Dryer Lint: The Ballad of Cyrus Pythagorean Daniel

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Like Cyrus.

Like Cyrus.

“I know what you need”, she exclaimed suddenly, “Pussy!” She laughed maniacally, amused, it seemed, by the suggestion that I would need, or want, anything from the female genitalia. I shot her a glare across the living room, “Isn’t it you that told me I didn’t have to eat anything I didn’t want to?” I was being clever, but the truth was, until I met her I had never even considered the fact that my preferences might be ok just the way they were.

I was gay.

And more than that, I was beginning to be ok with it for the first time in my entire seventeen years of life.

Just me an my first hag...

Just me an my first hag...

I had grown up in an environment that was less than sympathetic to my orientation, and from my earliest years I had displayed certain leanings towards the stereotype. Of course, none of this might have mattered if my own father hadn’t decided to leave my mother when I was 10 for the company of other men. But he did, and I suppose, looking back now, I can’t really blame my mother for her exaggerated response to her son “falling victim to” the same predispositions as her husband.

But this story isn’t about my childhood.

I’ve always had strong faith. In my early years, it was in Christ and all the trappings that non-denominational “seeker-friendly” neo-Baptist mega-churches could offer. From the time I was very small, people said that I had a “gift”, that God had touched me. Frankly, when I think about it now, I have to laugh. However, my deep faith in Christ was another reason why, at 17 years of age, I had hated myself since the 3rd grade, when I had kissed my first boy. Christ, it seemed, accepting the fact that he had travelled around the idyllic natural world of biblical Israel trailed by twelve men of questionable origin, whom he often reclined under Olive trees with, was staunchly against the desire of men for men. While he had always been strangely silent on the subject, his followers, which included people from before the time of his birth, apparently, had a lot of disparaging things to say. And I was in love with Christ. In fact, it’s possible that he was the first man I ever loved.

My only love...not!

My only love...not!

However, this story isn’t about my relationship problems with a crucified carpenter, either.

This story isn’t even about her; the red-headed, firecracker mother of three whose family had adopted me, when, prompted by a few complicated revelations that had come to me in recent years, I had decided that my own home as toxic to me. And my mother, saint that she was, felt similarly. So we had parted ways, my mother and I, a year earlier than most, and she had taken me in. Shirley. It was a rocky beginning to be sure, and beyond all other things, she had to contend with a deep and abiding self-hatred that coiled around inside of me like a serpent, “Crushing the life out of your eyes”, as she had a fondness for saying in those early days. She wanted so desperately to teach me what it meant to love myself. However, I had closed my ears to the reasoning of other human voices a long time ago. I knew what I knew, and my intellect held me hostage to my preconceptions.

So she said, “You need a pussy!”

Of course, she hadn’t meant anything to do with a woman. She had meant a companion, a dependent even. She wanted me to get a kitten. I was skeptical. “I’m allergic to cats”, I said by way of dismissing the suggestion. “Some things”, she said, “are more important than runny noses.” I didn’t understand what she meant, but as usual, I went along with whatever half-baked idea she presented.

The following Saturday, she took me to a flea market. She had heard that there would be breeders with all sorts of dogs there, and of course, if I was getting a feline, she had to get a canine. She said she was revisiting her childhood. I thought she was revisiting ways to make my life more complicated. Honestly, a puppy and a kitten at the same time? It would be madness. Of course, then again, her whole house was madness. The two should fit in just fine.

So I found myself, alone among a sea of unfamiliar faces, jabbering back and forth in unfamiliar languages, searching an old K-Mart parking lot for a pussy. Shirley had disappeared immediately to seek out her own companion, declaring, “These things have to be done alone!” And I was alone. I wandered aimlessly for awhile, nothing catching my eye. There were countless nick-nacks and bricabrack, and $2 souvenirs, but no cats. It seemed hopeless. I was in a stall, which really only consisted of three long tables arranged in a boxy sort of u-formation. I was aimlessly pawing through a basket full of tiny cloth dolls when I heard that first mew. I turned around quickly, almost startled by the unmistakeably organic sound I had heard. In fact, it was the first word I’d heard all morning that I thought I understood. “Over here!” it seemed to say. But I didn’t see anything. I heard it again then, and knelt down by one of the tables and lifted the skirt. I was confronted by a pair of bright yellow eyes, staring fixedly up into my own, and peering out of a fluffy ball of dryer lint. A kitten had called me.

Pay attention to ME!

Pay attention to ME!

As soon as I laid eyes on it, it began to jabber at me, mewling repeatedly and grinding its impossibly small body against a wire cage that separated us. I was startled when a raspy voice in broken English choked above my shoulder, “$30. You want the cat man? It’s noisy as fuck. We put it away, it’s so noisy.” I turned around to find a tubby little Mexican man grinning at me. I pointed to the cat, repeating, “You want $30 bucks for…this?” I motioned to the wiggling ball of dark gray fluff and the man made a wet rasping sound in the back of his throat, which I suppose was what passed for a thought process in his world, and said, “Ok, $25.” I hadn’t meant to haggle, just to clarify, but the kitten in the cage yowled loudly, and I turned to him, already annoyed, “Alright, alright.” I fumbled with my wallet, pulled out the wadded bills and watched that grubby Mexican shove his arm into the cage, grip the kitten fully around the neck and pull it out by the head, limbs flailing and mouth hissing. I snatched the creature reflexively and tucked it into my coat, glaring at the man who laughed as I turned and walked away.

‘How horrible…’, I thought as I walked back towards the car. From within my jacket, there was a sudden mewl of agreement, followed by what seemed like the sound of a motorboat cranking to life. Happily, the kitten purred until we were back to the car.

Shirley was waiting for us there, a black, bowling ball sized ball of fur peaking out of a milk crate at her feet.

Imagine about 6 of these...

Imagine about 6 of these...

She crossed her arms, tapping her foot and said, “Well?” I pulled out the kitten then, careful not to hold it by the neck, and it yowled a greeting. She clapped her hands together and launched into the normal litany of cooings and codlings, before she said, “C’mon, get in the car and be sure to kill those ticks before you sit down!” I looked down to find, horrified, that my shirt was crawling with about six eight-legged blood suckers, each searching for a place to feed. I yelped and smashed at my shirt and then brought the kitten up close to my face glaring at it accusingly. It kissed me.

The first week was a major adjustment. Between frequent trips to the pet store for beds and food and toys and sweaters and, most importantly, flea and tick remedies, it seemed like life revolved around a small dog and a noisy ball of dryer lint. The kitten, now known to be a him, was quarantined while we waited for the results of feline leukemia tests and tick killing. And I don’t know that I’ve ever spent so much time in a pantry before. It was like an addiction, him to me, and me to him. He had “bonded” Shirley assured me. And it seemed true. Whenever I was gone, he yowled, and when I was there, he purred. I can still remember the first night, that tiny little furball howling at the top of his lungs, keeping the whole house awake until I took a blanket and a pillow into the pantry, laid down, and sang to him. And when he curled up onto my chest, vibrating with approval, I felt something strange happening.

I think it was that I couldn’t argue with him. Not really. That’s what started it all. He wanted me, and no one but me, and he wouldn’t be dissuaded. I felt like telling him I was dangerous, damaged. I wanted him to understand the tremendous weight I had to bear, and how easily I might hurt those around me. I wanted him to recognize my perversion, and be cautious. But he wasn’t. And I couldn’t make him see. Or rather, perhaps he made me see. Those large yellow eyes would stare at me, expectantly, until I sat down for some lap time and a song. And he would talk to me, wandering around the cupboard for hours, playing with balls and string, playing with his world, and demanding I share it with him. And then he would sit on my chest, asleep, and it was the heaviest weight I had ever felt before, that tiny fluffy ball of dryer lint, vibrating on my heart, reaching into me and stripping me bare. He knew a language deeper and more powerful than the words I used to push people away from my heart. And it melted me. To sit alone, experiencing love, can drive a person mad. There was no answer to it. No reason for it.

He loved me.

And I could do nothing about it. I was loved, and I felt trapped. It felt like being in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle every time I opened that pantry door to his tiny gaze. And yet I couldn’t stop being near him. He needed me, and I had to comply. Resistance, as they say, was futile. And slowly, I felt that love begin to creep out of the deep places he had touched, and into my skin. And then, one day, when I walked out of the pantry, smiling to myself, Shirley was standing there, baking chocolate chip cookies, and she looked at me and said, “There you are! I knew your eyes would be pretty.” I blushed, feeling caught. And from the pantry, as if mocking my melodramatic nature, the kitten meowed.

A week and a half after I rescued him, I named him. Cyrus Pythagorean Daniel. I had insisted that he needed something to grow into, and a name seemed as good as anything. Soon enough he joined the family proper, and learned to love a puppy named Josephine whom had come into our lives on the same day. And together, those animals became a representation to Shirley and me, I think. They represented the impartial, unyielding nature of love. They were love that didn’t require any movement. There were no conditions, or precursors. There was no change this love urged. It wanted us to play and laugh and sing and dance. And perhaps, most uniquely of all, it seemed to love us, not in spite of our flaws, but because of them. No one could have really liked my off-key singing, or my lumpy belly, I thought. But Cyrus did. And no one could have loved my bruised spirit. But Cyrus did.

We went through a lot together. He survived a back alley castration from a fat Asian nurse, the brief if unforgettable addition of a rescued greyhound to the family, a two-year, two-state separation in which he lived with my “saintly” mother, and three notebooks worth of adventures with Josephine, personified as an archetypal Holmes and Watson, solving mysteries together in a fantastic world created by us, their humans, for them to play in. And then, one day, he disappeared. I didn’t notice at first, because he was often in and out of the house. But then a week went by, and then two. And he stopped coming to my song. I could sing that strange song anywhere in our neighborhood and he would come running, meowing his own harmonies and rubbing against me. But he didn’t come. The neighbors said that coyotes must have gotten him. And the little boy down the road said he saw some gray furry road kill near the highway. But I never knew for sure. He left in the way he had come, at the time of his choosing.

I think now, seeing where my life has gone from that time, that he knew he needed to leave. I had become addicted to him, a bit. Or perhaps he knew, that I couldn’t let him go, and that I had to in order to move forward with my life. I had to come home, to places that didn’t accept cats, and live the life of someone who loves himself. I had to live as though I had permission to enjoy myself. Instead of crawling, I needed to fly. And perhaps, he knew before I did, that cats can’t fly. They stay on the ground, in the pantries of our lives, sitting with the darkest places inside of us, and listening to our song. That is the power of an animal; the ability to completely forget themselves, and in so doing, to cause us to remember who we are. That is the gift that Cyrus Pythagorean Daniel gave to me.

Looks just like Cyrus, RIP

Looks just like Cyrus, RIP

WORD COUNT: 2352

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~ by dadaniel on February 17, 2009.

4 Responses to “Dryer Lint: The Ballad of Cyrus Pythagorean Daniel”

  1. Reminds me eerily of another recently departed. We had no say in his love, which he gave without reservation. When we began to depend on him despite our abilities…he left at the time of his choosing.

    At least that’s what I tell myself.

    • Ah, but we must keep the mundanes in the dark! I don’t know that this class is really equipped to handle the badger…better stick to the pussy and mix and match my themes as I see fit!

  2. *head asplode*

    Silly thing tried to render my text as a HTML.

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