Dave has a problem. But he doesn’t think he has a problem. That’s the problem.

But Sally knows, because she lives with Dave and his peculiar feline fetish.

Sally met Dave at the library when she took her niece there for a puppet show. Dave’s job was entertaining the kids, since he could capture an audience with his large voice and Herculean stamina. But Sally was more excited to watch the way his khakis performed on his hips, how his shoulders supported a flawlessly-ironed shirt, and his contagious smile. Her friend Chloe worked with Dave, and, well, you can imagine how excited she was to play matchmaker.

Chloe gave Sally the heads-up at their weekly pilates class: “Bachelor Dave lives with his two rescued cats. There’s Duster, with long white hair and short legs; it actually looks like he’s dusting the floor. He’s the mellowest. Then there’s Henry, the orange one, named after Dave’s favorite song, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits.” He named the cat after a king who beheaded two of his wives? Strange, thought Sally. Bubbly Chloe continued, “Henry’s a badass. He patrols the place like a mini-mountain lion defending his kingdom, hissing at poor old Duster whenever they cross paths. They’ve been sneering at each other for years, but not to worry; they don’t attack people.” Sally felt only slightly reassured.

“Do you like skiing? Skating? Snowshoeing? Dave’s crazy about winter.” Sally hated cold weather and wished she could move to a tropical island. She crouched over furnace vents from October to March in her New York apartment, knew how to make soup a hundred different ways, and was daydreaming about sailing when Chloe interrupted her trance, “He’s a good guy, Sal, like a brother to me, and hilarious. You two should go out!”

So Sally the flight attendant and Dave the librarian dated. Life was as Photoshopped as an ad for Disneyworld, for about a month. The duo was inseparable. Sally even stood in as assistant puppeteer for one of Dave’s out-of-town shows. She hadn’t laughed so heartily in ages. After the show, they bought cotton candy and kidded around on an antique carousel, kissed, and took pictures of each other. Sally waltzed to the vintage organ music and felt like a teenager again, falling in love for the first time.

About a month later, Dave decided it was time for the cats to meet Sally. Or was that for Sally to meet the cats? Nonetheless, he invited her over for take-out pizza and homemade salad.

Dave was proud to show Sally his tidy three-bedroom bungalow, especially his prized model airplane collection in the den. “Me and the cats have lived here for twelve years. Duster came first; a rescue from the humane center, and Henry, likely a stray, wandered into the yard and never left us.”

Sally leaned against the kitchen counter while Dave chopped a head of lettuce. She almost brought up the subject of a certain cat’s namesake, but decided to play it safe. Dave mentioned he wasn’t much of a cook, but hoped she would like his mother’s special tahini salad dressing. Sally smiled. She was still getting over jet-lag after an intercontinental flight, but looked forward to a filling meal and catching up with her boyfriend.

It was time to eat. Sally approached the dining room while Dave carried the salad. He sat down first. Henry was perched on the other chair, “Sally’s” chair, so she reached down to pick up the cat. Suddenly, Dave stood up, flailed his arms in the air, and shouted, “DON’T DO THAT. That’s Henry’s chair! Grab another chair from the den. Remember, it’s down the hall.” Eek, thought Sally, I smell a rat. He must be joking. She gave him a puzzled look and held her breath.

King Henry must’ve sensed the tension and exiled himself from his throne. Sally was shaking, her feelings bruised, like she’d been stabbed in the heart. But she didn’t want to cause a scene. Dave already had. Maybe he’s just “hangry.” Maybe he had a bad day at the library. No one’s perfect. It was kind of him to order the vegan pizza that I prefer. He’s known Henry longer than he’s known me. Then she remembered reading a spiritual blog online, something about unconditional love: loving others despite their faults. She decided to give Dave another chance, slid onto the chair, and ate a cherry tomato.

After dinner, Sally offered to clean up while Dave played with Henry. “You’ve gotta try this too, Sal.” He lifted the cat to the top of the fridge. Henry leaned forward and put his paws on Dave’s shoulders. The game was cute until Henry drooled straight into Dave’s laughing mouth. Sally shivered. How disgusting, odd, gross, bizarre. Then she reminded herself about unconditional love.

Six months into the relationship, Sally had pretty much transcended her ego and accepted Dave’s devotion to his cats. “Move in with me,” Dave urged. “The boys like having you around and it’s closer to the airport. Let’s make a deal. You cook me dinner when you’re not flying; I’ll feed them their canned cat food.” Hmm, thought Sally. Sounds like a mis-deal for me. But she moved in anyway, with a plan: feed Dave canned human food. He could make his own salad. Dave never complained about his new “grey” diet. He just poured on the salt and ate fast. After dinner, Sally cleaned the kitchen as usual, and Dave watched his Felix the Cat DVD collection from last Christmas, as usual.
At least he leaves a funny handwritten note on my computer every morning. At least he carried home two cases of celery and apples for my juice fast. And at the very least he bought nose guards when I couldn’t sleep on account of his snoring.

One night, Sally felt frisky. She put on her Victoria’s Secret lingerie and waited for Dave in the bedroom. She could hear him kissing the cats goodnight, as he always did, making a loud squeaky noise when he buried his face in their fur. She watched the ceiling fan, waiting. Half an hour later, Dave texted, I’m camping in the living room with the cats. Go to sleep without me. J J  This wasn’t the first time Sally had been stood up by Dave and his emojis.

Dave finally appeared at midnight, chatty about a makeshift tent, flashlight, and salmon treats. Nothing was mentioned about her sexy ensemble. Sally rolled over and closed her eyes. This isn’t normal. This relationship doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what to do.

In the morning, Sally left the bathroom door open while she showered. She missed the way Dave used to wash her hair, and called out for him to join her, hoping he’d redeem himself. One last chance? Dave yelled back that he had something pressing to do. Fair enough; the shower was short notice. Turned out he was ironing the cats’ freshly-washed blankets in the next room. Sally’s patience with Dave was beginning to wear as thin as his hairline. She wondered, does he even like me that much? Could he be homosexual? Because if he truly is, so be it. I will wish him and the boys well, and gracefully move on.

That night, Dave brought home flowers, knelt down, and asked Sally to be his wife. Sally began sneezing uncontrollably. She felt weak. The ring finger on her left hand started to itch. Hives. Had she suddenly become allergic to Dave? While he waited for an answer, Sally imagined the worst: in Dave’s world, the “s” in “Mrs.” probably stands for slave, servant, or saint. Or Cinderella? (Wrong letter, right sound, but of course.) Sally knew she was being sarcastic, her demoted self-esteem clawing to survive. But she was bloody angry, and scared of losing her [head] mind if she married Dave. Had she given him the wrong impression? Had sorting his sock drawer, cutting his hair, baking brownies for his lunch, and laundering his Garfield boxers turned her into a passive doormat?

Sally’s answer was No. She knew their mutual love of airplanes wasn’t enough glue to keep a marriage together. What she really wanted and needed was a relationship built on respect, kindness, and maturity. Most of all, she wanted to keep her sanity.

So…

Sally quickly cancelled her Amazon order for a hot pink “I’M WITH DAVE” T-shirt. Then she filled up her tank with self-preservation, recycled a library of sappy notes, and moved 1,200 miles away from Dave’s pride, to balmy Florida.
What a badass!