I hear her voice, delicate, distant and I run to the sound, jump on the table, and sit in my usual spot just beside her play thing, but she isn’t there. He’s there, damn it, talking away on that little black thing with buttons. I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his other sex perfumes, his heavy-footed shuffle, his loud voice, his walking-sticks. I run when he approaches, run and hide myself away, making myself small, fitting under furniture where he can’t get at me, trying new places, new spaces …
Downstairs in the basement is good. He has problems with the stairs – shuffle, shuffle, clump, clump – and I get plenty of warning. Not that he ever comes downstairs to the basement. There’s nothing down here for him and I can sit here and snooze and dream and wait for my darling to come back. She will come back. I know she’ll come back. I know she’ll never abandon me, like she’s abandoned him. I am faithful, I can wait.
Besides which, I am training him. It takes time, but he’s beginning to understand that he must do things my way now. I chat him up for food and whisk myself around his legs and down comes the kibble, like manna from heaven. He often spills the food, so I get extra bits, nipping in quickly while he searches for a broom or a dustpan, or that noisy sucking thing I hate so much. That’s not just him, I run when she uses it too: it hurts my ears. And my feelings: I think they’re shooing me away because they don’t want me near. Not that I want to be near him, oh no.
I stay away from the upstairs and the bedroom while he’s here alone. Sometimes we meet on the stairs when I have completed my ablutions, but I give a little shimmy and scoot and leave him star-struck and stranded. He’s just not quick enough. He’s not cruel, mind. He doesn’t kick me or hit me with his stick or anything like that. I just don’t like men. I remember that other man, the one that beat me before she came to the place with all the other cats and cages and took me home. I think all men are like that first man, if you give them the chance, and I’m not giving this one a chance, not until I’ve trained him properly. And he isn’t trained yet. I wonder how long I’ve got?
There he is, hanging on to that little black thing, and when he stops talking, I can hear her beloved voice. It’s distant and a little bit tinny, with a sort of echo, and there are other sounds in the background that I can’t quite make out, but it’s her, I’d know her anywhere, and I whimper and scratch, and he puts down a hand in my direction, but he doesn’t tempt me, and then he holds that black thing down and she calls me by my favorite names and I sit there, silent, and gaze into space, remembering her touch, her gaze, her hand upon my neck, my back … no, I won’t let him that near me, not yet.
Yesterday, he sat at her place by the table and turned the picture machine on. Then shadows appeared and her voice came out of the machine. The shadows moved and played and people chatted back and forth and I didn’t understand it, I just didn’t understand. My whiskers stiffened and I sat there and bristled. The machine was warm and I snuggled up to it, behind the flat piece, where I could listen but he couldn’t quite touch me, even though he stretched out his hand. And she called my name, again and again, but I didn’t move, I just sat there and sat there, waiting.
Then I came to the front of the machine where the shadows danced and her voice was stronger. A shadow, I couldn’t make it out, then her voice again, my whiskers stiffened, I leant forward and sniffed, but no smell, it was her voice, and the shadow shifted the way she does, but they had no smell, and scentless, I could not really sense her, I bristled and she called me, called me by my favorite names, and mewed, I mewed back.
But I couldn’t smell her, and there was no sense of touch … is this the hell all pussy cats will suffer … shadows on a screen, a haunting voice, memories shifting and dancing, no touch, no hugs, no sense of smell … and nothing solid … just shadows and absence … and a sense of chill … forever and forever?