Watching a friend’s cat, I let myself in, find the pans hung in their same places, the lights of the wi-fi still twinkling. There is something in the smooth surfaces of someone else’s table, the soft fluff of someone else’s cat with her petite head nudging my hand. Her neediness is not the neediness of my own pets, this mail not my mail to be sorted and dealt with. Nothing new gets added to my lists between these walls. I could sit all night reading a magazine in the brown chair, cat brushing again past my legs. Then later, at another house, a pile of shredded manchego waits, a wooden spoon we take turns using to stir the risotto. The sausage a gift from a friend I don’t know, have no need to thank. I could take a week off just to sort through my home, its piles, its unclipped price tags. But in other people’s homes, nothing is left undone. Over time the rice plumps perfectly. And if the lock sticks as I’m leaving, I don’t mind. Just jiggle it closed and move on.
December 28, 2015
Some days are noteworthy only in their lack of noteworthiness. Granola in the morning. Old pajamas, the cotton worn soft. The computer monitor on the dining room table you know you should move. At the office, there is a spot open in the parking lot. At your desk, nothing pressing. The whole day, nothing pressing. Scratch a line through an item on the to do list. Scratch off another. Drive home through the neighborhoods and rest on the carpet while your husband sautés broccoli. Notice how fat the cat has gotten. Writing circle. Words on a page, written in marker, take you back to the french-fryer at Wendy’s when you were 15. Close the notebook. Listen. At the end of the day, nothing much happened. Exactly as you had hoped.
August 25, 2015
It’s been a decade or more since the house next door was sold, then demolished. The lot was left fallow and empty, then a gigantic new duplex framed and built and landscaped and polished. This cat belonged to the old house, a blue ranch we’ve mostly forgotten. We didn’t know the neighbors, but their dog would climb stairs to the roof and bark at us from on high. The cat, though, the cat stayed behind and began prowling the neighborhood. It grew wild and mangey. It grew skinny and fierce. For years it showed up on our back porch and Chris put out food, water. It wouldn’t come close. One time Chris thought he saw it dead on the side of the road. He picked it up, put it amid the wild plants, grieved. A few weeks later it was back on the porch, peering at us through the window. This cat keeps going, through ice storms and flood warnings and the hottest summer in Texas history. Through construction projects and police helicopters and the dense traffic of Riverside Drive. It hasn’t come around our house for years, but we still see it down by the Bazaar, another place that has survived despite its unlikelihood. Here it is again, with its off-kilter gait and tuft of white and fur growing back in patches. This cat, so long a source of sadness, has now earned our respect. In fact, you might even call it awe.
June 4, 2015
Came home to music from the brown room, Chris with a guitar and microphone. Cats as his audience. Cats climbing, entering, inserting themselves. Cats, we imagine, dancing inside.
May 27, 2015
I call it the chute, these last few weeks of the semester with final classes and faculty meetings and graduation to plan and a four-day trip to Bard amid it all. I enter the chute and it spits me out on the other side. Truth is, there’s no time in the Free Minds year that I love more. Everything we work for culminates here. And I became fierce about quiet. Greedy. So Tuesday night, no place to be, I gather to myself cat, book, couch, silence. I hold on selfishly. Just for this moment, mine.
May 5, 2015
Some days deny my ambitions to praise. Say, Saturday. The endless headache. The event we planned and few attended. The hovering threat of rain. The kitchen needing cleaning again. It’s when I know I must praise what’s so easy to forget, the house I get to live in or the legs strong enough to carry me through the exhibit. There are daisies blooming in the yard. Remember, there are daisies blooming in the yard. Except that I am thinking of my headache, the poor turnout, how I am again on the couch watching back-to-back episodes of Chopped. And then come the cats. Praise their oblivion to expectations and existential angst. Praise how they know an afternoon on the couch is no great disappointment. Praise the simple satisfaction we feel when Cosmo, aloof prowler of closets, leans his body in and naps. Praise his curled form, his quiet purr, the weight of him leaning against my legs.
April 11, 2015