Digit was the worst cat ever. He arrived as a tiny little jerk.
Even in that picture, he’s probably about to scratch me.
He fell in love with me, though, instantly. I was mama, since he was too young to leave his own who’d abandoned him under a house in San Francisco, but he was never my “fur baby.” I didn’t call him my son. No offense to those who call their pets that—it’s lovely. It just wasn’t the way we rolled. We were bachelors together in that little mother-in-law hovel that clung to the hill in east Oakland. We both went out at night and came back tore up. I’d have careless cigarette burns in my clothing, and he’d have foxtails and other cats’ claws stuck in his.
We bunked together. Happily. He nuzzled under my chin and shoved his paw in mine, using his claws to get closer if he needed to. He attacked visitors with creativity and enthusiasm, clawing his way up their jeans and over their shoulders to the sound of their curses. He drew blood first and often. I told visitors, “Don’t touch the cat, I mean it.” Then if they did that silly, “Oh, all cats love me, watch,” I never felt sorry for them and handed out bandages.
My neighbors, when we moved to a tonier section of Oakland, hated my emeffing cat. They demanded recompense for Digit chasing their cat into their house and beating the hell out of her—and I was about to pay their vet bill until I saw their cat beat the hell out of Digit in my yard, so we agreed to pay our own bills.
Digit saw me through six relationships. He didn’t care for most of the people I dated, but he loved Lala. Hated her dogs, though. Hated. He spent years thinking about ways to decapitate Harriet in her sleep, but Harriet could hold her own. He also hated me for a while, for introducing such low-bred animals into my life. He forgave all, however, when we got Clementine, a pit bull of his very own. For at least the first year that Clementine lived with us, all Digit had to do was breathe to make Clementine cower. Digit loved it. Nothing was better than punching Clementine and making her cry. It was fucking Disneyland.
He cost me at least fifteen thousand dollars over the years, and that’s not including the five thousand the knitters raised for his care after he returned from the dead (first, he died. Then, three months later, I got schmittens. Then he came back from the dead. After that, there was a raffle that put him back together again. If you haven't read that story here or in my memoir, I'll let you have a minute).
Fourteen years ago, I had him de-manned entirely, removing his penis because of a life-threatening disease. Last year, a vet told me soberly that, in fact, the cat I thought was male was actually female. I laughed my way out and I remain impressed with the remarkable job the first vet did.
Because that cat was all male. He stood up to pee, his beer farts were terrible, and when he lost at poker we had to eat ramen for weeks. And he was my guy. I was his girl. We were each other's. We’ve been each other's since the very first moment. It was love at first sight for both of us, and tonight, as I held his paw as he drifted off, there was no one else in the whole world but him.
Today's decision to let him go was the right decision. It was a terrible day, deciding. Lala called me at work this morning, and I was able to take vacation for the rest of the day.
I spent almost seven hours in bed today holding him as he slept like this.
By the time we got to the vet, he was almost all the way checked out, not even able to purr. Strangely, it was a relief to let him go.
He was a jerk. A real, complete asshole. And he was MINE.
My face hurts and my head aches. My eyes are almost swollen shut. I miss the hell out of that beast already and it’s gonna get worse, I bet, before it gets better. We have a lot of animals, yes. We still have three dogs and two cats left. And you know what? I like them all. I even love them.
But I loved no one and nothing like I loved Digit. We came as a package deal, and for the first time in seventeen years, he’s not yelling at me, and I’m not yelling back.
Lala has said for a while that his first name is Fuck Off. This is because of how many times a day one or the other of us said, “Fuck off, Digit.” Because he was a ridiculous, demanding jerk who tried to eat the food off our plates constantly. But he’s dying, I’d joke.
Not a joke, I guess.
Tonight, after we said our goodbyes, before the vet pushed the needle, I said, “Fuck off, Digit.”
Lala said, “Fuck right off.”
As we left, we saw the vet petting his body.
Some cat. Fucking love of my life.