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So, my cousin called me from the mental hospital and was telling me all about suicide and Christians and how his mother wanted to fund this familial form of homicide. She wanted him out and living in society and all he wanted to do was deal drugs and further harm the world.

     It made me isolated for a while.

     I stopped going to self-help groups and the community centre and soup kitchen because I felt they were all happier than I was and some of them recognised I was that guy , the one in the books on the shelves at the bookstore and I hated myself for having this face.

     I took to staying solitary and then became reclusive which I swore never to do, because I’m no J.D Salinger, or expert on teenage angst and love and the terrible stink of hormones. I talk like real people, man, and we talk like garbage. The world was upsetting me all over again.

     I started going to the beach and wandering the sand drifts and eyeballing the ripples in them and seeing the awesome expressionism of Mother Nature within each ripple and got down at eye level to see it. It was magnificent. 

     Old men fished for fish and some days they were regular and didn’t catch a thing and I decided to help them and then one day I met Frida Kahlo.

     It’s a different kind of love story , this one.

     I was boating and fishing with the elderly Lari Sikh Mahdhi  and he was filling in the gaps of a Christian God and Allah and stories of Yusaf and we were way out on the sea and both heard a cry for help. 

     His heart broke in two and he steered toward it and yelled,  “ That’s a child! “

     I felt fear and we edged closer to the cries and saw dolphins and they were huge and I was overwhelmed.

     “ You must get in! “ he yelled, pointing to the sea.

     “ Are you crazy? “ I yelled back.

     Dolphins, four of them, were at the boat, cackling and squeaking.

     The child’s cry came again and Lari was stressed, “ I hear them! Where are they? “

     “ I don’t know! “

     “ Show yourself, little one! “ he called.

      The cry came again and I saw her.

      She was beautiful and tiny and without thinking I dived in and the dolphins didn’t hurt me and they were  very big compared to me and I took Frida Kahlo from the ocean and she was cold and stressed but now happy sticking her face in my ear and each sound she made was very loud and she sneezed and shook.

     She was a tabby cat kitten not more than ten weeks old. 

     She was brave and strong and natural. My kind of girl.

     The dolphins didn’t touch us but when she went under the water trying to get to me they pushed her up so she could breathe. Cats and dolphins, I have decided, are the best people.

     She was attached to me and crying for me and Lari was amused by  her, passing her to me, saying, “ Silly catty! I don’t want no catty puss! You fished her from the silly sea instead of today’s catch. We can’t eat a stinking cat, Joey! Go back in there and get us something to eat! “

      Later at Lari’s place we drank absinthe and got incredibly drunk on it and named her Frida Kahlo and laughed at her reaction to herself in the mirror and finally Lari  said, “ This little pussy puss puss loves you. “

      Frida was curled against my neck.

     “ She loves your heart and the beat of it, “ Lari said. “ Take her home. Be a man. Save her. Love her like a child. In my country, that’s all it takes to be a parent. Do it. Take her home. “

     “ I couldn’t. They’ll kick me out. “

     “ Then don’t let them know. “

     And so I named her Frida Kahlo and I moved her in and loved her like I would  my daughter.

      She was smart, paid attention, walked with me up the hill and back and I loved her. She was so pretty and I kissed her and hugged her and encouraged her to sleep where she wanted to and left the door open so she could go outside and make unholy messes in the garden.

     I chewed on her tail and she hissed and got used to it and would turn on me and suck on my shirt and I loved her..

     She understood a joke and when I was joking and I couldn’t bring myself to re-home her then. 

     My downstairs neighbour Naomi, whom I’d nearly dropped a typewriter on, found Frida playing in the garden and took her in and thought she’d found the ultimate pal  until Frida ran upstairs to my door.

      Naomi knocked until I answered and she asked, “ Do you have a cat? I want her. She’s beautiful. My boyfriend leaves me from time to time and I don’t feel so alone with Tibby. “

      I said, “ She’s not just a cat. She’s Frida Kahlo not Tibby. Don’t ever call her just a cat. “

     “ I’m sorry, What’s your name? “

     “ Joey. Joey O’Brien.  Frida’s not just a cat cat. She’s part dolphin, too. It’s a crazy story.  “

     And Naomi listened to my story about Frida and how I nursed her and it was agreed that if Frida wanted to spend time with Naomi she could. 

      I started walking to the beaches and collecting shells and writing poetry and Frida followed me and I wrote a book of poetry and published it and she followed me everywhere and it became dangerous for her.

     Cars tried to hit her, buses pulled up suddenly, and people on bicycles yelled at us. 

     There was something wrong with her as far as people were concerned and I had to protect her because they called her a pest.

      For a short time Frida disappeared and came back and gave birth to a litter of six kittens in Naomi’s apartment and she was overjoyed and sadly only two survived and Frida was upset and manic and possessive and the kittens eventually ran away.

      She spent her days with me and I took her to the vet and had her vaccinated and fixed and eventually took her to Lari.

      Frida was sad and once we took her out on the ocean she was happier.

     She looked deep into the sea and mewled and spotted fish and worlds of colour unknown to humans and had us drag up fish and was such a wonderful cat.

 A beautiful girl.

     Lari Sikh Mahdi asked, “ How much for your cat? “

     “ It’s up to her, “ I said. “ She’s not for sale. “

     Lari asked Frida, “ Will you come with me? Live with me and help me catch the fish?  “

     She looked out over the sea with yearning and purpose, possibly remembering the dolphins, and never once looked back at me, not until we reached land, and only then she looked back to remind me she loved me with a quiet purr and tail wrapped around my leg.

I stroked her on the head and told myself she was just a stray from the sea, not some divine magnificence, and Lari laughed and kissed her and was happy with our catch and Frida struggled against his affection.

     He let her down and she wandered inside his apartment and  Lari said, “ Welcome home, my daughter, “ and his smile was broad and gleaming.

     After all that time I went back to the soup kitchen and they’d never know I once had a cat.


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