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    I acknowledge my idiosyncrasies.  No longer taking care to conform to the conventional, I've become comfortable with my wayward peculiarities and defiant quirks.  But, every now and then, I am startled with evidence of my own conventionality.

    Having recently ended a relationship, moved to the Big City, and gained entry to Corporate America, I did what many women do:  Adopt a cat.

    But that's where the archetypal gesture of a single, urban professional ends. 

    Rather than select the cleanest, cutest and cuddliest kitten in the bunch, I opted to take home the most scroungey, sullen and sick.  The only cat that was kept caged while the other felines roamed free.  The one that needed the most attention, but that bit when pet.  It wasn't at all my intention, but I was told how much she needed a home.  She had been abandoned.  She was afflicted with painful kidney stones, a heart murmur and a urinary tract infection.  She was so ill that fluids had to be administered intravenously.  This time, I refused to turn my back...but I vowed never to make such a foolish decision again.

    Until several weeks ago.  She startled me as I raised my blinds to the morning's cold to find a kitten shivering against the wind.  I meant only to feed her--and then, perhaps, take her to a "no kill" shelter.  But as location after location informed me that they were at capacity, I felt that I had no other choice but to provide respite until either a foster or permanent home was found.  Yet, after countless online posts, a costly trip to the vet (that revealed that she needed to be rid of both worms and fleas), and nights listening to her claw at the very window at which she begged for entry, with me she remains.  These beasts are burdens of my own choosing. 


    My best friend called me yesterday.  She began the conversation by signaling that what would follow may not be positively received.  "I hope that this doesn't offend you, but..."  She continued by revealing that, upon telling her boyfriend that I had taken in yet another troubled cat, he observed that my history of chosing downtrodden, wild and obviously imperfect animals mirrored my choices in men.  Specifically, he noted that I have, "a thing for guys that most women wouldn't want."  My best friend, who knows me like no other, agreed.  She explained that although I had the opportunity to pick a reasonably healthy, loveable and reformed shelter animal, I had decided upon the most mangy.  The one that needed extensive nursing and coddling, but that attacked when shown affection.  My friend bewailed the absurdity of bringing a stray into my home.  Feral cats.  Feral men.


    I've never been a fan of "perfect."  Of lives lived without occasional burden.  Without a periodic bump in the road or an incidental jolt to fatefully balance things back into perspective.  Not at any point in life have I been able to relate to those whose beings were un-mussed:  Never out of place.  Not ever experiencing movement from bluster.  I never felt comfortable with the type of men my friends sought.  The "Good Black Men" who had been validated by their pedigree, degrees and good-paying positions.  And so I've tended to attach myself to men who lived passionate, yet complicated lives.  Indeed, despite warnings from friends and family, shortly after graduating from college, I ended things with my "perfect" boyfriend, and entered a relationship with a man who was plagued by the memory of an absent father and the presence of a mother who looked to him more as a father than as a son. My new love had dropped out of college to support his mother-deciding to delay his education to take care of his caretaker.  Sure, his demons constantly nipped at his heels-but he was devastatingly kind and passionate about his work.  Yes, his ability to trust and love was limited, but I felt no qualms in plunking down money to help him re-enroll in school--or in offering up my heart.  Still, as all others had predicted, the relationship plummeted with him into the depths of despair as he revealed thoughts of suicide and, of course, the desire to be alone.

    And then there was the other love.  He whose life had been marred by the effects of not one, but two absent parents and a childhood spent in foster care.  He, the sometime custodian of his 12-year old sister and 6-year old daughter.  I admired him for his tenacity.  For not giving up on a life that had, "not been no crystal stair..."  But usually on the brink of crisis, often erratic and customarily neurotic, I became used to needing to reassure him that I wouldn't leave him for someone "perfect."  And I didn't.  But 3 years later, after having endured his Confession, weekly weekend arguments and fears that his verbal clawing would turn into physical assault, I walked away.  I carried the disappointment with me.


    There was peculiar poetry in dating the tormented soul.  Of loving a life that hadn't been deemed worthy merely because of circumstance, but whose beauty was rooted in something deeper. 

    But, I now recognize that the men that I had chosen had been plucked too soon.  They remained ensconced in lairs of sorrow and remained compelled to bite hands of the pure intentioned.

    So, while I'm still no fan of perfect-of tongues heavy with silver spoons and lives whimsically led, next time I hope to stand before the door of a man able to let me in.  Equally imperfect.  Equally in need, but with lovely wounds that have long since scarred over. 


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    Reader Comments (2)

    This was so beautiful, so raw. Very few can make sense of the emotion of love, which when it ends often seems so senseless.

    March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAzra

    Great article. I think most women have a chosen beast of burden. Oh sweet clarity when we realize and recognize it as such!

    March 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterms.hayes

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