The independent news organization of Duke University

Kitty babies

I live with an alien. Her name is Shibby Shibby and she is a shape-shifter. Well, she might be a shape-shifter. Most of the time when I’m watching she looks like a walking shadow with cute-but-creepy yellow eyes. It’s when I’m not watching that she does her shape-shifting. 

I also live with a monster. Her name is GreyOne, and she is bigger than Shibby Shibby. She is also more athletic, but where her dexterity wins out, her intelligence is obviously lacking. She keeps her same form all the time. Imagine what a Ghostbusters’ Marshmallow Man would look like if it was made out of cotton balls dyed in the colors of a grayscale rainbow and you’ll get an idea for the GreyOne’s appearance.

GreyOne talks all the time. Shibby Shibby cannot speak. To communicate, she bobs her head repeatedly and then commits herself to somersaults. 

Shibby Shibby and GreyOne also happen to be the Kitty Babies. They are creatures resembling cats that my girlfriend and I adopted from a pound in St. Louis almost a year ago. And for the last year, they have been the inspiration for my column’s ever-present tagline. Before they came along, my tagline was “Smile.” Since they give me plenty of reason to be glad, the substitution seemed fitting.

It’s most often their quirks that make me smile the most. I’ve never met a cat-like creature before that chose not to meow like Shibby Shibby. It’s not as if she has nothing to say. She just chooses not to say it. And so, when the two Kitty Babies need food, GreyOne makes sure to let the giants with opposable thumbs know. In return, if GreyOne’s athletic pursuits get her stuck in some disastrous predicament, Shibby Shibby will perk up to investigate. 

In just one year, Shibby Shibby and GreyOne have become inseparable. They sleep, eat, play, poop, shed, look out the window, greet people at the door and vandalize everything together. They fight with and clean each other. They even plan elaborate schemes to steal food together. In short, they are best friends.

When the school year is over, Shibby Shibby and GreyOne will stay together. They will continue to beat each other silly and break things together wherever they go. They will grow old together, and, in a little less than 20 years, one will die and the other will shortly follow.

I’m not sure if the Kitty Babies understand that they are mortal, but they seem to take the old concept of carpe diem to heart. They make the most of each opportunity to get into the trash, or kamikaze onto their prey from a high perch or slip into the cabinets to sleep in a pot. Every day they formulate a different strategy to claim a new frontier by marking it with their hair. When the Kitty Babies are forced to settle for less than utter domination, they begrudgingly do so only to fight another day.

One day, I am going to chronicle the Kitty Babies’ journey to Earth. I imagine their travels to be similar to those of the Little Prince, but I’ll just have to wait for GreyOne and Shibby Shibby to tell me themselves. Everyone’s journey is different, of course.

And so are our journeys. Unlike the Kitty Babies, for many of us our futures are uncertain. We may not know where we will be next year or what we will be doing 10 years from now. We do not know what tragedies and triumphs life will bring us. And through it all, we may not have the opportunity to spend the rest of our lives with our best friends. 

But before we go our separate ways to venture into the unknown, maybe we should stop and ask why it must be so separate. How can we become so lonely in a city of thousands, a country of millions, a planet of billions? Maybe the only way we can be ourselves is if we take this journey together. Maybe it’s by sharing our lives that we become truly human. Yet we remain alienated from each other, regardless of what we could accomplish together.

We will always be this way until we understand that our fates are tied. Being human is not an individual experience. It is shared among the billions of us here. Whether we realize it or not, the potential impact we have on others is incalculable. But as long as we choose not to realize it, we continue to lose our meaning as humans.

Of course, I may be overreaching as to the lessons of the Kitty Babies. I’m sure they’ll let us know what they have in mind when they are good and ready.

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