So anyway, the dishwasher is running and the linoleum is peeling and I am taking out the perfectly mixed cat food for my fluffy cat who, at the time, hated everyone but me, and even hated me a little bit because I, at the time, slept at the top of a bunk bed which was much too much trouble for her climb every night. She took out her rage about the situation on me every now and again, but I suppose I didn’t mind because she was declawed in the front paws, and therefore took to taking tiny-cat-slaps to me if ever I made quick motions. If my ankle fell into her sights she would first sideswipe it, then slap it violently with both outstretched paws as though she were both players in an intense game of badminton. I guess that eventually she got her desired effect- the swiping got so annoying that she would be eventually chased down and picked up, which gave her a chance to hug you with her declawed kitty arms and scrape at you with her quite clawed back paws, using one’s human arm as the equivalent of stomping ground for charging bull behavior. Ho hum. I loved her anyway. In this memory I was feeding her, after all. In this memory I turn to her bowl on the floor, bend, and let the little cat treats make that kind of comforting plinking noise that they do when they fall into an empty bowl- you know the sound- and in that bizarre moment I found myself gazing at the backdoor. It was white, and we never used it unless we needed air flow in the stuffy house, and in the middle of the door, strangely, the paint had begun to peel, the kind of peeling that starts with tiny cracks and then, thanks to Texas moisture- for Texas is moist, sometimes, always in some places- pulls apart and reveals the wood beneath. The sound of the packing and rustling in the next room fell away for a moment as I lifted the cat food box from the bowl and gazed, still in a semi-crouching position, at the peeling backdoor. I could smell the summer heat seeping through not only the screen and the windows but the walls, up through the floor at my bare feet. Solemnly, I stared down the half-open, cracked, almost useless backdoor and I knew this strangeness, this memory- for as the half-seconds ticked by it was already becoming a memory- would be frozen to me; solidified, stored in my heart though I had no love for that backdoor, that g-d washing machine, that house. That isolated moment was my belonging, and even if I wanted it gone it says too much about my existence to be discounted, and my choice to set it apart, to freeze it in the first place… well, that says something too.
I do not recall with the vividity that I should my first glimpse of Avi, though that is one thing I feel like he feels like I must remember*. The fact is I never thought too much about Avi or any other guy that I crossed paths with when I was 20. They were no more than flashes in periphery, either existing to make me feel uncomfortable and uninteresting or as a stepping stone to their own tower of self-esteem. I had come to the conclusion through my pointless interactions with “their kind” that I had no desire to be around people who did not make me feel good, whether or not they were attractive. I made the conscious decision and stood by the idea that no “real life” guy was a real man, and aside from the smiley dorks that my over-zealous friends had married off to the only human males suitable to spend time with could be found in the pages of good literature (yes, good literature, no, not paperback trash. And no, not Austen specifically- I have never fetish zed Mr. Darcy in the way that dreamy-eyed American girls seem to, though Mr. Knightley from Emma always seemed patient and rather choice). Real men were only real in print, or in film, or hidden away in old, grainy photographs of nameless friends that strangers used to know.
There is something else, some weird habit or tick I have, usually when I need to calm down. I go into the bathroom, shut the door, and bury my face in the towel hanging from the wrack. It’s usually just taller than me, up on it’s hook on the back of the door or on the second wrung beside the bathtub. Sometimes the envelopment, the textured surrounding makes me cry, but mostly it puts me at ease. The smell is generally either of soap or fabric softener, the texture is usually soft but more alive to me than a sheet or comforter too easily found tossed on one’s bed. When my grandmother died I didn’t cry or really feel sad at all, I didn’t go to the funeral, but I got her towels. One day I went to them for comfort- forgetting their origins- and the smell of grandma’s place, of rust and cookies and cleanliness mingled, oxymoronically, with smoke, seeped through me at the first inhale and all of a sudden I was mourning someone I never thought I knew. When Avi and I were together I didn’t seem to hug towels all that much.
* TV SET
**WHY WE ARE NOT TOGETHER ANYMORE