The Cleaner and His Cat

He caught himself staring blankly at his coffee, wondering how long he’d been sitting, cup in hand. The last sip must have been hot. He could still feel the blister on the tip of his tongue.

Like a Picasso, a dark sadness hung on his face. He hated the look. “Definitely his blue period,” he mused, half smirking at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. 

He mostly avoided reflective surfaces. Feeling depressed was terrible enough; he didn’t need to see it. He didn’t need to be reminded of it.

His cat circled impatiently, rubbing against his calf. “Time to eat,” he purred . . . . “Snap out of it!” he meowed. 

On days like today, he was grateful for his cat. The cat’s well-timed reminders kept the man from the doorknob and belt, and the dark thoughts that tied everything together. 

He whispered, “My demise will have to wait; there’s a cat to feed and a litterbox to clean.”

His apartment was a shambles. It mirrored the cluttered chaos in his head. Based on experience, he knew a good house cleaning would lift his spirits.

He often wondered how external feng shui works its magic on the mind. “I’ll have to google that,” he says in the direction of his full-bellied cat, who bathes contently in a patch of sun on the kitchen floor.

The sink is full. There’s half-eaten food caked on dishes, the remnants of last week’s menu. Why not just clean up after each meal? Especially knowing that cleanliness and order helps quell his anxiety.

“Why do I let things pile up?

What keeps me from staying on top of things? 

Will I ever grow out of this?

That last question bounces around the inside of his skull like an unselected lottery ping-pong ball.

Will I ever grow out of this?

Of course, he didn’t know the answer to that question. He remembers a bright era of pre-affliction, which gives him hope. He thinks “if I magically went from being happy to being depressed, why can’t I miraculously go from depressed to happy?”

Unfortunately, there’s a history – a consistent footprint on the ladder of his family’s DNA. In a sense, he’s been branded, and sometimes that feels so fatalistic, he just wants to give up.

But he doesn’t.

He continues to clean.

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