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A Young Cat



A Young Cat

“As much as it may be hurting, try to enjoy what it is you’re feeling.”

She was looking at him now, trying to figure out what he had just said. She had come into the bookstore, as she often did after school, to browse through the books, and to pass the time in storybook conversation. But today she had come in looking sad. And so he put his catalogues down, and he asked her what it was that had so surely spoiled her day. She had raised her head at the sound of his voice. She had long since established for herself she could trust his friendly interest. Then she took her hands out of her skirt pockets, as if free hands were needful to making him understand her better.

She told him about a boy she has loved for some while, and who had just broken up with his girlfriend of a year and three months. She said she told the boy last week she loved him, and he confessed he felt the same about her. And so he told his girlfriend this afternoon they were finished. His new hopeful watched them from a safe distance. She said she watched them walking away to their separate destinations, and it was just so sad to see them that way. She knew she should be feeling happy, she said, but now she felt bad. And she no longer hated the other girl.

She said that, later, when she saw the boy alone, she told him maybe he should go back to his girlfriend. She told him that all she wanted was for him to be happy. That was when the boy raised his head and looked at her, and he told her she was one crazy girl. Now she figured that maybe he was right. And so she had come in here to stand between these books of swollen days and stark, burning nights, and to ask a book-friend what she should do.

He hadn’t been thinking through the whole of her story. He knew it wasn’t something to be thinking about. Now he was trying to make some sense, for her, of his first automatic response. And so he told her to do nothing. Just let it go where it will. She looked at him for a second stark time. For a second time she was trying to figure out what he was saying.

“It’s what makes all of the other things you have to do worth doing.” But no sooner did he see how she was still looking at him when he realized his mistake.

“It may not make any sense to you now, but it will in awhile. In the mean time, just go on feeling what it is you’re feeling.”

“Why”, was what she demanded of him? He knew then he had said too much. But for once, he decided, he wouldn’t go easy on her. Not just yet.

“Because in ten, maybe fifteen years if you’re lucky, you’ll grow a tendency to channel your feelings through safe places, places you can easily manage and walk around in no time at all. Maybe they’ll seem like big places to you then, but that will only be because you will have become restless like a cat in a zoo who tricks herself into believing a scratching board is a forest. You wont want to feel too much then because you’ll have too much to lose. Maybe you’ll have property, a career, or most likely, you’ll own self-respect. And it will not seem like an unpleasant place to you, it will probably be all very worthwhile. It just won’t be as much as what you’ve discovered for yourself today.”

He saw that she was still looking at him. But this time, he thought, maybe she understood, as she was plunking her hands back into her pockets. Or maybe she realized this was a day all her own, that no one, not even her boy, could walk it with her. It wasn’t long before she was ready to go.

As she was leaving she turned around at the door. She looked at him with eyes not quite crying, but that were far from dry. Then she said, “But why does my body keep hurting? And why do I have to feel so swollen?”

She left her book-friend. She walked on down the avenue. If she was seeing at all, she was seeing more earth than sky. He followed her progress through the window, until she crossed the pavement and entered between the park trees. That is where he lost sight of her, his young cat, to swollen need.

Terreson
May/5/2012, 7:39 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
vkp Profile
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Re: A Young Cat


Oh, my. I feel I could have written this -- though not really as it is pure Terreson. But how beautifully you have captured the girl's feelings. (How'd you do that? I mean, I was a young girl once and I know what she feels. So do you, it seems.) And also you have perfectly conveyed the outcome of so many adult lives. It sounds quite awful as you have written it, though I know it is the happy choice of millions. Sigh.

This piece also seems to complement my story, Stations....

Will read White Rabbit next.
May/6/2012, 8:43 am Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 
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Re: A Young Cat


Thanks for what you say, vkp. Back in the seventies my then wife famously said: It is not right that a man should try to get inside a woman. I say her comment was famous because she made it to a customer in a bar, a lit crit type who ended up quoting her in, I think it was, an essay. Fast forward 3 decades and a friend, a woman poet, on several occassions took me to task for much the same. She was, I guess still is, one of those post-modern, decon, lang po idealogues forever trying to kill off the author while simultaneously objecting to any writer looking to body forth the internal workings of her or his characters. Such projections, she maintained, are false, since, a Modernist illusion itself needing to be deconned. Well, at least my long ago wife was more honest about the matter, more visceral about her fear of getting found out.

Not sure why but a young woman's coming out moment for long preoccupied me. Probably it had to do with that my one child is a woman. When she was a girl I was a little obsessed with how her own such moment would go down for her. Yes. That was my motivation. My Marie story explores the theme. As does The White Rabbit story. Such a huge, pivital moment it is. Can be determining of an entire lifetime. There is always that fork in the road and a first directional choice makes all the difference, just like Frost said, if in a different context. I remember a writer friend's story I published in a lit mag, again back in the 70s. It was about a young man just out of high school who enlists with the Marine Corps. His mother is angry with him for the choice, afraid for him, not liking the thought of what the Corps will do to her beautiful boy. Story ends with him saying to her in a defeated voice: It was the best I could think of.

Anyway, in the spirit of self-preservation I reject the notion that, as author, I need to be killed off. Strikes me as suicidal in both the physical and metaphorical sense. Reject the other notion too. Here is partly why.

Love, romantic love specifically, is not inherent to the human race. It is a cultural manufacture, coming out of the 12th C Troubadors. Point has been amply demonstrated, not really up for argument. Following the Troubadors, both ideologically and prosodically, Dante came along with his famous love for Beatrice. La Vita Nuova was his famous way of broadcasting his love for her through the streets of Florence. His public love for her made her incredibly uncomfortable. One day her lady friends pulled Dante aside and asked him, remonstrated with him, why he did Beatrice so much injury? Question baffled him, made no sense to him. But then he got it. He didn't actually know the woman he loved. He didn't really have a feeling for who she was, what she wanted, dreamed about. All the while he had been objectifying her, not at all concerned with her discrete self. What a stand alone psychological insight that amounted to, arguably come to for the first time in, at least, lit history. That is what his collection of poetry is all about and, again, it evolved out of the preoccupations of the earlier Troubador poets.

But now I'm not supposed to get inside another human being in order to understand her? I find that dehumanizing to the extreme.

Tere
May/6/2012, 12:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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