My cat is my anchor. It seems strange to say that, although perhaps not so strange to we animal people. If I didn’t have her, I would have no reason to go home.
Today I bought groceries for studio, not groceries for home, but meals and snacks, a new coffee mug and a box of tissue to take up to my studio, my workspace in the Attic of Arch Hall. I have my desk there, shelves with books and my printer, a little set of plastic drawers to hold my groceries and coffee maker, and a comfy chair in the corner, turned to face out the south windows where I can prop my feet up on the radiator as I read. I don’t use it much. I’m usually at my desk. And I keep thinking I have room to lay out my feather bed, folded over into a twin, and my sleeping bag.
I wouldn’t be the only one. A kid on the other side as a full sized air mattress. Others have blankets, pillows, foam pads, and misappropriated couch cushions. I have no doubt that if Arch Hall had a shower, they would never leave. They still don’t have to go far, just to the Rec to shower. We forage for food in the few surrounding blocks and keep refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, and, of course, coffee pots close at hand.
I could live there. Or at the Daily Nebraskan in the basement of the Union. They do have a shower, and lockers, and a “fainting couch” in what was the women’s lounge back when designers felt women needed places of retreat to manage their tender sensibilities. There are several of these quiet spaces in the older buildings on campus. They are quite amusing in their foolishness. This one is particularly well suited, in a secure area, little used, and with plenty of stashable space.
But I have to go home and feed my cat. More than that, she is a demanding little creature. She needs love and attention, petting and rubbing and playing and a lap to sleep on. She is quite vocal in her discontent and finds four o’clock in the morning the idea time for voicing her grievances.
So I have to go home and spend a good half an hour cat-fishing with a piece of decorative and now much frayed rope, another half an hour actively smoothing fur and ruffing whiskers, and at least as long sitting still while she purrs in her sleep and kneads her imaginary claws into my legs.
I did the math. I have to work from nine to nine to keep up. That’s my motto for the semester: “just keep working.” I have to just keep working for nine every morning to nine every night, either at my job with rural health, in the Attic, in class, at the Daily Nebraskan, working on projects with classmates and friends, or on my thesis – mostly on my thesis. After that, I can rest. That’s eighty-four hours a week, around sixteen spend at rural health and eight or so with the DN on Sunday nights. So I spend sixty hours a week in class, doing coursework, or thesisizing.
I’m not complaining. It’s really not that bad. I have enough different things to work on that there is variety. I get to see and talk to lots of people every day. I get to watch my favorite shows via the internet while I’m drawing a section diagram or rendering a model. I take a half an hour each for lunch and dinner to goof off and take a walk or play solitaire. Otherwise, I just keep working.
But after nine I get to go home. I get to lay on my couch and watch the talking picture box and do nothing for a couple of hours before bed – except of course, pet my cat. For some reason, being able to go home and sit with her and run my hand across her smooth fur every night makes all the work seem worthwhile. Which is strange, because she doesn't care about the work or its outcomes. I like that.
It’s odd, but it makes me realize how truly little we ‘need’ to be happy. I don’t feel sorry for myself, even though the math says I should. A fellow architecture student called it “the saddest math ever” when I posted it on Facebook. He told me that from where he was sitting on the other side of the Attic. But I didn’t find it sad. It was just a “huh” moment for me.
Because at the end of the night, I get to go home and pet my cat.