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Lap Cat

just a minute

By Erin SheaPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Lap Cat
Photo by Angela Lo on Unsplash

My nose is dripping and Delia is tracing her fingers through my hair. Her husband is shirtless by the microwave heating up leftovers from New Year's Eve. In 60 seconds I'll be shoving mouthfuls of risotto between my quivering lips like a child and picking at semi-stale dinner rolls. Then, I'll pass my plate to one of their three Tabby cats (whom I can never tell apart) and let him/her/them (?) lick it clean.

My cat loved sharing meals with me, especially anything with cheese. He was a good little dishwasher. I just left the vet two hours ago with a handful of paperwork and an empty carrier. I sat in the parking lot disconsolate and watched the sun go down. Then, to avoid going home and collecting every strand of cat hair as a sob-inducing keepsake, I showed up at Dan and Delia's condo.

They're cat people, surely they'd understand. They'd feed me and console me and perhaps undress me.

"It's a shame boy cats don't live as long," Delia thumbed my shoulder.

Baldwin was a senior rescue. I took him in at age 7 when I was 24. He lived with me in my cramped grad school housing for a few years. Then, I moved into a slightly more cheery studio in Albany while working on my dissertation. He made it to 12 and a half before he stopped eating.

42 seconds. I stare at Dan's meticulously smooth, clean-shaven frame. I'd never met a man so dedicated to removing every millimeter of hair from his body. It made me get into waxing. He wiped off the counter with what I knew to be a $20 dish rag from Anthropologie.

Delia's perfume emanated from her wrists and seeped into my scalp. Overbearing but nostalgic. She smelled sweet like every Victoria's Secret body mist that graced my high school locker room.

She and Dan were living the increasingly coveted DINK lifestyle. Mid-thirties. Childless by choice. They had brand new appliances in their kitchen and pictures on their fridge from their photo-op outings: hockey games, Cirque du Soleil, Comic Con. They almost convinced me to join a pickleball league.

Dan and Delia had hobbies. I was a sullen, overwhelmed academic with a string of failed relationships stubbornly fixated on my own sexual freedom. I'd never met a polyamory couple before but I was obsessed with exploring the space between love and lust. I'll take door number three, please!

Our time together quickly proved beautiful and ritualistic. I loved the subtle, endearing magic of life with them. Loved that Delia always kissed me at the door and that we all ate dessert naked in bed acting like food critics. Loved that when I stared at Dan's wedding ring gripping his wife's spray-tanned thigh, I only felt more at home. Loved that I could show up sobbing and be fed and petted like a lap cat.

'Throuple' was not a term that ever hovered over our heads. They had their life and I had mine. Nor did I resonate with ménage à trois. I was not the accommodated lover of Delia or Dan. We were not domestic. We were just an exercise in shared humanity.

Humanity in the form of freshly-laundered sheets and a warm shower. Dan's watchful eye over my reheating meal as it spun and spun. An overloaded coat rack bearing our intertwined sleeves. The squeak of styrofoam takeout boxes piled on our laps every Sunday. A shared stick of deodorant. Conversations that always involved holding hands.

33 seconds.

"Can you get a break from your school stuff? Maybe not a formal leave of absence but, you know, a little breathing space might do you good." Dan's forehead was crinkly in concern.

"I doubt dead cat will soften my advisor's cold heart but I could conjure up another excuse," I paused, waiting for them to invite me to something, to whisk me away from it all.

"I certainly don't envy you, Wyn," Delia chimed in. "I wasn't cut out for that world at all. I was just telling Dan the other day, you have the right mind for it but it still seems to torture you to no end." I shivered as she pushed my hair to one side.

I'd complained at length about amassing debt (and back problems) slogging toward a PhD but I hadn't fully indulged to either of them that my research specialty was erotic literature - namely, nonmonogamous narratives. I suppose that's what led me to the two of them in the first place. Researcher's curiosity. But that was over a year ago. Things have changed so much since then. Now I only have an urn cat. Oh, Baldwin, you silly orange beast.

5 seconds.

I watch one of their three belly-heavy Tabbys throw itself down at Dan's slippered feet. It's dinner time.

Delia's lips grace the back of my ear. My eyes are sore so I close them. The microwave sounds and veils my sigh.

PsychologicalShort StoryLove

About the Creator

Erin Shea

New Englander

Grad Student

Living with Lupus and POTS

Instagram: @somebookishrambles

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (2)

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  • Flamance @ lit.29 days ago

    Brilliant work continue

  • Shirley Belk30 days ago

    She needed comfort. I lost my 18-year-old beautiful boy cat, Baby Gee one year ago today. This struck home for me and oddly comforted me, too.

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