Things had been going great and then one night she announced that she wanted a cat. As soon as she had said it, that cat was already in the room, and I knew what was coming but I gave it a hopeless shot anyway.
“It’s out of the question, I’m allergic to cats. My ex, she had a cat, I used to wake up and it would be sitting on my head and I’d be unable to breathe.”
“We can keep it out of the bedroom. This is my house and I don’t ask for much else.” She looked out of the corner of her eye at me as she said this. Not much but always something else.
The cat wasn’t mentioned again and two weeks later we split over an argument that probably had a hidden subtext but was, on the whole, inconsequential.
Within a week we were back together and when I entered the house I saw the cat curled up on the sofa. It eyed me for a second and then looked away as if it had already risen above me, as if it is was saying prophetically, I was here before you and I’ll be here once you are gone. Cats are wise or so i’ve heard.
“Ah the cat has arrived.”
The cat was allowed free reign of the house and it never went outside. Why would it? Everything it had was right here. It shit in a tray in the kitchen and sometimes slept on the bed, the same bed that we slept in. I took some anti-allergy pills but they didn’t make much of a difference. When the cat was near me for any prolonged period of time I became breathless, my eyes watered, my skin itched. And that cat always seemed to be near. When I noticed the cat was on the bed I usually threw it out of the room, with some force sometimes, but as soon as the bedroom door opened a couple of inches it would run back in and jump on the bed.
One night I awoke, gasping for air. It felt like I was breathing through a straw. I looked up from the pillow and saw the cat lying across me.
“The cat is on the bed again, I can’t breathe.”
“Okay, okay, hold on.”
I lay there waiting on her throwing the cat out of the room but instead she leaned over me and opened the window an inch.
“That’s not going to do any good.”
“The air will help you breathe.”
“Jesus Christ. When superman is dying because he is lying next to a lump of kryptonite do you think Lois Lane opens the fucking window?”
The cat lowered its head and went back to sleep.
The next day the cat had vanished. The window in the bedroom had been left wide open and it appeared to me that it had wanted to experience life on the outside. I had been called in as part of the search committee. That cat could stay lost as far I was concerned, if it was never found it would mean I had a better chance of not dying in my sleep. But I could see the worry on my girlfriend’s face; she was even considering putting up ‘reward for lost cat’ posters around the neighborhood. It had only been gone an hour.
So I trailed the streets looking for a cat that I didn’t hate but wouldn’t be altogether unhappy if I never saw again. People on the street looked at me as if were crazy when I shouted out its name, repeating the same word over and over again. I was looking for a cat but to everyone else I was simply a guy wandering the streets shouting out the word Monkey. I doubted this cat even knew that its name was Monkey, and if it did, it wasn’t the sort who would accept that as its name. I made sure not to look at anyone directly when shouting out the cat’s name.
After searching for a few hours I went back to find that the cat had returned. It had been hiding under some bins only a few feet from the house. The big wide world had been too terrifying and it was back, settled in nicely on the bed, recovering from the trauma of leaping from a window and hiding under some bins. The cat raised its head an inch, looked me over and then went back to sleep.
It’s no doubt still there on the bed, content with its life.
Tags: allergy, cat, fighting addiction, kryptonite, lost cat, monkey on your back, short story