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Photo: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

You find Cat Man in the corner. He is single, his friends are settled, and no one claimed his extra pass to the show.

“So what are your hopes and dreams?” You ask him at the bar.

“To own a cabin in the middle of nowhere,” he says.

He sends you a photo of his cat, a beautiful, grey beast stretched out on the rug of his home in Worcester. He bought it when he was 26. He is testing you with the photo, if you accept his cat, you’ll accept him.

Cat Man refers to himself as the Good Son, the guy who took the job near his parents. He’s self-deprecating over his hair loss, his job, his lack of a life once he leaves the office.

He’s the guy who puts his headphones in and listens to Shouts and Murmurs podcast episodes to keep people away from his desk.

His cat hated The Ex. He’d just ignore her. Cat Man says he’s over it but mentions her twice on your first date. He repeats that they couldn’t talk about visual art. His other name for her is The Artist.

He messages you about his days, towels, down comforters, how he’ll never leave Worcester. You wonder if he wants a person or just a pen pal.

The movie is sold out on your second date. You go to a bar and he talks about The Ex. She cheated on him for two years with a jazz drummer. Your ex was a jazz drummer who moved to New York. You can say his name. His name is Tiago. You’re over him.

“I feel like in any relationship I’ve been in,” you say, “I’ve always been alone.”

He high fives you, but that isn’t what you meant at all. You don’t want a cat. You want another person.

As you sip your wine you think, maybe you can’t give him what he needs. You’re not a cat. You won’t sleep all day, every day when he shuts the world out. It will take more than food for you to forgive him.

He says that most people bore him. But when he invites you to a New Year’s Eve party he tells you it will be boring. You choose a dress for the party, hoping it is classy and grown-up. You get your hair cut and think of Mad Men.

He’s quiet when he picks you up. He’s weird all the way there. You have an awkward conversation about ellipses in text messages and what they add to them. He makes you carry his suit coat as you walk up to the door.

You have to introduce yourself. You have to introduce yourself several times over, a glass of wine in hand each time. You say your name and why you’re there, but your date is nowhere to be found.

You introduce yourself to girls in J.Crew houndstooth skirts in your American Apparel dress. You look like a fucking hipster. Your worries are shows and school. Their worries are work and minivans. This isn’t Mad Men, it’s a workplace party and they all know each other. You want to slink under the couch.

Cat Man talks to everyone, everyone but you. They study you. There’s something in their faces, in their last season J.Crew clothes, like they want him to find someone. So he’ll be settled and he’ll make sense. He’s their strange single friend.

His best friend is being driven nuts by his soon-to-be fiance because she can’t decide between a modern or classic ring. There’s the sorority girl of parties past with her balding husband. He wants kids and she doesn’t because she’s a school teacher. The music reminds you of high school, while they remember college.

After midnight, your date appears with a glass of champagne. You confront him about ignoring you, and all of a sudden you’re in the coatroom, spinning dizzily.

“I can’t give you what you need,” he says. “I just realized it right now.”

He sends you home in an Uber. You wake up the next morning in your fucking hipster dress and anxiously text him to apologize. “I can’t give you what you need,” is the only thing you remember from the coatroom.

He says you have nothing to apologize for.

He continues to text you about everything, about work, his empty evenings after work, the frozen pizza he’s eating on a Saturday night in Worcester.

He sends you a photo of the frozen pizza. You’re on a Tinder date, sitting next to the 32-year-old divorced guy with bad breath. Looking at the photo of frozen pizza, you think, maybe Cat Man can’t give you what you need.

You invite Cat Man to a show, but he’s going to a cancer benefit. His friend is dying of cancer, and he’s going to wear a suit.

“I fully expect that’s how I’ll go,” he texts you. Two seconds later, “I guess that's morbid.”

You cringe, type an ellipsis and realize the weight of his text.

You can’t give him what he needs.

Neither can his cat.

Written by

Cailey Lindberg is a staff writer, a freelance journalist, and a full-time Mom to @sandor_thebassethound.

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