So we have nice fall day. Bugs looking over his shoulder. Squalling. Walking away. From me, from treats. The world is dark. I’m – in a word – hysterical.
So I want to make this a story about compassion. About how, with the help and support of others of our species, with the help of Bugs as he was and is in all his catness, with the help of a merciful universe just this once, I was born from hysteria into understanding. Into a more inclusive, wiser way of coping with this mess we call the way things are.
On that evil day, though, it seemed Bugs just vanished. (Cats do this, I now realize. When they want to, they just – become boneless. Melt away.) Me, I blacked out. I don’t remember. I have a picture blasted into my memory of Bugs squalling and then I just don’t have anything else. Seems like thinness. Vapor.
The next thing I remember is me printing off (oh dear I don’t even want to look at the poster but I saved a copy of it; let me screw up my courage) the poster that says “LOST CAT” and “Bugsy” and Erika’s picture of him, “reward,” and my name and phone number –
(Now, any time I catch sight of those “lost pet” signs around town – now I see them everywhere, it seems, the sorrow, the pity – I just curl up inside.)
So, clutching about fifteen posters, a tape dispenser, plus a biscuit-tin I picked up along the way (don’t ask), I set off through the neighborhood.
After this was all over, when we’d finally got Bugs back in the house and I tromped around taking the signs down, I just couldn’t believe how far I’d walked. At the time – if you’ve never been in the alternate universe that is hysteria, you might not understand this – I felt incorporeal. Thin as air. Insubstantial. No feeling, actually. I didn’t notice walking.
I did notice a house. I knocked on the door. I had some idea I wanted to put my sign on this little water or gas thingy on the lawn. (Don’t look for sense here.)
This nice man answered the door. Only then I realized that my other animal friend, Beau, was glued to my heels. (Beau came with the house I moved into ten years ago; he’s my neighbor Scott’s dog and we all are buds around the neighborhood.)
So here’s Beau-Beau (no leash, what did you think?) saying hello to the nice man and can he come in and play, and here’s me with, at this point, tears pouring down my face, asking this nice man can I put one of my signs on his front lawn –
And this nice man is trying to fend off Beau and make sense of what I’m trying to tell him and he says Oh dear, I’m so sorry you’ve lost your cat (he tries to take a poster and I snatch it away from him because I need the world to see, not just him) and he’s peering at the poster I’m trying to keep away from him and he says, you know, I think I saw a cat like that –
And I fix him with a steely glare and I say: NO. TODAY.
He says, “that’s where folks in the neighborhood put signs like that” –
(So this happens to other people? but why should that matter to me, this is the end of the world for ME there ARE NO OTHER PEOPLE in this dark and horrible place?)
So meet Internal Rejecting Object No. Two. This nice kindly man, just trying to have a decent Saturday at home, doing his best to cope with a goofy unleashed pup and demented person at his front door. And the demented person at his front door –
who, incidentally, has walked, by this time, miles away from her own front door, under which Bugs is hiding after all –
Well, compassion for all, right? Me too? I didn’t want milk. I wanted my cat.