A Story by grace

Depressed cat wreaks havoc on a young woman's life.


Periwinkle was a stupid name. Even for a cat. Even for a stupid cat. Periwinkle’s nickname was even stupider�" excuse me�"more stupid. Winkie. Doesn’t that sound like the nickname for something phallic? Is Periwinkle even a real name? I looked it up once. Apparently it’s defined as a light shade of blue. And a type of sea snail. Periwinkle was not (the color) periwinkle. But the snail allusion almost made sense. Like Spongebob’s pet sea snail, Gary, who meows like a cat. Maybe Gary was a periwinkle (mollusc). 

My best friend, Barbara, and I roomed effortlessly together before Periwinkle latched onto her like a parasite. I think their relationship was mutually parasitic. I don’t know if such a thing as mutual parasitism occurs within nature. I took AP Bio like a million years ago, okay? In short though, each organism sucked the life out of the other. 

Dark, bitterly cold, and early November. Barbara and I were trudging back to our apartment after wasting the day in a crammed corner of the University’s library. We zig zagged through the wind tunnels up to Broadway and 10th street. Barbara suddenly halted and tapped my shoulder, pointing aggressively at a shop window. 

“What�"oh wow!” I gasped, pulling out my earphones. I caught the flick of a tail disappearing into one of those carpeted cat jungle gyms. Barbara was cupping the window and ogling. I stepped back to notice the chalkboard sign propped next to the entrance, Keep Calm and Purrsevere @nycatcafe.  Barbara looked back at me with her puppy-dog eyes that were pleading can we please go in? My dwindling serotonin levels would really benefit. I could never say no whenever she made that face,  like the bad mother who catered to all the whims of her spoiled child.

An admission waiver and an eight dollar matcha latte later, we were sitting on the wood floor littered with cats and cat litter. A striped orange one snaked its way onto Barbara’s legs, circled around, then plopped down. It found her lap, indeed, suitable. Barbara stroked his coat and in response it arched up and purred. Her puppy-dog eyes now screamed look at this cat! I also knew another thing she was thinking. And it made me regret stepping foot into that conniving pop-up shop, which targeted stressed and lonely students, pushing them to adopt. Dispicable. Most vulnerable people usually just craved sweet and salty foods. Why couldn't have Barbara dragged me into Insomnia Cookies instead?

Our apartment was already tiny to begin with. It was a quaint two bedroom connected by a kitchenette and a living room.  The best amenity? The south-facing windows that opened up to the fifth floor fire escape. Barbara and I watched so many sunsets and sunrises there. Smoke sessions criss-crossed on the cold iron bars. It was where we exchanged lives. It was where we reckoned. 

 I haven’t told anyone this, but…

I swear, my aunt could predict the future. This one time...

 It was our first semester living outside the dorms, our first real home. The apartment was our sacred place�" just mine and Barbara’s�"but who knew such a scraggy little thing could take up 

So. Much. Space. 

He shook up our peaceful ecosystem. I didn’t mind, initially. Periwinkle was kind of cute. I’m not a total monster. And Barbara loved him, so I tried. 

He was a three-year-old tabby. Stripes ran along his body and an ‘M’ streaked above his blue eyes. Like a lightning bolt, perhaps? I suggested the names Harry (eh, sounds too human-y) and Garfield (absolutely not). 

It was a Thursday night, a month after Barbara adopted Periwinkle. Plastic Grubhub bags were discarded on the fluffy lilac rug. Barbara�"unskilled with chopsticks�" held the take-out box under her chin like a net to catch fallen bits of stir fry. Periwinkle lept on the couch and slithered underneath Barbara’s arms. 

“Awh hello, Winkie!” I suppressed an eye roll. She leaned over and placed her unfinished rice on the table and began caressing him. On the rug, I continued slurping my lo mein noodles and watched them together. Abruptly, she furrowed her eyebrows and ceased petting him. 

“What's wrong?” I asked. 

“I don’t know, but somethings off. Feel Winkie’s side.” I moved over to the couch and Barbara took my hand and guided it toward his abdomen. Sure enough, his individual ribs protruded underneath his soft fur. 

“I thought it was just me, but Periwinkle really has started watching his figure.”  Barbara glared at me. “No, that’s odd,” I added. 

Over the next few days, Barbara noticed that Periwinkle was not touching his catnip. He stopped lounging on her lap. He lost interest in his toys.  And frequently slept in dark crevices of the closet. 

Less than a week later, Barbara took him to the vet. She had skipped her 8 am class to get Periwinkle seen as soon as their office opened. Isn’t it kind of trivial to skip class before finals week over a cat? Barbara is still mad at me for that. But I think she knew I was right. I was speed-walking to my 11 am after waiting in the infamously long line at Starbucks when Barbara called me. It must have been serious. 

“How did the appointment go?”

“Dani, I’m such a horrible parent!” Her voice was shrill. She was crying. 

“That’s not true. What happened?” Oh God, it’s bad.

“Winkie has...” Cancer. 

Barbara, whatever it is, you can tell me. I’m sure Periwinkle is going to be alright.” Periwinkle is dying. 

Winkie is d-d�"” I knew it!


“�"depressed! Dead? God no. Winkie was diagnosed with depression!” 

“Are you kidding? That’s it? Can felines even have legitimate clinical depression?” 

“Dani, don’t take this lightly! It is very real and it is extremely serious!” 

I squeezed my phone with a death grip until my knuckles whitened. In our three-year friendship, I had never felt this angry with Barbara.  I’m not even sure why it was making me this upset. But I wanted to strangle her�" or more so �" I wanted to strangle that cat.  

“Barbara, I don't have time for this right now! I gotta go.”

“Bye.” I had hung up. 

Later that evening, when Barbara and I both reconvened at home, I apologized for lashing out.  “�"I think I’ve just been channeling all of my exam anxiety onto Periwinkle. And that’s unfair to him�" and to you, Barbara.” Bullshit. We hugged. And watched reruns of Grey's Anatomy. Periwinkle hopped into Barbara’s lap. When he was licking the back of his paw,  I reached over to scratch his ears. Hssss! 

“Oh my God, bad Winkie!” Barbara pushed him off her lap. He scurried away into Barbara’s bedroom. “You okay?” 

“I’m fine�"I just can’t believe he hissed at me! ” 

Periwinkle was a stray before being rescued. According to the vet, as an outdoor cat, he was struggling to adjust to living in a confined space.  Barbara began spending less and less time with me and our friends and more time with Periwinkle. I can’t come out tonight. Winkie seems extra down and I think I should watch over him.

It started with the hissing. Everytime I came within a five foot radius of Periwinkle, he stiffened, pinned his ears, and bared his teeth. Hsss! Damn, Periwinkle, I get it!  One night, while scooping food into his dish, he bit my hand. Then he was hissing and biting me whenever he got the chance. I did my best to keep my distance, but Barbara was always by his side. It was probably just in my head, but it felt like she was avoiding me. Was I jealous of a cat? Maybe. I certainly felt a strain on our relationship. Was I not enough for Barbara? Was that the reason she adopted Periwinkle? An unresolved tension grew beyond the size of a cat. 

I continued to keep my distance, and it should have been fine there.  One morning, I woke up and noticed my cheek felt damp on my pillow. An acidic stench filled my nose. Oh! I shot up and saw my pillow covered in Periwinkle’s urine. 

Barbara! The cat pissed on my bed!

Oh, Dani, I’m so sorry! Winkie can’t help it though. It’s a symptom of his depression to get teritorial. He has abandonment issues, you know. 

I usually slept soundly through the night. Even located on the crossroads of a major intersection�"it was all white noise. The pee incident was irksome. Traces of the smell still lingered on my pillowcase. But I started bursting awake in the middle of the night. I would wake up gasping for air, stars dwindling away at the corners of my vision. Barbara thought I was having night terrors. But I would never be dreaming. It made me afraid to fall asleep. Dark shadows developed under my eyes. My already-short fuse shortened. 

One night, as I was drifting to sleep, I felt something suddenly heavy and soft upon my face. I couldn’t breathe. 

Agh! I jolted upright and Periwinkle flew across the bed with a high-pitched shriek. He landed, hissed, and jumped off. 

Barbara entered, Dani are you alright?

No, I am not okay. Your cat has been trying to suffocate me!

I’m sorry, what?

It’s not night terrors. Periwinkle has been laying on my face! 

Well, when cats get territorial its�"

I know, it’s a sign of his depression, I get it. 

If you leave your door open at night, how is he supposed to know any better?

Are you blaming me now? 

Of course not, it’s just�"

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, the cat has been too much, Barbara. I can’t handle him anymore. Either the cat goes, or I’m moving out. Me, or the cat? 

I found a new roommate. And Barbara did too. I moved out. Barbara stayed. She had chosen Periwinkle over me, which was hard to bear. It was the worst form of rejection.  But, as spring rolled around and Periwinkle’s fat rolls rounded, the dust had settled down between us. 

I miss you. Come over, she texted me.

We were sitting on the fire escape that evening and it felt just like old times. We were laughing and chatting underneath a shared blanket and a bottle of wine. Barbara looked lovely. And her mannerisms were as kind and warm as ever. 

Her phone buzzed, it’s my mom, she said standing up and climbing back into the apartment. 

I sat wrapped alone in the blanket studying the light blue sky, swaying slightly. I had been nervous to see Barbara and revisit the apartment. I thought it was going to be too painful. And I was correct. When Barbara opened the door, a resurgence of old feelings swept through me. I drank more than I should have. 

Periwinkle brushed past me and leapt onto the railing. I scooted toward him and began stroking his back. He didn’t hiss at me. Perhaps it’s because he had already gotten his way. He had won.  

You stupid f*****g cat, I thought. Periwinkle purred under my hand. I was in love with Barbara. And you sabotaged everything. I’ve lost my chance with her. And it's all your fault. In a surge of heartbreak and vengeance, I pushed my arm forward, and Periwinkle fell. 

© 2020 grace

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Added on April 7, 2020
Last Updated on April 7, 2020
Tags: LGBT, cats, New York, college



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A Story by grace