Tehran in My Nose, the Cat Down the Hall

Some places will never leave our bodies, no matter how hard we try, or how far we run. In our travels, we carry the scents and sounds of our hometowns and we remind ourselves every so often, who we are and from where we came. I’ve come to believe that I carry Tehran in my nose, or perhaps, I have a big enough nose to sniff out Tehran, wherever I go. Either or, I’ll keep believing that there are mountains in my genes. I have tried, but there is no escaping some desert horizons, not for me. Surely, we are all haunted by something. The stray cats of Iran will forever snap me out of stupor, the stray cats that I hated as a child, the cats that ruled over every city at dusk; their cries will forever own my nights.

Here in Toronto, we have two cats at home. Here now writing this, I glance over at them and can’t help but wonder if they know…? Can they smell the residue of my past hatred on my fingers when I pet them? I’m sure they know nothing of the sort, but regardless, they show me daily how I’ve changed; cat person out of the blue…It appears that I may have transferred my hatred over to squirrels now. Surely, we all hate something, but maybe, just maybe, it is our scattered specks of hate that will haunt us in the long run.

My neighbor down the hall has a ginger cat. I see him every time I go out for a smoke, always sitting on the windowsill, gazing out into the alleyway behind our building, with such desperation in his eyes. His eyes widen each time we meet and his excitement saddens me, watching him press his face into the screen of the open window, meowing and meowing, desperate to be pet. The window isn’t all that high, and on tiptoes I’ve managed to let him smell my hand and continue pressing his face into the screen, circling the windowsill and crying. During one of our first encounters, I studied him for quite some time, his eagerness to play, the boredom glaze in his marble eyes, and leaning back, finishing my smoke and stroking my beard, I concluded, “This is a neglected animal.” I’ve seen my neighbor a few times in passing, but his cat has kept me company through the window on many smokes, and every time he circles around excitedly, meowing and head butting the screen, while I tiptoe to get closer to him. Fortunately as of yet, I haven’t been caught red handed on my tiptoes, while bonding with my neighbor’s cat through the window, in the alleyway behind our building.

Funny how things work, how tides shift and shifts change… It’s fair to say, I’m rather obsessed with the whole thing. So much so that I’ve even thought about befriending my neighbor, getting to know him, only to find my way into his apartment and become better acquainted with his cat, just so his poor ginger cat can have a friend. Definitely a doable task, but who has time for that? I’ve chosen instead to talk to the cat. I do so every now and again. I tell him that life is unfair, that people are different. I talk to him in tones fit for children. I tell him that he’s beautiful. I tell him that his owner is an ass, but that he should still be grateful, for many cats have it much worse. Leaning back, finishing my smoke and stroking my beard, I realize every time that I’m talking to a cat. What could I possibly expect him to understand?

And then I sigh… And then I think,  “Perhaps, karma simply means, growing to love the things we once hated.” Over the years, I’ve come to learn that hate is rather tiresome, but like anything else, it’s there and comes in handy at times. Hell, some of us have more love than we know what to do with, so we waste it. Like it or not, some of us are lucky, some of us aren’t. The same goes for cats.

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