Curiosity Found the Cat

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Olive found hiding in my suitcase as I packed for my trip.

By Hala Nasar

There was much to do.

I knew I looked eerily calm and collected to my already worried mother, but the sweat building on my top lip and the sore scabs surrounding my fingernails told a different story.

The state that I put my room in was unforgivable. It was as if a giant closet monster walked into the room and vomited fabrics and patterns. Every flat surface was somehow covered in heaps of poorly folded clothes that were prisoners to my indecisiveness. 

I had been imagining this moment for over three months now, and there I was, two days before my 16-hour flight to San Francisco, contemplating whether I should get eight or 10 pairs of shoes and whether anybody could possibly need that many shoes for a two-month trip. I knew I tended to overpack, but my inability to regulate myself enough to finish the task at hand stemmed from the budding anxiety of leaving my family and home. Alone. For two months. For the first time in my life. 

It had been a slow build-up of sour realization. It hit me that my mother’s food was no longer something that I looked forward to after a long day, but rather something that I longed for. It also hit me that my brown and white spotted tabby, Olive, will no longer rub against my leg in a futile attempt to convince me to relinquish all the cat treats in the house to him. 

Truthfully, I knew that two months only meant eight weeks, but that meant 62 days, which invariably also meant 1488 hours. And 1488 hours felt no less than overwhelming. 

For an Arab girl that was navigating the world of the West and studying abroad for the first time, it did seem like an exciting venture. There were many places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do, so I was determined to make this summer the best one yet. 

One problem though, my dilemma of packing. Or rather, lack thereof. 

There were three things in this mortal life that I couldn’t do without enormous external support. 

1. Statistics. 2. Riding a bike. 3. Packing an appropriate amount for a particular destination.

Two of these things did not cause me much trouble growing up. Not knowing how to ride a bike was tricky, though; especially if you’re competitive.

Either way, I sat on the carpeted floor of my room and spent the next hour-and-a-half rummaging through the sea of colors until I had four piles of meticulously ranger-rolled clothes. My pride and joy. And utter despair. 

And as I wiped the sweat off my brow and looked around the room, a feeling of subtle relief floated around in my chest. I knew what I needed to do; I just needed the time to do it slowly. 

There wasn’t much time left, it was only two days. Forty-eight hours. And 48 hours felt no less than overwhelming.

So, I opened my empty suitcase to place the clothes propped up on my arm, until I had to stop dead in my tracks. 

There he was, lazily tucked into the corner of my suitcase with a sleepy scowl and a hint of betrayal etched onto his face. I watched his green eyes blink at me with unanticipated fondness as he stretched his arms and nuzzled his head further into the corner. I wondered if he knew I was leaving him.

So, for the next 15 minutes, I sat on my carpeted floor again as I watched him fall asleep in the suitcase that I was dragging with me across the world, away from him. 

He let out a sound of disdain when my belongings crowded his space; yet, as I started putting in my piles one after the other, Olive wagged his tail in disapproval before gracefully exiting the compartment he found comfort in. 

Yes, indeed there was much to do.