A recent diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (fancy word for “tunnel vision” or “peripheral blindness” or just “damaged retina) has inspired me to record my memories of the things I once saw. I hope these essays encourage you to practice a moment by moment focus on what You Can See. Hopefully that way, in those alienating moments when you might feel like you are not sure whether or not you are existing in the same sphere as everyone around you, you can call upon your ability to See Things and fight through your fear.
This story remembers a man I briefly wondered about dating whose home decore made me think hard about my dating choices….especially his very talkative Cat Poster….
He has stains.
For some reason I expected holes.
There are no holes in his home, just stains, bright stains, not yellow or brown like old tragedies but bright green, blue, paint or dusty purple wine, shitty street art, impulsive tags, not-quite-interesting but I-guess-it-is-interesting-that-you-did-this art pieces, as if he has consistently confused the walls of his own home for the walls of something with which he is angry.
I arrive because he asked me to come here.
I give him flowers.
Picked from a vase in my kitchen.
Taped to an illustration, a portrait of a man I recently noticed sitting outside my building who, at least according to my drawing, is part Bison. The man in the illustration is naked. He is seated, holding a standing fan between his legs.
“Wow thanks,” he does not even ask about the bi-man even though I have a perfect explanation for everything I drew because I am brilliant and special.
He places both objects on top of his fridge, next to four other single flowers.
The other flowers are not dead. They are noticeably fresh. I turn away from them.
He is sitting on a couch. Large. Against the wall. New. Ikea. Probably a little bit cardboard. Absolutely, more than a little bit too big.
I can either sit on the grey floor or sit on the black bed.
I could sit on the oversized grey couch, flannel and lint-rinsed and already occupied by him but I am mad at him now. For the other flowers. For the lack of thought. In his home. Stained. Dark. Too used for projects uninteresting things. He asked me to come here.
“Did you see my cat poster?”
I look at him. His fat face is smiling. His baseball cap is too large for his head. His head is too large for his body. His body Is too small for the couch which is too large for the room. The room is too small for two people. No I did not see his cat poster.
I look at the cat poster. It is ginormous, taped just above his desk, a grieving wood fixture shoved into an inlet I would not have noticed had he not needed to point out “that poster, the cat poster over my desk”.
There are ten rows of cats, five cats per row, fifty cats, all of whom look miserable, staring at me and each of them is labelled, presumably with their “Type”. I cannot read their labels.
“What are you doing here?” She says.
A white fluffy pink faced feline right at my eye level. I am kneeling on the ground.
“What are you doing here this is not where you live.”
She makes a “MMEEE” sound between phrases as if narcissism is just a linguistic tick that would be impolite to mention.
“Did he invite you MMEEEE or are you lost MEEEEE”
The brown kitten in the bottom corner winks in my direction.He wears a beige furry vest, a chubby grin and the eyes of a boy who keeps farting.
Overtop his complement, a grey long haired old lady-cat blurts out a dementia drained refrain, “Pretty. Dumb. Carpet. Rough. He. Done. This. Pretty. Dumb. Carpet. Rough…”
“Cherish your minutes, baby girl, CHERISH you and who YOU are.” A fat beautiful royal disaster with a black bow tie and the deep voice of the man you used to describe to your pillow in case it one day choose to come alive and marry you—
“Chow chow chow chow chow chow eat him chow chow chow chow.” Young spotted thing sings his own need for a couch and a tin of salmon and a boyfriend, “couch couch chow chow scratch scratch SCRA-ATCH”
“Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” A well groomed smiling teenager and his cream coloured coat beg for attention and maybe even an answer—
“Whatever you do don’t sit on that couch on the bed on the table on the toilet. Those are his spots.” I hear my mother.
“You like the poster? It has names, for each cat, breeds. I love cats.”
I cannot read the breeds. I could move closer to read what kind of creatures they are but then I wonder if that would be betrayal, to the individuals who are currently transcending the label of Poster and probably Pet and definitely Cat.
“Do you ever give them first names?”
“No do I look insane to you?” Fake laugh. Big fake laugh with a wrinkled nose and his head moving slightly away from me as if to say “that was your thought, I want nothing to do with it”
“WE ALL HAVE NAMED” a drunk scrawny old voice from maybe the second row, “HE GIVES US NAMES EVERYDAY EVERY DAY WE HAVE NAMED”
“He calls me Alice but I prefer Al”, bearded and tough, they say.
“We are not interested in his names but we are interested in YOUR name and the fact that he hasn’t used it once. What are you doing here?” It’s my mother again.
“Do you remember my name?”
Another fake laugh.
The door behind him is steel. I have never seen an apartment door made of steel. This home might be a prison. Or a bank. Or…a cat cage?
He checks his phone.
“You don’t remember my name?”
Slithering kitty curse words seep into my psyche.
“DO YOU KNOW HOW BORED I WOULD HAVE TO BE TO CLIMB OFF THIS WALL AND GO FUCK A STRANGER?”
A tiny white and grey feline with green eyes and the soul of a slandered woman shames me into whispering to tonight’s mistake, “I am going to go home now.”
I watch my flower on the refrigerator.
I cannot see my illustration. It may have slipped behind the appliance that will never be moved.
For reference, this man is an apparent artist whose messages could make any single and trying individual wonder if they are special.
He grabs my face and starts kissing me.
When he is finished with the kissing, I leave.