If you read through other entries of mine, you’ll see that I’ve had something of a rough life. Depression, loneliness, no self-esteem, no self-worth, and constantly moving have all kept me feeling low. If there’s one thing that has kept me in check, the one thing that immediately jumps to mind whenever I’ve consider suicide, it’s the love I have for the one constant in my life: Diomedes. Or “Lord” Diomedes. Or Lord Diomedes: Future Conqueror of the World. And it’s for this blog entry that I want to talk about him.
Believe it or not, I was afraid of cats when I was younger. Not sure how that started, but I vaguely recall being scratched by the resident cat at my day care. Either way, I was always at least apprehensive of them. One time, because my parents couldn’t find a babysitter, I had to go with them to a friend’s place and watch movies in the basement while they played card games. Their friends’ cats were all over me, petrifying me to the point of crying and wanting to go home. It’s funny in retrospect, because of the cats hopped into my lap, kneading my leg, and purring. I didn’t know then that that was a cat being at its most friendly or trusting.
No, my fear of cats continued on until middle school, when I girl I was dating introduced me to her cats. They mostly left me alone, but one of them fell into one of my size-12 shoes. The poor bastard probably cut years of its life off just sniffing that hazardous site. Many years later, I moved in with a girl who owned two cats. I wound up falling in love with those two little hellions, one of them especially: Snuggles, who lived up to his name.
Well, the relationship with that girl ended some years later. She kept the cats, of course, because they were hers first. The room-mate I moved in with had a cat of his own: Lucky. Now, Lucky had been abused by a previous owner and she had absolutely no trust for anyone save for my room-mate (barely). Anyone else, she would hiss, howl, and claw. Well, bat at, because she was de-clawed. Still, it was rarely enjoyable to live with that hellcat.
For a brief two weeks, I had a tiny black and white stray kitten my room-mate had found wandering outside. After one of our friends slipped up the word “panda” with “pamba,” we named the little guy Pamba. To keep him safe from Lucky, we kept Pamba in my room. He always greeted met at the door when I came home and constantly cuddled with me, purring in my lap while I played on the computer or studied for school. Sadly, because he clearly belonged to someone, I put up some posters. Someone called – his name was actually Shakespeare – and I gave him back, breaking my heart. It made me miss having a loving cat of my own, or at least one that didn’t mind being petted.
Enter my friend, Vanessa. Some friends of hers had taken in a stray cat. Turns out, this cat was also pregnant. So, once their cat gave birth to a litter of kittens, she suggested I come have a look. My room-mate agreed he’d be open to having another cat, so I went. Kittens being kittens, they clumsily crawled all over me. I was in heaven after having to put up with such a mean cat in Lucky.
To see how each of them would react to being held, I scooped them up one by one and tried cuddling them into my shoulder like I used to with Snuggles. Some stayed in my arms, some squirmed. One, however, had other plans. Instead of staying in place or squirming free, he scrambled up my chest and perched on my shoulder like a parrot perched on the shoulder of a pirate. When I turned my head to playfully ask what the hell he thought he was doing…he headbutted me. Well, nuzzled, but it was with such a force that it was more of a headbutt. Shoe firmly on the other foot, the little bastard had chosen me rather than the other way around. I’d found my kitten.
Naming the kitten proved tricky. On the way home, Vanessa tucked him into her coat. Not wanting to miss anything, though, he poked his head out, which made us laugh, thinking of calling him Alien Cat or Xeno (short for xenomorph, from the Aliens movies). It didn’t feel right, though.
What amazed me in the difference between this kitten and Pamba was the amount of excitable energy in this little guy. No matter what it was, he was constantly attacking and playing with anything caught in his sights. Everything was a toy. The little shithead had a bad habit of playing with toilet paper, for example. Several times, while sitting at my computer, I would hear a rolling sound. I would look down and there’s the little hellion with a strip of toilet paper in its mouth; the rest trailing all the way down the hallway into the bathroom. Hell, he used to enjoy playing with the blowing shower curtains when I took a shower. In fact, he got stuck once: he tried leaping up onto the curtain rod. But there was little room between the rod the ceiling, so he got stuck. He flailed his little hind legs while I helped him out. One time, I found a suction cup toy with a dangling toy on a string. According to my room-mate, the kitten was playing with it the entire time I was out for class.
It was, however, hilarious in a Schadenfreude way that the kitten and Lucky played…or “played.” I would be sitting at my computer and hear Lucky hissing and growling like crazy somewhere down the hallway. All of a sudden, I’d see Lucky barrel past my door with the kitten closely behind. Funny enough, she never hurt him, but she only tolerated the little shithead for so long.
At the same time, I’d been attending a Classical Epic course at St. Thomas University. We had just recently started reading The Iliad. One incredibly entertaining class, the instructor told us the story of Diomedes. He was a soldier imbued with power by the gods. When he went into battle, his fighting style was best described as careless. He would just swing his sword back and forth, caring little for who he hit or how he hit them. At the end of the story, I turned to my friend Vanessa (who was also in the class) and gave her an energetic thumbs up. She knew exactly what I was talking about, shaking her head at my ridiculousness.
Thus, the troublemaking hellion, this little shithead was named Diomedes.
I’ve joked that he plans on conquering the world. Even though he has a very cuddly, loveable personality, I swear that’s what he thinks. The way he carries himself, like he owns the place, is hilarious. One aspect of his personality that freaks some people out is how he’ll find a high spot to sit, then perch there, looking very prim and proper…and stare. He’ll just stare at whoever is below him, like a king looking down upon his kingdom.
Over the years, he’s calmed down. Like many indoor cats, he’ll still have moments of hyperactivity where he’ll tear all over the house. His two most impressive traits that always surprise people are his size (he’s big, but lean) and his agility. Within seconds, he can leap from the kitchen counter to above the cupboards. Or he’ll leap from the back of my couch to the top of one of my bookcases. He can even leap from my bed into my closet shelf to his favourite napping spot: on top of my suitcase.
What’s amazing about Diomedes to me is his friendliness. Other cats I’ve encountered, while friendly, are usually very aloof and disinterested or even afraid of guests. Diomedes, however, will immediately stick his nose right in someone’s face. He’ll even give headbutts to people he particularly likes. Or even just lay right down on their lap, usually with me calling him a traitor.
What I love most about him is that, with everything I’ve been through, he’s always been there with me. Of course, I bring him along with me, but I can’t imagine my life without him. Whenever I sit back in my lounge chair, he immediately makes a bee-line for me and lies down in my lap. Through all the moves, through all the changes, through all the breakdowns, and depressive periods, he’s been the one constant in my life. I’ve had friends and family there for me, sure, but not every day when I come home to greet me with a headbutt.
Plus, you know. He has heat vision: