It’s fairly well-documented that neither Jim nor I are big on celebrating Valentine’s Day. And Lil’ Bit, for her part, seems more excited about the cardboard mailbox she decorated at school in anticipation of the big day than the actual Valentines that will go in it. Besides, she’s still playing the field.
Given all that, I thought I’d devote this year’s obligatory Valentine’s Day post to a different sort of love story. Like many of the great ones, it had a stormy beginning and remains tempestuous to this day. And yet it is a love that has endured through the ages, serving as both triumph and inspiration, and proving that while opposites may not always attract, if forced to cohabitate, they can at least learn to appreciate each other.
And so without further ado, I present the story of Jim and Boo.
Boo came into my life in the post-9/11 months of 2001. I was living by myself in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the time, working for a perfectly horrid woman at a small advertising firm. I was lonely, unhappy, and single, and as such, I decided to get a cat.
In October 2001, my grandfather died. His wake was held at a picturesque wooded estate in Chester, Virginia, overlooking the James River. As fate would have it, the owner of the facility happened to be caring for a litter of months-old kittens born to a feral cat that lived in the woods. She’d been giving the kittens away to good homes as they became available and told me I was welcome to take one myself.
Only two kittens remained – a solid black fur ball and his sister, a black and orange tabby with a face reminiscent of a jack-o-lantern who was so ugly she was actually cute. Nevertheless, I chose the little black one on the reverse psychology approach that he would perhaps bring a bit of light and luck to my melancholy life at the time.
“And he shall be called Boudreaux!” proclaimed my cousin’s then-fiance. “Kitty Boo for short.” At a loss for what to name my new companion, this sounded good to me, and thus he was christened so.
As it turns out, Boo did bring a great deal of happiness to my life. While I may have been the cliche cat lady, he was anything but a cliche cat. Playful, affectionate, and very, very vocal, Boo chattered like a bird, played fetch like a dog, and always seemed eager to be as close to my person as possible. I loved him dearly and the feeling was clearly mutual.
One year after Boo came into my life, I met Jim at the wedding of a mutual friend and we began dating soon afterward. At the time, I had moved back to Richmond and he was living 2-1/2 hours away in Winchester, Virginia. As our long-distance relationship grew more serious, our dates progressed from day to weekend-long affairs.
Boo, having gotten used to having me all to himself, was understandably put out by this new development. Suddenly a good deal of his time with me was being usurped, and he didn’t hesitate to quietly express his agitation by idly sitting by and boring holes into my new suitor with his steely cat eyes – especially during our more intimate moments. “Why does he have to look at me like that?” I recall Jim muttering on occasion, before reminding me of my mother’s theory that if Boo were bigger, he’d eat us.
A self-proclaimed dog person, Jim both shared and returned Boo’s wariness. In the beginning, it was the only common ground they could find.
The turning point for the two men in my life took place, appropriately enough, around Valentine’s Day. Not wanting to spend it apart, Jim had accidentally on purpose gotten stuck at my condo for the better part of that week following a large ice storm in Richmond that had dumped three feet of snow in Winchester. But as the world around us began to thaw, it was time for me to go back to work and him to head home.
On the morning of Jim’s departure, I kissed him goodbye, told him to take his time and lock up when he left, and headed off to work. Taking me at my word, he apparently ascended to my bathroom and settled in for some morning reading.
Now, it’s important to note here that at this point in my life I enjoyed decorating my toilets to match my bathroom decor. On this one, for instance, I had placed a leopard-print throw and a few knick-knacky objects on top of the tank. This was meant to invite relaxation, but in hindsight it may have been among my goofier home decorating choices.
As Jim did his business, Boo sauntered in, hopped up on the back of the tank, and began pacing to and fro behind his head. This naturally made Jim nervous, but what could he do? Boo had him at a bit of a disadvantage. But what Boo failed to realize was that he too was at a disadvantage, as the surface of my meticulously decorated shitter upon which he stalked was hardly stable.
Jim would later say that it all happened so fast he never even saw it coming. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw first the knick-knacks fly off the back of the john, followed by the leopard-print throw, followed by Boo, eyes wild and legs flailing in a desperate attempt to grasp hold of the smooth porcelain. This failing, he instead sank his claws into the next available surface… which just so happened to be Jim’s ass.
Yes, finding himself amidst the melee, Jim’s first instinct had been to jump up from the commode in alarm, thus inviting Boo, on his ill-fated descent, to leave a foot-long claw mark down my future husband’s left hip and butt cheek.
This story got a lot of mileage on our wedding day.
Eventually, Boo and I moved in with Jim, and husband and cat finally learned to coexist. Jim, being the first to arrive home from work each day, came to be the one who generally fed Boo his dinner. And when I got pregnant, he took over litterbox duty, which he maintains to this day. Beyond that, however, he genuinely began to appreciate Boo for his distinctive personality and affable nature.
And never one to underestimate the luxury of food and a clean toilet, Boo soon realized on which side his bread was buttered and devoted himself to Jim as well. Granted, their relationship is based largely on symbiosis and obligation, but hey… love is love.
But not unconditional love. You see, upon extending the invitation to me to move in with him, Jim had one small stipulation – he asked that I have a then not-quite-three-year-old Boo declawed. After much hand-wringing and guilt, I agreed and Boo was ultimately no worse for the wear.
Jim claimed his request was practical; he was just trying to save the furniture, he said.
But Boo and I know better.