Early on in dating my first serious post-college girlfriend in Brooklyn, somewhere in the days of 2002, she adopted a cat named Pepper. Pepper was the troublesome ward of one of our improv classmates Amaya, who had gotten Pepper to keep her ailing cat Sherman in better spirits. Sherman, the elder statesman of the house, had not aged particularly well and now had 3 legs and lack of teeth, which to my spotty recollection was in neighborhood of one.
While Sherman was at a definite disadvantage, to put it mildly, it was his apartment and he had called dibs long before this upstart kitten was even a glimmer in its mother’s bowl of Fancy Feast. At the time of the adoption Amaya had installed a screen door in her apartment to stop Pepper from attacking Sherman, by locking the cats away from one another. Both cats were medicated and were in short, not getting along terribly well. So when Amaya desperately called out for a good home for Pepper, my new girlfriend Diane took the opportunity to take the troubled cat and reform it into a constructive part of society.
When we arrived at Amaya’s apartment on 7th Avenue and Union in Park Slope, I have to say I was more than a little nervous to see this terrorizing cat which had so completely ruled her life. Having a friend with a medicated psychotic cat is one thing, but to offer to adopt it? There was a certain illogical nature to the whole thing. Lucky for my new girlfriend, I was not living with her at the time, or I would have told her it was a terrible mistake. Being her new boyfriend, and having no clout with which to reason with her or reason to mess up a good thing, I could only watch from the sidelines as she agreed to have her life ruined by a four legged demon spawn.
We returned from Amaya’s apartment in a yellow cab, with the new cat meowing protests. We took the black Sherpa cat carrier into Diane’s small bathroom to acclimatize Pepper to her new apartment. Popular wisdom told us that we should wait a few days to allow the new cat to “get used” to the new surroundings before letting it loose in a new apartment, but I have to say that no cat I have ever known has ever respected such boundaries. Pepper stayed very quiet as I sat next to her petting her head. She slowly wandered around the bathroom exploring the bathtub and silently judging the decor. Within minutes Pepper was waiting patiently at the bathroom door thoroughly ready to explore the rest of the apartment. “I assume there is more to this apartment than this room?” she seemed to say.
Over the next few days Pepper became a fixture of the apartment. Gone were the outbursts of feline power struggle and instead we discovered a lovely hand-me-down cat. Despite being known as a terror to those who had occasional dealings with her, Pepper was a very gentle cat. She was especially fond of keeping your relationship on her terms. She was pet when she wanted to be, ate when she wanted to, and played with the laser-pointer every opportunity she got. She was also very fond of catch where she would race down the stairs of the apartment after a foam rubber ball and then bring it back up the stairs, slightly more soggy for the trip.
Over the 4 1/2 years Diane and I were together Peppé was a fixture. Even as the relationship self-distructed and most evenings were spent slamming doors, Pepper was a singular point of comfort. She was always there for me, to cuddle when no one was there to cuddle, to want me when I went unwanted.
When I moved out, my time with Pepper had come to a regrettable close. She was Diane’s cat after all, and although we all hope in our hearts that our relationships to those we love will never change, it did. Diane and I fell out of day-to-day contact and Pepper was an unfortunate casualty.
Diane wrote me to let me know that Pepper passed away last night at 11pm. Pepper had some considerable health problems, which eventually led to her demise. I cannot truly say how I feel about Pepper’s death. I loved her so for so many years and once you love something, it will always be highlighted in the world and your emotions. My thoughts at the moment revolve around those first few days of meeting Pepper and how I will miss the cat who so selfishly cared about my happiness in direct relationship to being fed and how warm I could keep her.
I will miss her and feel the world is a little more empty today, then it was yesterday.