Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Deep and Reproachful Patience of the Cat


Once in a great while I am left alone in the house.
            Or almost alone. We have the place to ourselves, the cat and I.
            With a day to myself, the first thing I do is look up what movies are playing. I have not gone to the movies by myself in -- well, who can count the years? Who would want to?
            The next thing I do is buy a frozen pizza. My wife does not eat pizza because of a dietary restriction. By an informal count, I am about one thousand, seven hundred and twenty pizzas behind schedule. I am owed a lot of pizzas.
            It is hard to make much of a dent in that backlog in one weekend, but I am worried that one of these days I may try. Ordinarily, for the record, I cook a lot of vegetables. Already I have a squash soup recipe picked out for supper the day my wife returns, but on these rare occasions of solitude, I seem to lack the moral fiber to eat fiber.
            I sigh.
            The cat sleeps.
            The next thing I do is look up the name of the recently published nine hundred page fantasy novel that ends a thirteen-book series I have been following for -- this also passes belief -- twice as many years as I have fingers. Nine hundred pages at a clip is a little unusual, but not out of line for the tomes in this series. Remember that the word "fan" is derived from "fanatic." We faithful readers need to know what happens to our favorite characters. I would make a list of them to while away the solitude, but I am informed by a reliable source that the series's characters now number over two thousand. To be an author of a book series this long is perhaps to play God more convincingly than any comparison I can think of.
            I check the price of the latest hard-bound volume in this series. It is the cost of several movie tickets.
            The cat licks her paw.
            I check the weather. I can do this by looking out the window, since it is snowing. Will snow make it impossible for me to go to the movies? Have I mentioned that I do not have a working DVD player.
            Have I mentioned that solitude can be oppressive?
            In the abstract I look forward to occasional solitary stretches because "I have a lot of work to do." Is there an ambulatory American adult who cannot say the same? But faced with long periods of incarceration -- I mean solitude: a sort of unrelieved diet of self, with no appetizers or dessert -- the human mind seems to grow increasingly frantic in its search for diversion. Well, the TV works, doesn't it? How's that supply of pizza? beer? books?
            What would the Sage of Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of that quintessential assertion of American individuality "Self Reliance," think of a man who is desperate to drive to the movies in the snow after spending one, count 'em one, day by himself?
            I get up from my desk to discuss this point with the cat. The cat is unimpressed.
            While I pace the house, extrapolating on the paradoxes of the human condition, Kitty has not changed her position in, what, fourteen hours? Time does not faze her. She greets the prospect of twelve-hour stretches of lying on the bed, our bed, between meals with a yawn. Some days she forgets to leave this station to look for breakfast when the humans begin rattling around in the kitchen, and so the first meal of her day gets served up from the can around dinner time.
            She is patient. Enlightenment is a speed bump in her rear-view mirror. She is the past master of other lives. What was Cleopatra really like? Is it really worth the bother of remembering?... Who? What?
            She arches her back slightly;lies back down in exactly the same spot. The warm spot.
            I stick my nose out the door, while I gathering the necessary garments and hand-held appliances for a road trip at night, in winter, to an entertainment option in order to divert my thoughts from too much time alone with moi. The first flakes fall on my head.
            I am halfway to the car when the final truth of my situation makes itself known to me: Don't forget to feed the cat.