Gwen, my neighbor who knows something about just about everything is home after what felt like six weeks but was only half that long. She was doing the European thing while I was home on Lucy duty. Lucy is her 15 year old gray and white with smudged-nosed cat.
When Gwen goes away, she sets Le Bistro to dispense a measured amount of cat food at the same time every morning so a person doesn’t need to actually feed Lucy on a daily basis. But I’m a person who works at home; I am besieged by my cats all day long so I have perhaps a jaundiced view of how much interaction a cat actually needs. I try to at least get a sighting of Lucy every day.
When I visit Lucy she always comes out to say either ‘hello’ or ‘why the hell are you interrupting me,’ plays keep-away around the legs of the butcher block table, watches me change her water, waits to see if I have a treat and then disappears. If she’s feeling particularly fetching, she rolls on her back on the rug. This could be misconstrued as a social invitation but if I attempt to engage her when she’s rolling on her back, it only offends her.
Gwen had gotten her suitcase out a week and half before she left. Some of the experts tell you to do this. Cats get alarmed when they see the suitcase but if it’s sitting there for a week and half, the thinking is that it becomes part of the landscape and it loses its charge. Don’t you believe it. Cats are not that stupid. Gwen reported that Lucy got clingier at the run-up to departure. Gwen usually keeps intimate rituals with her cat private so I deduced from this outpouring that Lucy was in a bad way and that tugged at my heart.
The first morning I went over I couldn’t find Lucy for a good ten minutes. Finally I spotted a lump under a blanket move ever so slightly. There she was huddled into her barren and loveless life. I cooed and petted her but she turned away. The second morning was much like the first.
The third morning I took my computer with me, settled into a window armchair, and accessed Gwen’s superior wireless network. I checked my email, wrote a few notes, deleted a lot of stuff, looked at my bank balance, and played a few moves of Scrabble on Facebook. When I got up to leave I saw that Lucy had been sitting in back of me, watching.
The fourth morning I took my computer and a thermos of tea. As I went about my business, Lucy walked past me. I heard her go out the cat flap that takes her from the kitchen to the basement stairs. I heard a meow. Quite an indignant one. As I was leaving I opened the door to the basement. There was Lucy sitting four steps down in a patch of sunlight. She meowed at me and I said Goodbye.
The fifth morning I had my computer, my tea and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. As I was reading and sipping, two little feet appeared on the blanket beside me. I watched Lucy as she sniffed the air, the blanket, and the edge of the book. I went back to my story. The sixth morning, Lucy curled up by my knee and pretended to not notice me. I pretended to not notice her.
Finally the day came when Lucy dislodged Sherlock Holmes and fell asleep in my lap. I stayed especially long that morning. Thereafter she was waiting for me on the chair when I came in the door. She would leap down so I could settle in, then leap back up and take over my life. I did a lot of reading, thinking and emailing last month with Lucy in my lap. And playing Scrabble. And Yahtzee. And one of those Jacqui Lawson games where you explode balls. The morning of the day Gwen came home, after Lucy fell asleep on me I watched three episodes of Frasier on Netflix.
The mornings with Lucy had become a cherished routine. The only part of this intimate ritual I am keeping private is how many salmon treats I gave Lucy. Gwen reads my blog posts.