Every day when I leave for work, I know I'll have to set at least five minutes aside to say goodbye to the cats.
Monika's morning ritual is simple. She yowls incessantly as I stumble from bed, demanding fresh food, since the food set out last night is either a) gone or b) stale. (Dry cat food is what they're fed, so obviously it can't go stale. But she's been looking at the same bowl of food all night, and in her mind, it's gone stale. Cat logic.) She continues to hover around as I perform my morning rituals, hoping against hope that a can of tuna will be opened. When she figures out there are no special treats coming, she hops on the bed, sprawls out and goes back to sleep.
There are several designated sleeping places for Monika, but for whatever reason, only when she's on the bed does she stretch out, her body twisting into numerous tortured positions. Normally, when I'm ready to leave, she's on her back, legs at all different angles.
Which means I have to rub her tummy to wake her. She responds with a series of twitches, her body involuntarily twisting around my hand. She raises her head, looks around, yawns once or twice, stretches, then skrunches her eyes shut. There's half a minute right there, and then she really demands attention, head-butting my hand until I begin scratching her head, then moving her face about to guide my fingers to the perfect spot, eyes still shut, purring furiously, so darned adorable I can't do anything but give her the attention she demands.
Until I see Delmar, sad and alone, not getting the attention that used to be his alone.
The thing with Del is, he's always been easily confused. When he was a kitten, he'd hop off my lap (or be pushed off, since he bit and scratched even then) and scamper off, into another room--then get confused, wondering why I wasn't there. He'd yowl and yowl until I called him, and he'd run to the sound of my voice, curling up with me again, his purr almost as fierce as his teeth, which would inevitably start biting again. I'd endure the pain as long as I could, then plop him down on the floor again, and the whole routine would play out again in an endless loop.
Years later, Del remains as insecure as ever. Monika doesn't really care when I leave, unless I'm gone overnight and can't properly refresh her food dish. Del panics if I'm only off doing laundry or something; if I'm gone for two days or half an hour, it's all the same to him, and he's right there at the door when I return, grabbing my leg with his front paws, nibbling and scratching at my hand as I reach down to pick him up. He lets me hug him for a few seconds, then growls and hisses and demands to be set back down--but he never goes far from me, and as soon as I sit, he's on my lap.
So unlike sleeping Monika, Del is an active part of my morning time. He sits on my lap or at my feet, he follows wherever I go, he even drapes himself across the side of the tub as I bathe. He's always there, so when I get ready to leave, we've been keeping each other company all morning.
After petting Monika goodbye, I have to lavish more attention on poor Del, who bears no apparent ill will towards Monika, but seems unable to understand why I spend time with anyone but him. Naturally, while petting Del, Monika has wandered to the edge of the bed and is watching me, letting out a little meow to let me know she needs more petting. So I turn back to Monika, then back to Del, back and forth, spending a little less time with each until I finally head for the door.
But I always pause and give one final head skritch to Del, so the last thing he'll know of me is a sign of my affection. Monika is a wonderful cat in every way, but Del, poor Del, in all his neuroses has captured my heart as fully as any living thing ever could. No, more than that--with inexplicable rages beyond his control, his extreme vulnerability mixed with an unearned sense of entitlement, and a profound love he can't properly express, I've come to believe Delmar is my heart.