The neighbor's cat has not been around for days. Many days. The poor feral cat has been forlorn. She shows up for meals, sometimes, but without enthusiasm. She looks around as if waiting for her lover to come. It is obvious she is lost without him. I try to be sweet to her but she is inconsolable.
Last night, when I pulled into the driveway after visiting my mother, there they were, the two of them. She was alive again, happy and animated. I took my sushi dinner inside and came out to feed them. He was warm and wanted some affection, but the feral cat wouldn't let him, staying between the two of us until he was close enough for me to reach out and scratch his head. She won't get close to the hand.
I read through more letters yesterday. Emily was like the feral cat when her family moved away. She couldn't eat, she said. She felt sick. She was getting in arguments with her parents and her brother. She loved me and always would, forever and ever. She wrote it over and over again. She would send me pictures. She would buy me presents. But there were two things she wanted.
When we are young, we are like wild animals. We love and hate with fierce emotion. With age, the intellect takes over the things we say and do. We can fall in love with intellect, and we do, and maybe that love is easier to sustain. But is there a love in wild things that is far more powerful and damaging. It is a love that most, I think, are thankful to eschew.
I had to go find my old yearbooks. I had to search for them and dig them out of a storage box that holds such things. I had to find out who in the hell were Marsha and Mike?
I don't recommend going back to old yearbooks. It is not something I have done before. It is like stepping into a morbid rock and roll song, maybe Springsteen's "Glory Days." But you get trapped, and all the memories come back, good and bad. Some people, I imagine, live through those memories for a lifetime while the rest mostly forget them. I looked through the photos, the end of the year comments that kids wrote. It was a primitive world, much more dangerous and flawed than now. There was the kid who had the polio leg, and there was the hydrocephalic, the "waterhead." A handful of kids had hare lips which weren't repaired well, not like the surgeries today. There was the kid who used to have to fight his father when he came home drunk and started beating his mother. There was the kid who was sixteen in the 9th grade who got kicked out of school for punching the principal. There was the girl everyone called retarded because of the coke bottle glasses she wore. There were the Superlatives: Most Attractive, Best Dressed, Most Likely to Succeed. There were the cheerleaders. I had naked pictures of the head cheerleader taken in a photo booth for years until my mother threw away the box with all my old photos. There were the girls known to "put out." In the seventh grade yearbook, written in large letters, was "Hi Lover," signed Kathy. Several people wrote at the end of their messages, "and good luck with Kathy."
Kathy? I couldn't remember any Kathy. What the fuck? It was like my memory had been bleached.
I'm ashamed to admit that I looked through those yearbooks for hours.
The notes in my 8th grade yearbook were all about Emily and me. We were a couple. A thing. It was recognized. I didn't remember it being so public. Love enduring.
There were her two best friends, Helen and Cindy. Helen already looked like a sexy woman. Cindy would become beautiful in a year or two. They were all on the cusp of becoming, that moment just before.
It was the most dangerous time.
The girls all said I was "sweet." Was I sweet? I think I was. But I was changing, too. We all were in the grips of something overwhelming and terrible. We were wild animals, scared and scary, terrible and terrifying.
I never did hate her. And I never did forget her. Now she's dead, and I wonder if she always did love me. I'll never know.
The cats have eaten and are gone. The feral cat would stay all day if the neighbor's cat would. She cones to the deck whenever he is there. But he's a boy and likes to roam. He's not content to stay all day with his own true love. They are different that way. It is the nature of things.
Oh, by the way. . . I never did figure out who Marsha and Mike were. Jesus, a memory is a terrible thing to waste.