“What you have, my friend, is a soul sickness.”
He appeared quite serious, pulling on the hairs of his bushy white mustache, and sipping from a cup of tea in the old office building he’d converted into his business space, known as, “Bill’s Spiritual Counseling.”
I arrived in his stuffy office that day desperate and looking for answers. My father had recently died, sending me into a deep depression, and I was spending far too much time ruminating, holed up in my studio apartment.
“So what can I do about it?” I asked.
Bill, I presume his name was, stared at me for a second, appearing as if he didn’t hear the question and his mind had drifted off. He was sipping his tea, making the bottom of his white mustache soggy.
“Well,” he began, “it depends.”
A large, fat tabby cat entered the room and sidled up on Bill’s lap, purring and rubbing its head on the man’s chest.
“Describe for me, as best as you can, your situation.”
I told him everything: my father’s passing, my melancholy, my lack of a job, the long days in the apartment. I told him as I smoked yet another cigarette, the third since I’d arrived in his office just twenty minutes prior.
Bill shuffled in his seat, then appeared to adjust a wedgie, as the cat jumped onto the messy desk.
“I’ve heard of many cases like this before,” he said. “Right, Bartholomew?”
“Yes,” the cat purred. “So sad, yet so common.”
Astounded, I jerked my head toward the fat cat.
Did it just speak?
“I know what you’re thinking,” the cat continued. “Most of our clients have similar reactions. Bill, can you make this man a cup of tea?”
As Bill left the room, I carried on the conversation with the cat. He licked his furry paw, then continued. “Death will come to us all, much as it did to your father, and then the grief follows. Our culture doesn’t do well with grief. We’re told to bottle up those emotions.
“Bill is right: You have the soul sickness now, which is quite understandable. But it will not last forever. Tell me: why choose to come this office?”
The owner of the cat returned with the tea and handed it to me. I could smell the peppermint, and I held it up to my nose to sniff.
“Well,” I said, “I’ve always been one for unusual cures. And I am a good Christian, if not a bit of a spiritualist. I once had skin cancer and went to a church just a few blocks away, a very strange church, where I was cured when a few of the congregation gathered around me and prayed in tongues.”
“Very good,” the cat said. “Then you’ll not be surprised by what our recommendation is for your soul sickness. Bill?”
The mustached man put a piece of paper in an old typewriter and began clanking away at the keys. “This is your prescription,” he said, handing me the paper. “I want you to adopt a feline friend from this specific shelter in the southern part of the city. Ask for a man named Big Thunder; I’m sure you’ll notice him right away. He’s a Native American fellow and a good friend of ours.”
I stared at them. “And how will adopting a cat cure me?”
The cat, Bartholomew, spoke up. “When there’s the death of a loved one, a loneliness often follows. There’s nothing better than to have a new friend to help ease those pains. You did tell us you were single and quite lonely. So there: it’s an answer to at least one of your problems.”
“I suppose that makes sense.”
Bartholomew looked at the clock on the wall. “Bill and I have quite the busy schedule today so, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll have to end this session. Go find a feline of your picking and spend a week with him or her and then come back and see us. We believe this will go a long way to curing you.”
The cat jumped off the desk and slunk into the back room, and Bill showed me to the door. “What do I owe you?” I asked.
“Nothing for now,” Bill said. “This was just an initial consultation. We want to get you well, then we’ll talk about payment.” We said our good-byes and I walked out onto the city street. It was a beautiful, sunny day in early spring. And, for the first time in months, I felt a spark of hope that my depression would soon lift.