The magic that is Facebook allows me to see the ordinariness of your everyday life - to tell when friends are at coffee shops, disgruntled at tech support, or whose young children have vomited on new sweaters or defecated in potties for the first time. As such, I am continually astounded by the rate and depth at which I know the regular details of any number of acquaintances compared to the intimate highlights of life that we all benchmark: engagements, births, graduations, weddings, and birthdays. In short, I see more of the effects of these events - the outcomes, results, and continuations - as I do the events themselves. Before the social web, I would have known of your wedding, certainly. But I would know nothing of your trip to Krispy Kreme before your best friends moved away, you taking one last group photo of everyone jumping, frozen in midair as you hoped to freeze that moment forever, indirectly pleading with the couple you love not to leave and return to a childhood home but to stay forever eating donuts at 11 PM on a Saturday. I would not have known about the early morning workouts in preparation for your wedding, the dog that is no longer a puppy, and the family dinner at the boring chain restaurant because someone is getting a Master's degree.
But I also would not have known about the man who walked his fiancee's cat on a leash one random Tuesday afternoon.
She seems beastly, this cat. My interaction with her was limited and in that short time I never saw any of her tricks or habits. I did not witness her playing with a ball of yarn or stealthily tracking a wayward fly that had unfortunately made its way in the house when the door was open just enough to do so. I certainly never saw her large self splayed across the sunlit rug when the afternoon light came through the front window demanding that she do nothing else but nap, deeply and effortlessly as cats do, until she was awoken by that fly that knew its days were numbered. And I certainly never saw her go for a walk on a leash, as if she were someone's obedient dog out for a morning stroll and bathroom break.
I heard rumors this happened. Perhaps the result of great parenting while a kitten, she apparently has long been able to be leashed and led outdoors, commanding attention as she makes her way into the world past mailboxes and planters, one catlike step after another until the end of the block and it's time to turn around and go back home to sunlit rugs and yarn.
In my mind, the walking of a cat - unlike the walking of a dog - is a deliberate act, something that requires as much training of the walker as it does the feline. The harnessing, leading, and teaching of a cat is a small miracle; these animals have done what they pleased since the Garden. Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows you don't get one for companionship or company; you get one because you want to be subservient to something, willing to be ignored, clawed, or glared at upon the whim of a small mammal who thinks they need you for nothing save the opening of a tin can, the collecting of voluminous amounts of hair, and the cleaning up of vomit carefully hidden behind toilets, in shoes, or on the middle of a dining room table. We get cats thinking they'll sit on our lap and purr for hours, offering warmth and a primal soundtrack as we read, watch TV, or nap. This they do, certainly, but only when you have three minutes to spare before work and you're dressed nicely in freshly laundered black slacks and feel neither like sitting on a couch nor removing never-ending gobs of kitty hair from your pants.
It takes a special person, then, to want to walk a cat. And it takes someone even more special to bear that burden when he falls in love with that first someone.
And yet there he was, the owner of no cats, smitten by the owner of two gigantic ones. I imagine the early conversations - the ones over cheap tacos or two-hour long trips to coffee shops that begin with the notion of a quick visit but stretch long past the coffee has gone cold or the grains of tea settle and rest in the bottom of the mug as each person learns about funny childhood memories, painful adolescent embarrassments, forgetful college antics, and regrets that only happen once you're grown and remorse is something you can see coming in many given situations but demands you plod along at work, in friendships, or in financial transactions because responsibility isn't something you can leave behind as if you're leaving for summer camp soon, and a new set of rules - hell, a new identity - awaits. It's those conversations - the unplanned ones - that cause you to fall in love. And at some point, it probably happened like this:
Him: Do you have any pets?
Her: Yes. Two cats. You're not allergic, are you?
Her: Good. (Smiles)
Him: How long have you had them? What are their names?
Her: Look; if you are to fall in love with me soon, please know that at times you will have to walk them. On a leash. Down the street. With other people watching and gawking and me taking pictures so someone I kind of know will blog about it as an analogy for deep and true love.
Him: I'm in.
So maybe it didn't exactly unfold over a mocha or chai like that, but at some point there was a reckoning within his heart that he had found his no-compromise love - that relationship he'd been hoping for since a little boy and he first saw what loved looked like as his parents or older siblings or some terrible TV show modeled it. He thought he'd had it in college twice and twice after that while out in the real world where any love is harder to come by. And all of it ended in some sort of disappointment but secretly he was fine with that because deep down he'd not yet met anyone worth his walking of their cats. No girl had before captured all he could offer - emotional support, childish spontaneity, and the willingness to take a cat to the local shop on a leash while he filled his mug for $1.25 with that day's coffee. Had he tried before her to walk any cat or agree to go to the concert of a band he didn't much care for or cook gluten-free dishes it would have ended in frustration - the same kind of frustration any actor feels at playing a part he or she is too talented for but takes anyway just to be working.
His heart was too fantastic to be wasted on someone or their cats unless they had an equally fantastic heart and willingness to walk whatever he needed walking that normally did not get walked.
And finally they met.
Each found their no-compromise love, someone else to go through anything with. Because this is what true love looks like. Cat walks. Poop in potties. Dinner at terrible restaurants and jumping pictures. Don't be fooled into only thinking it can look like white dresses, nicely arranged flowers, graduation caps, or the times when we're showered and in freshly pressed pants.
It looks like a grown man, coffee in one hand and cat leash in another. He, she, and the big cat would want - and deserve - nothing less.