The Greatest Cat That Ever Lived
Nash Bridges, despite what her name suggests, was a lady. We just didn’t know that when she was a kitten. My mother found a litter of strays and when animal control came to collect them she asked the vet to pick out two boys (one for myself and one for my brother). So, while discussing possible names mom suggested we name the cats after her TV boyfriends, Walker, Texas Ranger and Nash Bridges. A few months later when both Walker and Nash were taken to be neutered, the vet gave my mom the surprising news: Nash was a she, not a he. But the window of time for a name change had long past.
As I will claim until the day I die, and probably after that as well, Nash was my cat. If you ask my mother or brother they would also claim the title. (Such is often the problem with family cats.) They are wrong, but this does serve to highlight the extent to which she was cherished, because nothing shows adoration more than a fight over ownership. In all honesty my mother probably (definitely) spent the most time caring and tending to Nash. While I loved her deeply from the moment we met, I was 8 and devoid of any sense of responsibility for myself, let alone another living, breathing creature. My brother, age 9 at the time, was in a similar boat (certainly not the same boat because we were terrible sharers). But just because she fed, nurtured, and covered all of Nash’s medal expenses, that doesn’t mean Nash was my mother’s. Nash slept in my bed for the longest amount of time and played with my hair (especially if it was wet and freshly washed).
My brother’s claim to ownership was a bit more far-fetched. He believed I gave up all rights to her when I abandoned her to go to college. Please note during these same four years my brother’s permanent address changed more often than some people’s Facebook statuses and the times he was living back home he was not caring for anyone or anything including himself. It was a rough time in his life and Nash was there for him.
A week after her death, I received a call at roughly 3am. It was my brother calling to tell me he loved me, and that he knew I took great care of Nash. He was, clearly, drunk. He confessed to hating me when I first stole Nash 3 years ago, and brought her to live with me in my first apartment after college, but he had forgiven me now. He blamed himself for never visiting when he knew how old she was getting. He asked for a copy of a recent photo of her, so he could put it on display in his and his girlfriend’s place. Yes, of course, I assured him.
My brother and I do not become emotional with one another. Whenever one of us breaks the unspoken code of not being emotional, it’s the other’s responsibility to stop the display by all means necessary. I was doing my best, but it’s difficult to calm someone down over the phone. This early (incredibly too early) morning my brother was having none of it. He pressed on to tell me how when things were really terrible for him and he was coming home wasted every night, Nash was there. He would be in the bathroom puking everything but his lungs out and look up (once he finished hopefully) and there would be Nash staring at him disapprovingly, letting him know he needed to get his life together. He was better than this. My brother, thoroughly shamed by the house-cat, could then admit his transgression and promise to do better. Nash was always such a good listener to sins and secrets. She would then walk away to his bedroom and wait for him to follow and pass out so she could cuddle him. That was Nash, I told him, always there to shame, then cuddle you when you were down.
Nash’s affection was not just reserved for people. She was a dog lover as well. Giselle, the shitzu I received the Christmas of my 15th year, would become her life-long “special friend.” The two became permanent roommates when I moved into my first apartment. Mom let Giselle go pretty easily, but it took months of convincing her I was responsible enough to care for Nash. (If anyone ever tells you there’s not a pet hierarchy in a home they are lying to you.)
Growing up, Nash was the oldest pet in a house of multiple cats and dogs. To put it bluntly, she was Queen Bee. Nash got the most attention, the most treats, and first dibs on whatever particular spot she wanted to lounge in. Of course, the other pets were not neglected, but they knew Nash was there first, and to back off or else. So, Nash met Giselle (a.k.a Gezzy) when she was about 7. She was not pleased with the new addition, but she never was excited about a new pet. However, after a week of sulking she relented and made the best of it.
Once the two moved out together, and into my adult apartment, their love fully flourished. They snuggled, cuddled, and Nash often bathed Gezzy. They were inseparable. During the day Nash stayed in her own bedroom with the door closed so Gezzy couldn’t get in and eat all her food. Gezzy, not liking the distance between them, would go upstairs after I left for work and sit outside her door. True love is excitedly waiting all day to see someone you’ve literally known your whole life.
Nash was around for 17 years of my life, including the awkward pre-teen, teenage, and young adult years. She was there through every glorious fashion mistake and, more importantly, she didn’t care what I did or didn’t do (as long as I remembered to feed her, of course). She didn’t catalog or rehash my accomplishments and/or failures (like some “supportive” family members or “friends” are known to do). She didn’t care about any of that. She just wanted to love me and receive my love in return.
My beloved Nash died in the summer of my 25th year from thyroid complications. She had been one of the only positive consistencies in my life since she entered it, when I was 8. The memory of finding her kitten self, crawling around in a box placed in the center of my bed, remains one of my fondest.
Cetoria Tomberlin is a poet and fiction writer originally from South Georgia. She received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Berry College. Her work has previously appeared in Fairy Tale Review, LADYGUNN, and various other places.