Once, I went into a board game store to buy a copy of Settlers of Catan. As the nerdy cashier was ringing me up, a big orange shop cat leapt onto the counter and began nuzzling me. The owner obviously gave this feline free range of the store, and I could see why: it was the most affectionate cat I had ever met. It began rubbing all over my arm, purring loudly; begging to be petted so enthusiastically that I couldn’t resist diving in.
Soon we were in some kind of committed relationship. I was standing at the counter, giving this cat a deep tissue massage, rubbing its belly, stroking its body and whispering sweet nothings into its ear as it plowed its face into my every move. The cat would gently grab my hands with its paws and delicately nibble my fingers with its teeth before releasing and rolling around in ecstasy, twitching its tail and licking my knuckles. I was lost in its eyes, and assumed this would end in dinner at my place and maybe a movie afterwards.
I became so entranced by this furry counter-top tryst, that I completely forgot about the cashier who was standing right there, silently waiting for me to finish my transaction. Watching us like some kind of sick voyeur, he blinked at me and said:
“That cat has AIDS.”
“What?!” I exclaimed, pulling my hands back, which were now practically covered in teeth and claw marks, under a layer of drying cat saliva. “What do you mean that cat has AIDS?” I was ripped from a state of blissful cat romance, into a hypochondriac panic. I couldn’t believe the guy was letting an AIDS cat just walk around, infecting his customers as he watched. What kind of a sick trick was this?
“That cat has AIDS” he explained; “a type of feline AIDS. It’s not human HIV AIDS. Humans can’t contract it. I don’t know where he got it, but he’s lived with it for years. It’s completely innocuous, so don’t worry about it.”
So apparently I had been petting the Magic Johnson of cats. I still wasn’t so settled about the thought of feline AIDS, so I went home and settled Catan instead. Right after I washed my hands that is, with Clorox and iodine, and deleted the cat’s number from my phone.