately, curling up on their lap, their chest, their shoulders. You were a movie-loving cat who could sit still for two hours without wanting to get up. You always wanted to be near us, on top of us, right next to our faces. Your loud purrs sometimes felt like two entirely different purr boxes sitting next to each other, vibrating separately but in harmony.

You helped adopt Jamie’s cat Halo into the family after we moved in together. For a time, we kept her separate from you two at the advice of a cat expert. We would crack open a door between your distinct parts of the loft and feed you treats together. Waffles avoided the interaction for months. You were different. It didn’t take long at all for you and Halo to become friends.

Everything you ever did that I found annoying in the moment I would soon retell with a smile. You would knock the remote off the coffee table when we weren’t giving you enough attention. If I was laying in bed doomscrolling on my phone, you would saunter in and plop right down between my face and the screen, purring away. Here’s the start of one of my favorite stories: we moved to Seattle with all three of you in carriers in the back seat of my hatchback. Every 15 minutes or so you would launch into a meowing a cappella that your sister soon joined in. You did this for entire states’ worth of driving! We laugh about it now. We actually laughed about it then, too.

a russian blue cat named Pete with a fuzzy gray blanket shrouding his head
photo caption: this gentle boy loved to be camouflaged in his gray blanket.

When your twin sister died, part of my grieving process was to imagine the future the three of us might have together. One image in my mind was the three of us atop a snowy mountain, you peeking out from an open bag on my back. The three of us had matching gold mirrored wraparound sunglasses and loud grins on our faces. If someone had told me even six months ago we would be here now, I wouldn’t believe them. It’s been two weeks without you. The impression you had on me still has me feeling hollowed out.

Our relationship was never deeper than in the past four months. During the day we often only had each other to spend time with. I knew you were getting slower and sleepier with age. I still cherished the rituals we had. We’d hang out together in bed each morning while I struggled to wake up. I’d get up to feed you and you’d join me in the kitchen. We’d talk together for a while. You’d tell me which of the many flavors of canned food you wanted (I’d get it wrong every now and then). You dutifully accepted your medicine, even as the number of pills grew. You’d hop onto my lap for a while when I started working. Sometimes you’d climb up my shoulder and hang there until I leaned back in my office chair and gave you love. Sometimes you’d nap on the couch near my desk. Sometimes I’d find you singing in the bathtub.

In the afternoon you’d stand in the doorway to the bedroom and honk at me to join you for cuddles. On days that I couldn’t, you’d go in alone and curl up in the dark against the folds of the comforter. What I wouldn’t give to join you one more time.

The love you showed me over these 14 years felt infinite. I hope you felt in return at least a fraction of how I felt about you. I hope you know how much you meant to us. It’s been hard to imagine a life without you. I hope we meet again in the next one.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

a man slouching on a couch with two cats resting on him and one lying near his head
photo caption: a portrait of the author as a young cat couch.

my name is josh martinez. i have always loved trying to understand systems, and the systems that built those systems. i spend a lot of time thinking about how to get there from here.

i own and operate a consulting practice, Future Emergent.

say hello: josh[at]bethefuture.space