I woke up the next morning at a quarter to six to the containers still on the coffee table, untouched and waiting for me to make my next move. I gathered them up, put them back in the brown to go bag in which they arrived, walked through the kitchen and out the back door. The screen door snapped shut behind me as I headed to the dumpster.
When I returned, back the way I came, through the screen door that leads into my kitchen, I stopped. It was one of those moments when you wonder whether you’ve accidentally wandered through the wrong door into someone else’s home where everything is eerily similar, but something deviates… SOMETHING… is not the way you left it when you walked away.
Give me time here… to figure it out…
It’s the cat. An orange tabby cat. That wasn’t here before. Why is it in my kitchen? It occurs to me that somehow without realizing it, without wanting it, I had let a cat in, and now… it's here. I stood still for several seconds, letting the cat's presence sink in, before I spoke.
“How did you get here?”
The cat stared at me.
“You don’t belong here.”
The cat cocked its head as though it was considering its options.
“You have to leave.”
It hesitated, but only for a moment before it walked toward me, then past me, and through the screen door I held open.
I realized then that part of me hoped it would stay… if only for a little while… because sometimes it’s just nice to not be alone. And the cat, I'm sure, would have made for pleasant company. But I knew the truth – in the long run – down deep, I would have wanted a dog. It was for the best, I reconciled.
The next time I open my door, I’ll have to be more careful.
Afterwards, I wondered if any of it really happened – the cat, the Chinese food, the Daily Show paused indefinitely, and the moment I said, “This, I’ve been expecting,” as I leaned back against the throw pillows. It wasn’t a dream. I know because I already had that dream, and though to the same conclusion, it happened differently then.
And so, in the end, with the cats gone, alone, my world shifted to rebalance, my stomach untied itself, and I could breath. It was as if he had never been here in the first place. But, there is too much evidence to the contrary – a mixed CD and a pair of pliers on my dining table, a t-shirt in my laundry basket, a half-empty bottle of Jagermeister in my freezer, a stack of essays I put in a box for the time being, and that one thing you wrote.