Tux, Timber, Match, and Han

One fall night in Indiana, four little adorable fuckers showed up in my back yard: Tux, Timber, Han, and Match. They frolicked and galavanted. They pounced and played. And they stole my heart. Never much saw Han after the first couple nights. Match was terrified coming inside. But the other two. They were very special to me. It turns out, I'm a cat man.

Over the next few months, I would go to the window every night hoping to catch a glimpse of my stray cat buddies. I bought them treats. I snuggled. I sneezed and obliterated tissue boxes. Commensurate with my love of cats are my equally powerful allergies. I broke out into silver dollar sized hives. Nevertheless, I persisted. 

One of the lil guys seemed to particularly take to me. His name was Timber.  Timber liked to climb in the sink. He liked to be In Sink. NSYNC. Justin Timberlake. Timber. He would be waiting for me in the parking lot and walk me home. Early in our relationship, he would sit on my lap in the kitchen. And I refused to move until he did. On more than one occasion, I sat alone in the kitchen with a sleeping kitten on my lap until 2AM. My legs numb and asleep, but my heart full and awake. His favorite thing was to snuggle up during long bouts of Halo. I think he liked to see the birds on the title screen and to watch me get wrecked by teenagers. 

The other brothers didn't come by much. Timber kind of took ownership of the house.  And it was fine with me. I bonded hard with him. I hid the struggles with work in my affection with him. I preferred his company to humans. I didn't want to talk or explain. I was suffering in ways I'm just now beginning to process. And that dumb little idiot made my days better.

It was around this time I found out one of my neighbors claimed ownership of the kittens. That they were not, in fact, strays. They had an owner. And I was just some sucker in the neighborhood who gave them wet food. Maybe one of many. 

At first I was devastated. I took a battering ram to the chest. And I looked upon my time with him differently. 

Then Timbi got hit by a car. And with the final bits of strength he could muster, he crawled up the 16 stairs to my house, and parked himself on my doorstep to die. I thought he'd just been in a fight with another cat (he had a big mouth). But after watching his listless face for hours, I realized something more sinister was afoot. In a midnight run to the 24 hour vet, I held my little friend in my arms while he took his final breaths. 

A crying, sobbing mess I called off work for the first time in a decade. I knew he would never be waiting on my porch again. Never nap while I tea-bagged the enemy. And in his final hours, he clawed his way home. Not to his owner. To me. 

The next day I peeked out the window knowing I'd never see my little scruffy boy again. 

But, that day, and every day after, his brother Tux showed up on my doorstep. My rational brain knows cats are territorial and he probably only showed up because this was where snacks were, but my stupid heart believes he knew I needed him. I hadn't seen Tux in months. But from the day Timber died forward, he showed up every day. 

And Tux and I formed a special bond. One that temporally outstretched Timber and I. And I loved his handsome little douche bag face. I put way too much on him. The pain of his brother. A hefty dose of regret and sorrow. And for reasons I don't have the bandwidth to talk about, when I moved away from him, I wasn't able to take him. And I think about him all the time. And how I wish I could have expressed my pain in words instead of a blind affection for a neighborhood cat. I was in tremendous pain. And rather than deal with it, I hyperfocused on an adorable inhuman creature. And I realize now I should have dialed back my obsessive care and allocated it to the people in my life who loved me. 

But that doesn't get you very far. Some things can't be fixed. I've posted a picture of Tux every day on my Instagram. I hope he's out there. Chasin' birds and bein' handsome. I've had to start working on my own life. And I'm sad I don't have my little tuxedo buddy to distract me. And I'm sad for how it all ended up. 

And there's no righteous philosophical upshot. There's no stellar literary turn. I'm just sad. And I miss so many things.

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