Sunday, May 10

Consider The Ball of Fur

AS MUCH AS I loved them, I did not want to get rid of them. I didn’t wish to get rid of the cats, not at all, but I had reason to.
For one, they reminded me of her. It was all I could do to look at them and not be reminded of her, of her in my life, because they had been our cats; first hers, then ours, then mine as she moved out. Her eyes were mirrored in theirs so that, were she not even in the room, to look into their big brown eyes was to look into hers. Their playful antics always called to mind us enjoying their playful antics together, or the stories she would tell me of them. When we woke up in bed, the cats were lying on us, their soft forms bobbing as we bobbed, pawing us affectionately, interrupting our fucks, mewing for breakfast, staring. With her gone, I could not hold on to them; they would always be ‘her cats’ – emphasised even when I say it aloud – and as much as I loved them and they loved me, they were painful reminders of absent love.
Secondly, and somewhat more pragmatically, it is not easy for one to rent while in possession of two cats. Landlords do not like it. I did not know what I was doing, or where I was going to go, but I knew that I could not take two cats.
With effort, I blocked out the thought that they would have to go.
After she left, their company became even more important. When I returned home from work it was them who greeted me, it was them I embraced and many times did I hold conversations with them, imaginings their retorts. Every morning I woke up before work and stayed in bed with them on either side of my chest, in the various nooks created by my twisted body. Every night when I lay down to read, Pippa would rest in my crotch; when I got up for a cigarette she’d wait, then, upon my return, she would cast herself back into my lap, warmly soft and such wonderful company.
L— put an advertisement on the internet, which was finally responded to by a young girl in the city who would take both of them, and was willing to before I went on holiday.
‘I can’t think about it anymore,’ L— said—‘if I think about them going, I start crying.’
I was late home from work and flustered from all of the things I had to do before I went on holiday. Tim and Pippa greeted me as kindly as ever and I had tears down my face as I greeted them back, taking each in my arms and wishing them hello and asking what they had been up to that day and Tim whether he had fought Pippa.
With sad hands I washed their bowls and cleaned their litter tray, gathered their treats in a bag and got their food together in case their new owners were ill-prepared.
Their new owners turned up at six. They were a young woman and a young man. A young man and a young woman, but the young woman was in charge; I had heard she was only twenty-one but she was very striking and appeared older. The young man had a lovely kind face that creased into a ball when he smiled. They made small talk with me while I scuttled around, avoiding eye contact and trying not to think about what I was doing. It was a bad thing for me to do. The cats did not know what I was doing but they sniffed their new owners and then came to me, which caused me almost to break down. I was their worst enemy.
I told them what the cats liked and about their personality. I handed over their treats in a bag and their food and their litter tray.
Upon taking out the carriers, both cats scrammed. Tim was easy enough to catch. As I put him in the carrier I did not think about what I was doing. It is easy to put a cat in a carrier. I did not think about it being the last time I would touch him.
Pippa hid under the bed. Her new owners waited in the living room while I went to get her. I was crying as I was reaching for her.
‘Come here, Pip’, come on, darling… You’re going to a new home… New adventures. Come on, sweetheart.’ She would not come. I was able to get my fingers on her so that I could stroke her soft fur and closer she edged toward me. Within reach, I grabbed her scruff and wiped my tears away. Then I put her in her carrier.
The two carriers sat in the middle of the living room and in the carriers were cats like pupils in an eye. There were no cats walking about the living room, as there had been before, but only standing humans and waiting loneliness.
Suppress. Suppress, I thought. I showed them out. I walked down the corridor with them to open the door, as they had their hands full.
I was doing well.
The cats in their carriers were looking at me, both of them, and both of them realised what was happening at the same time and both started mewing at me, loud and torn. Their mews were very loud in the corridor and I could see them in their carriers seeing me.
That is when I crumbled:
Tears filled my face and my face hurt all over, in the muscles of my cheeks and in my jaw, the bone all black & red. I ran back into the flat, closed the door, sat on the sofa and cried. I blubbered! Perhaps how silly of me, but I blubbered so hard that it hurt my shaking body!
The white sink, the grime of hard water; I washed my face cold and went down to the shop to buy some beer and some wine. It was a bright, warm evening so I opened the window up, played music, and leaned out with a cigarette and a glass of wine, watching the goings-on of the building.
I went back to my parents’ house this weekend and saw that on my pillow (the guest room pillow, where I sleep whenever I return) there was a ball of fur – Tim’s. My mother had not changed the sheets, inadvertently reminding me of him sleeping against my head every night and pawing me awake in the morning. I considered the ball of fur with great sadness. I made the bed. The duvet went up in the air, causing the ball of fur – indefinite and fragile – to shudder on the linen.

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