In deference to the polio vaccine and the lever, I'm not going to use the word "breakthrough" to describe what happened next between myself and my cat machine named Gizmo. But I did at least realize something. I'd been petting Gizmo as part of a routine -- my morning session on to which I eventually added an early-evening session, in the hopes that what was needed was twice the petting firepower. I put my time in, and then I was done for about 12 hours.
The problem is, that's not how legit Joy for All owners use their companion pets. It's not some daily ritual. They want to feel reassured at a certain moment, when they're feeling a certain way. Maybe I had to find a moment, or make one.
Enter Donald Trump.
At this point, I've seen so much footage of Donald Trump, I'd like to imagine my mind has, while I slept, developed some sort of fortification for my soul. But it hasn’t, because there are no psychic coping mechanisms for an ape hitting you with a log. So I'll watch Trump. I'll be hugely distressed. And I'll pet Gizmo. In Manheim, Pennsylvania, Trump casually suggests a conspiracy to sabotage his microphone at the first debate, performs a pantomime of Hillary Clinton crumpling from pneumonia, accuses her of being unfaithful in her marriage, threatens to lock her up, and proposes that the crowd go to "certain areas" to watch voters on Election Day. The familiar sickness arises. Gizmo is on my lap, purring up a storm. She looks up, blinks at me slowly, produces a trilling meow.
I'd be lying if I said I was suddenly totally at ease or that I still didn't feel a little ridiculous. But in that moment, Gizmo, for the first time, felt useful. I appreciated having something that wanted so much to help. Maybe I just hadn't been bringing enough dread to the table. Maybe a certain threshold of despair needed to be crossed before my psyche could buy in and let this fake cat pull one over on me for a minute or two. I am now terrified that I might need, desperately need, a Joy for All down the road, and maybe only slightly less terrified of how grateful I'll be to have one.
I'll see if Thrillist wants Gizmo returned. If not, I suppose I could donate her (the good thing to do) or see how she holds up in a front-load washing machine (the fun thing to do), but I'll probably just box her up and stack her someplace out of the way. Just maybe not too far out of the way.