I began carrying an all-powerful object in eighth grade. I had two friends who were allergic to cats. A running joke between us that year was that if only kittens smelled like vanilla, they could enjoy their soft fur. The day that one of them was doing a presentation, I gifted her with a hand-sewn blue pillow, small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand, with a white felt cat stitched to the front. I rubbed the felt with a vanilla-scented hand sanitizer, in the hopes that it would gift its candy-sweet scent.
This particular friend towered over me, with floppy blonde hair dyed a bold and unnatural shade of pink or blue. She was snarky but always friendly, and carried a messenger bag filled more with yarn than schoolbooks. Eighth grade was a difficult time for most, but my friend took the brunt of the sadness. By making her a small token of my friendship, I hoped that I could cheer her up just enough to get through her presentation. It worked, and she appreciated it so much that the next week, she made me one.
Soft chocolate brown felt, connected with tiny, perfect tan stitches. On the front, a crude cat face securely hot-glued. I kept it in my coat pocket, and as I walked to school at precisely 9:23 each morning, I rubbed it between my finger and thumb. It was a comfort through the many stresses that come along with middle school. When I became a freshman, though, the necessity of the cat slipped away. Freshman year wasn’t perfect for me, but I felt that it was silly to be so attached to a tiny stuffed toy. I left it in a box in my room, and thought about it less and less often.
Sophomore year, however, everything changed. Depressed and bullied, my friend was forced to leave the school just weeks after the start of the year. She moved away to live with her mother, and we started to lose touch. I met up with her a couple of times, but we couldn’t stay as close as we did when she lived nearby. We talked less and less, but she never left my thoughts.
In the summer after sophomore year, I was looking through my closet when I found the cat once more. Overjoyed and flooded with memories of what life used to be, I returned the cat to its rightful place in my purse, where it has stayed since.
Now, nearly four years from its creation, the felt is pilled and fraying. I’ve rubbed the back of it so thin I’m worried it might break. The cat, however, is still holding fast, smiling at me and reminding me with its soft felt that it’s all going to be okay. I carry it with me, the story and memories tucked into my heart and the cat tucked into the palm of my hand.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.