In Which Ella Wants to Kill a Groundhog and Has an Infant for a Cat

I was woken up in my least favorite way at four a.m. by screaming. It was not the most pleasant way to start the day.

Max, our self-appointed alpha cat, does this thing where he transforms from a very cuddly sweet kitty to a puffed-up, screaming fur ball of teeth and claws whenever he sees something that looks vaguely alive on the back deck. And I am nearly always the person sent in to diffuse the situation. My arms bear witness to Max’s momentary lapses in sanity.

But because it was four a.m. and I was feeling rather foggy, I put a sweatshirt (which ended up being backwards because I hadn’t bothered to turn on the light), stumbled down the stairs, wrapped Max in a towel, and started pacing around the hall, begging him to calm down so that I could go back to sleep. He ended up falling asleep on my stomach after around twenty minutes, and I dozed off shortly after, only to wake up two more times to repeat the whole cycle. It was like I have an infant for a cat.

This afternoon, I seriously debated buying a gun and shooting the groundhog that’s taken up residence in our backyard and has been the instigator for all of Max’s screaming fits. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that it’s illegal to shoot animals in your backyard, and I don’t know the first thing about firing guns. Instead, I made my dad promise to take me to a shooting range so that I could learn and found a website that sells humane traps for large vermin. Groundhog, your days are numbered, my friend.

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Things I Know to Be True: The Phone Rule

I am, without a doubt, a talking on the phone master.

And I’m not talking about my ability to press buttons, something I learned how to do when I was four and my mother spent the afternoon training me how to place a call. (Once again, I am sorry, random people in D.C. who I accidentally called and promptly hung up on in a panic.)

I mean that I am very good at clamping a slowly warming phone between my shoulder and ear and talking for eons.

I’ve tried explaining this before to my mother, who looked at me as if I was touched in the head, but I’ve always felt like when you talk on the phone, you enter this other place. The only sense you get to share with the other person is hearing. So much could be going on that you’re not aware of, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t part of the shared interaction.

You don’t have to worry about looking as professional as possible when doing work. In fact, I usually call people while I’m lying down in my bed. And if you’re telling or listening to something difficult from a friend, you don’t have to worry about body language or facial expressions–all that exists is the words. And then, there’s the tremendously fun aspect of trying to describe something so that the other person can imagine what it would be like to experience it.

Perhaps it’s because I love reading and writing so much, where you don’t get anything more than the author’s descriptions and explanations the same way you only hear the other person’a words on the other end of the line. I love the freedom of interpretation and the way you have to be both careful and creative with your word choice. It’s like improv writing, if you will.

And maybe it’s because that other place feels safer and people often let their guard down more, particularly if it’s nighttime and you’re both tired. I love the way that the phone strips away those barriers. No one can see you fidget, turn red, or tear up. It’s okay to be visibly emotional, because the other person can’t tell. Just say it.

I suppose that I’m only thinking of this now because I just spent over an hour on the phone with George and another hour before dinner with my aunt. But it’s true. The other place is close to the top of the list of The Things Eleanor Knows to be True About Her World, right under “vulnerability is the key to happiness” and above “you will always feel weirdly calm after sobbing.”