The Double Life

By: Nia Wilson



“Oh no. No people food for you, my friend.”

I went to his bowl and filled it up halfway. He eyed me suspiciously and walked over to the bowl. After giving it a sniff he jumped onto the counter and sat beside my box.

“No way, get off.”

I shooed him away. He yawned and picked one paw up, batting at the box softly. I picked him up and walked down the hall, setting him down in the bathroom and pulling the door closed behind me. Johann was a lot of things, but he was the worst dinner companion.

If I refused to share, he would rub himself against my arm until he managed to shed copious amounts of hair into my food. He was always sorely disappointed when I dumped it down the garbage disposal instead of in his bowl.

I was pretty sure he thought I was an imbecile.

***





Sunday morning started much the same as any day. The sun came up far too early, and Johann was far too needy.

He walked down my chest, claws barely poking out of the pads of his feet. I sat upright and let out a squeak as one nail pushed its way through my night shirt and into my flesh. Johann jumped nimbly to the side and sat there, blinking at me in confusion.

I wasn’t really a cat person, but Johann was something else. Once I saw him in that shelter, I couldn’t walk away. And he was a pretty good cat, when he wasn’t clawing up my things or pretending to accidentally poke me with his claws and then looking appalled when I cried out.

I looked at the clock and groaned. The one day I could sleep in as long as I wanted and the cat had already woke me up before ten.

“Johann, seriously?”

Johann lifted his leg straight in the air and began to groom himself, completely oblivious to my need to sleep.

“Fine. I’ll get up. But I don’t have to be happy about it.” I threw back the covers, throwing a thin quilt over his head. He meowed and ran out from under the covers, giving me a hateful look as he slinked out of my room.

I waited for the shower to warm up and undressed. The steam filled the room and fogged up the mirror and the bathroom window. I hadn’t put a curtain on the window since I was on the second floor. The house beside me, with the new neighbors, was on the corner lot. The house was turned at an angle from mine, so none of the windows looked directly into mine.

Unless I stood directly in front of the window and leaned against it, no one could see me, and I wasn’t really the type to flash the neighbors. At least I assumed I wasn’t.

I stepped into the shower and took a deep breath. The water trickled down my skin, working the kinks out slowly as I moved my head and neck around. Johann was half the cat I had brought home, literally. But somehow, he still took up half of my queen-sized bed. What was left for me was often the narrow edge of the bed against the wall. Other times, he would sleep directly in the middle of the bed, causing me to contort crazily to accommodate him.

Asleep, Johann weighed at least forty pounds. He was immovable, his loose skin spreading out around him, creating a stable base as he declared his ownership of everything he touched in my home.

My muscles began to relax and I went to work on my hair. It seemed like a lifetime since I’d shunned my grandmother’s love for her natural locks, choosing instead to relax my hair and force it into the most recent hair-style.

After grandma died, I woke up one day and headed to my hair appointment like normal. I turned around a mile down the road and headed home. Whose box was I trying to fit into, sitting in a salon chair for hours at a time to change something that was so uniquely me?

For more than five years, my hair had been its natural self, full of tight, wild curls. I loved my hair, and I rarely pulled it back. Occasionally, I wrapped it tightly with a vibrant scarf. But the rest of the time, I left it natural. It was so much simpler, and I felt empowered.

I ran my hands through my hair, working the shampoo into my scalp and finger-combing out any tangles. The sweet scent of my shampoo filled the space around me as I lathered my hair before moving to grab my favorite body wash.

I was a sucker for vanilla and peppermint, preferably mixed together. As a result, my shower looked like I celebrated Christmas all year long. The shelves were filled with various sugar scrubs, shower gels, and face scrubs. Red, silver, and white containers shimmered merrily in the soft light in the ceiling of the shower.

I’d given in and decorated my bathroom in the same festive colors the year before, enjoying how the vibrant reds and metallic silvers had lifted my mood in the morning.

Finished with my shower far too soon, I stepped out and onto the plush red carpet. I towel-dried myself and wrapped a clean, dry towel around my hair. Grabbing the moisturizer, I propped one foot up on the lid of the edge of the tub and started rubbing peppermint lotion into my legs one at a time.

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