If you’ve been paying attention (& there’s no reason why you should), you may have noticed I’ve encountered a crazy cat lady before. This is not the same one.
This lady was a lot younger, as was I.
It happened when I was in my mid-teens & the stranger in question wasn’t really a stranger at all. She was a friend of a friend of a friend. I knew her well enough that when I saw her at a bus stop dressed as a Victorian woman, I said hello.
This was my mistake.
What I should have done was ignored her. Ignore that she was dressed in a black & white full length servant costume. Ignore that I, sort of, knew her. But I didn’t. So I was in for what was the most intense afternoon I’ve ever had.
I was also getting the bus, to meet a friend. We sat together, me & the girl who I’m going to call Cat. I don’t remember much about the bus journey, except she was in a funny mood. Happy but annoyed. Cat had quit her weekend job (a job which she had to wear Victorian dress for) & she had a lot of excited energy because of this.
Here’s the oddest thing about this, I can not for the life of me think of where she could have been working that required dressing up as a Victorian. I lived in a relatively small town, so I know most places in the area. There are no museums or historical places of interest nearby where Victorian garb wouldn’t look out of place. So I’m still scratching my head over that one.
The bus journey passed very quickly & there was little to note about the whole journey. I remember being surprised Cat wanted to speak to me at all. One or both of us had fallen out with a mutual friend a year or two before. It had been all very dramatic. Sides were taken & teenage battle-lines drawn. It was very Mean Girls.
We both got off at the same stop & walked the same path in that awkward way you do when you’ve said goodbye to someone but they are heading in the same direction. We dawdled along together, the conversation was fast drying up. She stopped outside a religious centre & said this was where she was going.
I’m not averse to religion, I just don’t know how to act when the subject comes up. So I always try to avoid it. Mostly because I know that I’m the kind of person who would end up in a cult. I’m not impressionable or gullible, I’m just too polite. I could work my way up to being a high priestess in some crazy fanatical sect all because I couldn’t bring myself to tell someone I don’t believe in the flying toad they worship.
So when Cat stopped outside somewhere religious I panicked. I think she saw that & Cat explained she actually lived in the flat above the centre. She asked me to come in, I said I couldn’t, I was meeting someone. I worried it was a ploy. I wasn’t wrong, it just wasn’t the ploy I was expecting.
‘Please? Could you just come in for five minutes? I have real bother getting the buttons at the back of this dress. You’d be doing me a big favour.’
So I went in. Mistake two of the day.
The house was grey inside. I don’t mean literally, I mean that every thing about the house seemed grey, depressing & dull. She had said she lived there with her dad, but everything about it seemed a little edgy & off.
‘I just got the cutest kitten, do you want to meet her?’
‘I’m a bit allergic to cats.’
‘I get very teary eyed, rash, that kind of thing.’
I undid her buttons at the back & to my relief, she bounded off to the bathroom to get changed. I’m not great with people changing in front of me. I never know where to look, then I get muddled over what to say.
A few minutes later, a fully dressed Cat spring back in the room with the kitten in her hands.
‘Isn’t she the cutest?’ Yes. Yes, she was the cutest. A tiny tabby with big eyes. I stroked her for a moment, trying to keep her fur away from my clothes. I repeated I had to leave to meet a friend, but Cat leapt up & ran out of the room. She appeared ten minutes later with two cups of tea.
I don’t drink tea.
I haven’t since I was 8 years old when I overdosed on some very orange, stewed tea. Since then, I have had exactly 4 cups of tea. One after a funeral (didn’t want to make a fuss), one at a very new friend’s house (too polite to say no), one at my father-in-laws (see previous reason) & this cup of tea Cat brought me. It was everything I remembered tea to be. Metallic & watery.
Anyway she shoved it in my hand & tossed the kitten on to my lap. I was being held hostage with a kitten & hot beverages.
I sipped at the tea for a while as Cat told me about her amazing boyfriend. From what I gathered, he was the strong, silent, sensitive type brooding all over the place. Her parents didn’t approve, neither did his. It was a Victorian novelist’s dream.
As she told me her textbook love story, her kitten was clawing at me. It’s pointy little claws tore at my skin, leaving red mark after red mark.
‘Aw she’s playing with you,’ Cat said in a sing-song voice. ‘She must really like you.’
That’s what pet owners always say when their pet is being a pest.
By this stage, tears were rolling down my cheeks from two pink, puffy eyes. Starting to cough, again saying I had to go. That’s when she blurted out something.
‘He killed my cat!’
‘My boyfriend. He threw it out the window. But then he bought me this kitten.’
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said: ‘I don’t know what to say to that.’
She went into a lengthy explanation of how jealous he had grown of her cat, how he’d said the cat was forcing them apart.
‘It’s a cat,’ I bit my lip, I always bite my lip when I’m forced to give an opinion on something. ‘A cat can’t force people apart.’ My voice was scratchy now & I had to keep clearing it.
That’s when she began to sob.
‘I know, I know.’ I rubbed her back for a while & then stealthily placed her kitten on her lap.
‘Buying a cat doesn’t make up for killing another cat. You need to dump him in case he does it again.’
Cat looked down at her little kitten.
‘He is a sweet guy really.’
‘No, he is not. He’s not sensitive & special, he’s just a…’ I searched for a word to describe him. ‘…a brute.’ It was not the B word I wanted to use, but I didn’t know her that well.
‘This isn’t a romance novel. He’s not being a pig because he’s secretly got a sensitive soul. He’s just a pig.’ I comforted her for most of the afternoon, listening to every word of her teenage saga, coughing & spluttering as I did.
Eventually I found the friend I was due to meet. By that stage, I had bleary wet eyes, barely any voice & arms full of scratches. I wish I could say I learned my lesson about talking to strangers, but there are many more stories to come.