Making Room for MelvinPublished February 14, 2011
The day I met my husband-to-be, I was already in love -- only not with a human. The object of my affection was a 27-pound formerly feral gray tabby with a giant head and a big belly. His name was Melvin. And the boy -- the gorgeous, perfect-for-me, man I knew I wanted to marry -- was allergic to him. "I really hope he does not make me choose," I told my friend over BLTs at our favorite restaurant. "Because I'll choose the cat." Melvin came into my life a couple months after I graduated from college. I had just moved in with my college boyfriend, we got engaged and all seemed like smooth sailing ahead... Except for the part where he was a fairly psychotic hot mess -- the fiancé, I mean not the cat. We doted on our new kitten and raised him like our baby. Our relationship probably lasted five months longer than it should have because I loved to watch him love our baby kitty. But then I re-met Rob, a boy I had known since elementary school, a boy who had become very sexy in the years since we last hung out. And since 23 is a great age to make giant life mistakes, I had a dramatic break-up with the college boyfriend, got custody of the cat and took up with Rob, a boy with cat sensitivity. For months, I lived out of a suitcase, spending almost every night at his apartment -- the kind of place only a 23-year-old boy lives in, replete with broken screens in the bedroom, rotting hot pockets in the corner and a bathroom that required flip-fops to enter. Meanwhile, my pristine apartment, in a prime urban location, sat empty save for Melvin and my two uber-organized, wonderful smelling roommates -- the polar opposites of his two funky-smelling, constantly bench pressing, meathead roommates. I would go home every afternoon after work to hang out with Melvin, running my fingers lovingly over my unused down comforter, clean sheets and bed full of pillows. Meanwhile at Rob's house, we slept on sheets stained with unknown substances (I finally took to forcing him to wash them every other week) and he graciously gave up his one pillow to me (what a gentleman) all because I had a kitty cat. He loved Melvin, don't get me wrong. He would reach out his hand and stroke his fur just long enough for his eyes to start to swell and the sneezing to begin. There were many times I wondered about the old boyfriend and whether I had made a mistake in leaving him for my allergic man. There were times psychotic and unpleasant seemed preferable to allergic and adorable (I was 23, after all). But we decided to forge ahead. Rob and I started apartment hunting and he was clear on the fact that I came as a pair. The day we moved in to our first (beautiful, clean, colorful) apartment, Rob broke out in hives after the cat brushed by his arm. "It's ok," he assured me through his red, watery eyes and clogged nose. "I will be ok." We contemplated allergy shots and medications, all so he could tolerate my cat. But in the end, it was his own body that decided to let down its defenses. One day, Melvin stopped bothering him. We would go to our friends' houses and he would break into hives at the site of a feline. But at our house? His arms were bump-free, no matter how long he petted my (our) cat. I knew then that I would marry that boy and I would teach him about soft, sweet-smelling sheets, clean bathrooms, dinners that do not include hot pockets and life with a feline you love more than anything. Because any boy that would risk hives and an inability to breathe for the chance to live with me, crazy as I am, deserves all that and more.