Working as expected / by AB Mann

It only took 1 email conversation to have a cat delivered to our doorstep last week, Saturday. Technology marches ever forward, no? At least it wasn't by drone.

It wasn't intentional, getting a cat delivered, just serendipity. The agency was moving her from Milwaukee and coming through Madison to pick up another cat they were transferring from a different state traveling to MSN. I happened to inquire about her at precisely the right time to allow the agent to adjust her Madison schedule.

"Well I could bring her by and you could meet her Saturday. If it doesn't work out, I can take her on her way."

This was Thursday.

"OK. Sure. We can be home for that."

The life of a disabled person has two distinct eras:

  1. The era before she knows she is disabled.
  2. The era after she knows she is disabled.

The era before that understanding is unremarkable. You live and breathe and play the same as anyone else but you may have to do a thing or many things in a particular way. You just are and adapt, not that you would idetify Doing as Adapting, while remaining delightfully unremarkable.

This cat is remarkably unremarkable. She is, dainty, soft, and very small; she has tabby stripes with calico shocks of orange fur. She hoovers Fancy Feast with the same vigor that Poe and Minuet do. She truly adores, and would likely consume were it not firmly attached, the mouse on a cat dancer pole.

She is Errata. Erri for short.

It's inevitable that someone tells you you're disabled; America, in particular, deplores nonconformity while still recognizing exceptionalism to the point that you are expected to be exceptional in only very particular ways. So someone has to tell you, very pointedly, that something is very different about you and would you please do something about it?

Now, a shift; everything that you just did because, whatever, that's what you did, is now something very Different and Weird and Other. Nearly all disabled people remember that point, the event where like lightning up their spine they understand that they do not work as expected.

The thing that I remember about my moment is how quiet it got when the 3rd grader standing before me said, loudly, that I couldn't play in the game because I only had one arm. We were standing on a field outside school at recess and, despite it being open and sunny and blue skies end to end, the world collapsed inward and it was just me and him. Him and me and the other kids picked for the team that understood deeply that something had just changed.

This kid here was Different and that's Not OK.

The interesting thing about the shift between unaware and aware is that you remember all the times you "just did the Thing because that's What You Did". But now, that was "you did the Thing but You Aren't Able To". And how could you Just Even do those Things so blithely? How could you function as if you were normal.

Cats only sort of have a concept of different. There's "not my colony" and "my colony" different and the rest is "my spot" or "my food" or "my human". A cat is a cat and may or may not give me issue trying to get to any of my things. Poe and Ginger have pretty much ignored Erri, though Poe doesn't appreciate the change in food portioning. Minuet, a less severe presentation and kindred CH cat, has been more curious. And maybe a little more put off.

I worry, in my overdeveloped monkey brain, that bringing Erri into the house has created that turning point for Minuet; that another cat akin to her exists here, now, and highlights the contrast between Minuet and Poe and Ginger who are large but otherwise prototypical Cat. So maybe now Minuet understands in her own little kitty way that she is Different and Weird and Other because of us.

There's a modicum of bliss and, maybe, a little bit of dignity in the before state. It's like children. All children exist in the world without bothering with difference. They exist in the classical, biblical definition of Grace where everything is joy and nothing matters beyond this very moment in time.

This is the state Erri lives in. She energetically interacts with the moment as the moment. All cats do this but because I, firmly set 26 years beyond my coming into awareness, seeing that she is different grants me a more direct understanding of what that is like. It's remarkably unremarkable. Stairs are just stairs. Toys still toys. Food just food.

Well, no.. food is a hell of a lot more to this the ball of fur. It's the only consistent time she'll vocalize.

And oh yes, you will become aware then.

 
 

Addendum

We have a video of her playing.  It's adorable and strange and endearing.