14 February 2013

A Love Letter To An Old Friend

About four weeks ago, I wrote about the first anniversary of Charlie's death.

He was sweet, adorable and smart, and accompanied me through some of most intense and, sometimes, wonderful times in my life.  

Charlie came into my life on this date in 2006.  My friend Mildred rescued him a few months earlier from an area of metal fabrication shops.  There are a few houses among them; still, the area is usually deserted after dark.  That's why people--and I use that term quite loosely--dump animals there.

Millie told me that as soon as Charlie saw her, he scampered toward her.   That meant, of course, that he was not a feral cat; he must have had a home only recently.  The vet said as much, and determined that he was about six to seven years old.  

She wanted to keep him, but she had other cats in her house and yard.  I said I would take him as soon as I was ready.  She didn't rush me; she understood why I couldn't take him right away.

He is the reason why.  You might be thinking that he looks like Charlie.  In fact, he is Charlie--just not the same one I've been talking about.

The cat in the photo--let's call him Charlie I--had been in my life for nearly fifteen years, from the time he was a kitten.  Only members of my family and a few friends have had, or had, more years with me.  

In addition to being adorable and sweet, he was smart and, it seemed, prescient.  You know he's intelligent from that photo:  He's in front of an Oxford English Dictionary.  Some people might believe that he read more of it than I did!

Another way I knew he was smart was the way he looked the camera.  He seemed to realize that I was photographing him, but he also seemed to know that it was simply impossible for anyone--even  yours truly!--to take a bad photo of him.

When I first met him, he was with the other kittens in his litter.  He half-walked, half-waddled to me on his little legs and looked into my eyes.  Somehow, he seemed to know all about me, and that he was going home with me.  I didn't even have to make the decision.

What's even more interesting, though, is that he preferred women to men and girls to boys.  Whenever I talked with a woman on the phone, he was at my side.  When a woman came into my apartment, he simply had to meet her.  And he and Tammy got along famously.

Someone suggested that he acted as he did the first time I met him because he knew that I'm a woman, even though I was still deep into my boy-drag phase!  For a few months, around the time Charlie I was a year old, I shared my apartment with a fellow graduate student.  Late one afternoon, Charlie I made a beeline for the door as I turned the key.  My roommate joked, "Charlie, Mommy's home!"

So, Charlie I was with me for that part of my life, through graduate school and a few jobs, in five different apartments (including the one in which I lived with Tammy) and, most important of all, through my last, desperate attempts to live as a man and the beginning of my life as Justine.

Now, you may be wondering why I named Charlie II Charlie.  The truth is, he was already so named when I brought him home.  Millie had given him that name and I didn't want to change it.  And, even though Charle II had a slightly different personality from Charlie I, he was sweet and loving. He was, not a clone of, or replacement for, Charlie I, but a continuation of him.  Sometimes I think it's exactly what I needed.


  1. Thank you for sharing that story. You and Charlie had a beautiful friendship. It's funny how they can pick a person out and make them THEIR person. I've lived with several cats like that over the years, and that relationship is the closest to a maternal feeling I've ever had. Except it's not just maternal. It's a partnership. :)

  2. Steve and Amy--Thank you. And, Amy, you've done a wonderful job of describing the relationships we have with our cats.