Eli. We were going home to Eli.
I don’t want to offend our other cats or the family members and friends we hadn’t seen in six months, but reuniting with our 8-year-old tabby was first and foremost on Him and I’s minds during that long return flight from Istanbul to Miami. I know this admission sounds crazy and maybe even hurtful to some, but I can justify it by insisting we hadn’t been able to call or email Eli as we had the humans in our lives; Aside from the postcards we mailed home to him, we had no way of asserting that we still existed and missed him. Plus, he’s just a really great cat. He does tricks (“sit,” “high five”), comes running when called, spoons, never bites (hard) and even authors his own blog. It sounds overly dramatic and ultra-mushy to say so, but unless you’ve met Eli or personally own a pet you consider your best friend (spouse excluded, honey), you probably won’t understand what I’m getting at.
The hardest part of traveling for six months had been leaving our cats behind. Thanks to Him’s parents, who owned the house we rented and could routinely visit and clean up after the cats, and my parents, who were able to provide constant companionship by living in the house for a few months, we were extremely lucky to be able to keep the cats in the environment they were accustomed to. We would not have left on our adventure if doing so required kenneling. So a BIG thank you to Bobby and Carole Adjemian and Kim and Kim Winslow.
Nevertheless, I have to say Him and I both experienced a tinge of sadness when we consulted the Istanbul airport’s departure screens and located boring old “Newark” nestled between romantic destinations like “Venice,” “Minsk” and “London.” Boo hoo. But United Flight 905Y helped make up for it with unexpected perks like complimentary access to 211 feature films in each of our personal television sets, free mini bottles of Veuve de Vernay champagne and the first ice cream I’ve ever consumed at 30,000 feet.
We had only an hour between flights in Newark, and passport control and TSA, offering few lines for processing several hundred passengers, did their best to keep us from catching our connecting flight to Miami. Yet, somehow, we made it, found the car Him’s parents had thoughtfully left for us at the airport and drove Interstate-95 for an hour and a half to arrive in sleepy old Jupiter, Florida, at 2 a.m. Aside from the streetlight D.O.T. had installed outside our neighborhood, everything, surprisingly, looked the same as when we had left it.
“If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was playing on the radio as we turned onto Ocean Way.
“This is Eli’s song,” I said, my words and voice oozing with cheese. “We gotta run inside and say hi to Eli and then get the stuff. Are you excited? This is going to be the best!”
“This is going to be the best,” Him agreed as we pulled into our driveway.
Eli was peeking out from behind the blinds when we neared the front door.
“Well, at least Eli’s still alive,” I said.
Him approached Eli first. He offered his hand, and Eli sniffed it and then stared at Him as if trying to recall who he was.
“He says, ‘Where the hell have you been?’” I joked. We petted him, cooed at him and cradled him in our arms. Then, eventually, we confirmed the other two (Oh my! Did I neglect to mention their names? They’re Bonnie and Clyde) were still alive.
We allowed Eli to sleep between us that night – and for many nights to come.