Catnap

by

02/17/2004

Park Slope

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Park Slope

First it was the remote control. Then it was a pill bottle, which jingled some before its contents spilled out, and last, a Yellow Delicious apple—boom! It is four o’clock in the morning and my cat, Alabama, has been knocking things around, dropping them to the floor from their perches, trying to jolt me out of sleep with every rattle and hum.

She is hungry.

She is tired of being ignored.

And she knows that I’m awake.

Like Alabama I tried but couldn’t get to bed with so little in my stomach—two glasses of white wine; a handful of blue tortilla chips; and the nagging, nauseating feeling that I was destined to die alone.

The date was fine, really. We tried really, really hard to keep the other interested, though neither of us was fooled. Discussing the merits of Gatorade and the disappointment of Liz Phair’s new CD and, since I tend to get set up with Jewish guys these days, Joe Lieberman, makes for a pleasant week-night in a breezy backyard café but beyond that is a mystery: When do first dates turn into weekend plans and year-end anniversaries? Is love ingrained or is it bred? Why the fuck do we bother?

These were the thoughts that lay between my head and the pillow before Alabama’s wake-up campaign began. Soon I’d be forced to confront another one of life’s pressing dilemmas: I had nothing to feed my cat.

Boom!

There were no flecks of dry food left in her bowl, no miracle cans of Bumble Bee to be found in the cupboard. It was past midnight when I got home; it had begun to rain; and I had been too depressed/lazy/selfish/stupid to go out to the corner store. All day, at work, I stared at a PETCO!! sticky-reminder on my computer and now, now that it’s officially too late to safely roam the Park Slope streets, I am in bed being pawed and clawed and painfully reminded that a stimulating sex life I do not have.

To save my face from Alabama’s wrath I tent two pillows over my head; to spite my face she attacks me beneath the covers, putting a nail into my left breast. Blood dots the sheets; the tears follow. How did my life become such a bloody mess? Why did I agree to a blind date with my cousin’s girlfriend’s nephew’s best friend anyway?

But there’s no time for self-pity, or feigned sleep. Alabama is preying upon me, staring me down, her eyes a pair of black full moons. Her emptiness and exhaustion have been eclipsed by the pure, blind instinct to survive. Will I become the next Roy Horn? I deserve no less but I beg for Alabama’s forgiveness all the same, making promises I know I can keep.

In just two hours, I say, I’ll go out and get you some Meow Mix. She bites my hand. You’d rather have the IAMS Lamb and Rice? Ouch. OK, I’ll order in a goddamn turkey sandwich.

I turn on the light, look up the number of the local late-nite diner, and reach behind the lamp to pick up the phone. Of course I have forgotten that I no longer have a phone behind the lamp to pick up. I cancelled my home phone service last week in an attempt to save money, to spend less time on the web, to simplify my life. I loved the sound of “going wireless,” like a trapeze artist who defies gravity or a soft-cup bra: support with a bit of give.

Less appealing was the sound of my own voice greeting me from my at-home and cell-phone call-answering devices, each of which cross-referenced the number of the other and neither of which could ever produce that one message—and we all know which one that is—from the ex-lover who has decided to break off his engagement, the literary agent with good news about the book, the landlord who overlooks the bad credit and offers the no-fee apartment anyway—the one we’ve been waiting for our whole lives. The one that makes living possible.

Still, my cell phone does not get good reception from my first-floor apartment. It takes three calls before the woman manning the phone at the Mediterranean diner can cut-and-paste the particulars of my order and even then I worry: Will my request for “plain turkey, please” be received as pita with chick peas?

But once my cat’s sandwich has arrived, and once all the turkey has been extracted from the “plain pita, thanks,” and once Alabama is finally having her supper, I can feel my heart slowly tucking itself back into place.

Harmony has been restored in my one-room household.

Sleep, and perhaps love, will come again.

The rest will follow as it should.

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