Dennis E Bolen, Kitty

I was living in a studio under a brownstone, just what I always wanted, entertaining a lot of women. Aside from drinking six or seven Manhattans per night, there was little else to do. The place had a good-sized main room. I would have preferred to keep it empty, but in a corner by one of the two windows a pile was building up with boxes from a former situation. I liked to keep at least one window open, even in cold weather, even though the easy refuge of my rooms attracted the odd stray cat, who would step cautiously onto the high sill, investigating the drop, sometimes chancing it, other times opting to pick their perspicacious way down the dicey box ladder. In back was the kitchen/eating area where I kept my desk. And there was the bathroom. I kept my razor, comb, soap and nail-clippers by the taps on the sink. At the very rear was a closet area large enough to be a sleeping space. My bed was a low futon, you could fold it into a couch if you wanted. I never wanted. The telephone lay on the floor by my pillow. There was no other furniture. I ate out. The office was ten minutes away by bus, so I didn’t need a car. I would shower at night and dry off with my one towel. I enjoyed the linen on my skin and the faint drifting coolness across the floor from the window and mostly the cozy alone feeling in the dark. One morning as I was waking a cat ran under my bed. I didn’t think much about it because I was preoccupied. For weeks I’d been trifling with a smart, serious, twenty-something sweetheart who clerked in administration; a recent immigrant from China, named Wei. It was the day we were to meet for lunch and we did and then I walked her through a gallery. Her English wasn’t steady. I don’t know a word of Cantonese. My forte has always been repartee. I sensed we hadn’t a chance but with a found pidginization we conversed anyway and nearly giggled with the effort it was to bottle the loose carnality burbling between us. I couldn’t help touching her, a light hand at the small of her back. She flicked her hair so that it swept across my cheek. In the back of a darkened video installation transmitting an endless loop of two guys fighting, making up, arguing and fighting again, she let me kiss her, offering full face. That night at my place I squeezed her buttocks and she urged sex immediately. As we went about it I somehow felt it flighty and entertaining to make small talk. I spoke about the cat. ‘Cat..?’ ‘Under the bed.’ Her face annealed toward menace, a state so conflicted with her condition of naked and my condition of being just that moment inside of her. She tensed, legs rigidified. This created a delightful tightness where I felt it most, but knew I would have to say something. ‘It’s gone, Wei.’ I spoke from the hard certainty that if I were the cat, I most assuredly would be. ‘Gun?’ ‘Uh huh.’ ‘Shoo?’ ‘I’m sure, yes.’ I knew that if this had been any other circumstance, if we were riding in a car or talking over a table in a cafe, I would have had to substantiate my answer. But here I was excused, though barely, and things were not the same. Her response had morphed to a reticence now. It was a tangible factor even as we resumed mutual movement. My fingers rasped upon the mannequin indifference of her skin. Still, we proceeded. But I could not make my brain be still, rid itself of the notion that though if indeed I were the cat I would be gone that the cat was not me. Might it might just let fear and discretion keep it in a dry tense place for who-knew-how-long? Then as reflexes took over I did not know if I were thinking of the cat or of Wei. I came, hollering a bit, not inspired. Mostly by habit. Wei mimicked my sound. I hollered again but was finished coming. She did not mimic this time. I drew back and looked at her. Her smile was slightly beyond slight but the eyes were not smiling. It occurred to me that where I was naked in the physical sense, this was just a state of merely being bare of clothing. By Wei’s conspicuous discernment my nakedness of character was now a terrible exposure. I pulled out and rolled off. Wei sighed. I probed her with limbered fingers. She brushed me away. ‘It okay.’ ‘I want to.’ ‘I not.’ I receded , and folded an arm behind my head. Wei sighed softly. ‘It okay.’ She took my willing hand in hers and met my eyes. ‘Nice.’ We lay, breathing. Wei shifted and I sensed she would soon be finding her stuff, dressing, leaving. After she left¾still faintly smiling as we kissed at the door¾I lay in bed trying to read but couldn’t concentrate. I resisted the drift toward sleep, and found myself daydreaming. The cat. That morning. Sitting by my bed. It was cute one. Auburn, with subtle whitish striping. I thought it was a she cat by the way it gazed at me when I opened my eyes. She’d sat pertly on her clenched bottom, tail wrapped neatly around, forepaws perfectly placed before her, staring me down with thorough interest but just enough softness to be polite about it. The studio was half below ground, the windows at sidewalk level. A number of felines had invited themselves in over the months. Most only stayed a few minutes, long enough to see there was no food and that the sole human inhabitant wasn’t willing to leave his futon to even give them a pat on the head. I especially thought this one was a she because there was another cat with her; a silvery, stout creature with a bullish forehead, who investigated my digs with such lofty assurance that I subliminally assigned it masculinity even though I never got the chance to see what was between its hind legs. I smiled at the near one and her eyes narrowed and widened again and then avoided mine. She yawned and looked to where her partner was brushing about the nether regions of my swivel chair. The big gray cat moved further, under the desk, and went out of sight rummaging in the cardboard box where I kept scrap paper. My orangey sentry turned back to watch me again but then started to four-foot alertness when her partner tipped the box over and skittered to the open. The two meowed at each other one time, then in unison moved away from my bedside and continued their patrol, wandering to the kitchen area, out of sight, then back into the center of the main room. They stood, sat, stood, wandered, sat again. The clock by my head read 6:10. Another hour at least before getting up. I turned to the wall and closed my eyes.

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Tholana Ashok Chakravarthy
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