It was 1998, and Lynda and I weren’t living together yet. She owned a cottage in one of those fancy West Austin neighborhoods between Lamar and MoPac. Depending upon the exact date, I either lived in that place south of Cesar Chavez where kids from the elementary school across the street robbed me three times in 10 months or underneath the upper deck of I-35 behind the Crazy Lady Strip Club. Needless to say, I was thrilled when our relationship progressed to the point where I was given a key to her place, which was sunny, professionally cleaned, and full of cats.
There were three regulars. The senior cat was Miss Thing, an obesely cloudy Persian who used her only functioning brain cells to sit in the litter box looking mean so the others could not use it. Naturally, Miss Thing herself treated the litter box as more of a suggestion because a diva pees where she wants.
Second was George, a class act all around. He kept the perimeter guarded. Those bushes weren’t going to mark themselves every two hours.
Then there was The Handsome Prince, a black stray adopted out of the parking lot at the Pecan Grove apartments. Just like a four-year-old at a cocktail party who knows all the state capitals, he was way too smart for his own good. I was a plaything to him. His favorite game was to slap me awake at 2am, knowing that I more than likely not would have to pee. I would pad off to the bathroom, and he would follow. While I drained the chestnut bladder, he would stand on the edge of sink aheming meows until I turned on the faucet. He leisurely drank until he was satisfied then released me back to bed. Why drink the water in the bowl when you have a Night Slave?
I needed to thank Lynda for the cats and the keys. Only a grand romantic gesture would do. Beyond the excessive gifting of stuffed animals, I am quite lacking in the field of grand romantic gestures. So I decided to crib one from the movies. I turned to that delightful 1988 rom-com sex, lies, and videotape.
In the movie Peter Gallagher is cheating on his wife, Andie MacDowell, with her sister, Laura San Giacomo. Laura visits him at home for sex purposes, and he greets her naked on the bed, holding a potted houseplant atop his junk. It’s really kinda cute. That afternoon while I was at the Randall’s picking up Diet Coke with which to stock Lynda’s fridge I lit up when I noticed they had Boston ferns in 10” pots out front for $6.99.
I knew I would beat Lynda to her place by about 20 minutes. I first contemplated going the bed route, as did Peter Gallagher, but decided that since I was being so darn cute, she would not be able to resist my ferned manhood and we would have sexual relations because that’s what happens when you do grand romantic gestures. I really couldn’t risk potting soil in the bed. It’s not so much the dirt; it’s those little white fertilizer pebbles. Besides you could see into the bedroom from kitchen door through which she would enter, and that would negate any seductive beckoning. I settled for the loveseat in the living room.
I spent about five minutes practicing comfortable poses. I am longer than a loveseat, so usually laying it necessitated putting your feet up on one arm. First, I laid down the position I normally assumed when I hung out at Lynda’s. The Handsome Prince jumped up on the back of the loveseat and sauntered over to the arm. He walked over my left ankle, sat, and turned. Then he began staring down at me rather intently. He started to do that little waggle with his back end that cats do when they’re about to charge a hole into which they think a mouse has retreated. It was then I realized that he could pretty much see my duodenum from that perspective, which is exactly the same angle Lynda would see me as she entered the living room. No one has a sexy duodenum.
So then I sat Buddha-style with the plant in my lap. The Handsome Prince was not amused. While the Lord Buddha may be many things to many people, I doubt he is anyone’s idea of sexy. At least not Peter Gallagher sexy.
Lynda pulled into the driveway. I had to choose a position. I reached a panicked compromise. I scooted down the couch still in my Buddha pose and reclined backwards. I could fit on the loveseat, and it wasn’t gross.
Before I could get the fern into crotch place, the cat stared directly at me, then at my junk, then back at me before jumping directly onto my left testicle. The Handsome Prince had perfect aim.
I maneuvered the fern into place. In sex, lies, and videotape Peter Gallagher uses a floppy plant with round leaves. The leaves of a Boston fern are stiff and sharp, and most definitely do not belong in my belly button. I rotated the fern on its gritty base in order to find less annoying frond placement. No cat can resist anything that moves ever so slightly, especially when it’s a delicious, most probably deathly-poisonous and vomit-inducing houseplant. He began to chew aggressively on a frond. Every time I tried to swat him away, the plant would rustle, thus further inflaming his lust for fern.
I was so preoccupied with fern placement and cat wrangling that I didn’t hear the door slam on Lynda’s car. She walked in the kitchen door just as The Handsome Prince tried to jump on my chest. I hissed, “Get out of here you asshole!”
“What, huh?” she shouted from the kitchen.
“Nothing, hun!” Then I realized I needed to beckon her to the love seat. “I’m in the liiiiving room!”
“That’s niiiiice!” she replied in a tone that suggested she didn’t find the mere stating of one’s location an aphrodisiac. I swear the cat stifled a laugh or at least was contemplating a hairball. Either way, I read it as a slight. He trotted off to the kitchen.
“I’m in the liiiiving room!” I attempted again.
“I’m in the bathroooom!” she returned. I could hear the giant swim fins that passed for her feet slapping the floors as she ran to the bathroom. See what a great guy I am? I am willing to perform a grand romantic gesture for a woman with annoyingly loud feet.
The Handsome Prince returned to the loveseat, showed me his butt, and took up a position where he could see her enter. However, she didn’t enter. I would say that three and half minutes is the cut-off point between quick trip to the bathroom and the death of spontaneous sex-type stuff. The cat got bored and went to stick his paw under the bathroom door after about five minutes.
It should also be pointed out that before one puts a potted on fern on their junk, either the bottom of the pot should be wiped off or a washcloth laid down.
Still hope springs eternal. Yes, my pubes were probably full of those tiny white fertilizer pellets, but I closed my eyes and thought of Laura San Giacomo. She stops, a wicked grin comes across her giant Laura San Giacomo mouth, and in voice dripping with pure Louisiana Spanish moss she purrs, “Well ain’t you a picture?” Then she whips off her stupid 80s hat, kicks off her stupid 80s boots, and unhooks her stupid 80s dangly earrings. All the while her eyes are fixed on the prize. Lynda was from Corpus Christi –187 miles even further south than Louisiana –and her fashion sense has always had a 10-year delay. She was going to nail this!
After a few more minutes, I could hear the bathroom door open. “Sorry, cabbage. You know what that does to me,” Lynda called out. The fern pot might as well have been full of bitey ants for all the good that did. Lynda rounded the corner into to living room. “Awww,” she snorted.
Later that night as we lay down to bed without any spontaneous or otherwise relations, Lynda fell asleep before me. I watched her breathe for a while, happy in the knowledge that while the grand romantic gesture didn’t lead to anything physical, it still was worth it.
The Handsome Prince leapt onto the bed and climbed onto Lynda’s chest. She stirred only slightly. He extended one paw to one side of her head and the other to the other side. He started to knead vigorously in a manner that read too much as missionary position to be an accident. Then he turned to me and stared as if to say, “You can get me some water when I’m done.”