Nick and I had just nished having lunch. We didn’t hang out too much anymore. Basic kind of adult shit, not malicious in any way. He and I both had jobs, I’d been seeing this girl (the one with the nose ring I met at the party the month before, she said I remind her of “a young Jack Nicholson”…) and besides that we’d just kind of had our routine. I used to see Nick at least twice a week. I don’t want to say we’re growing apart but it feels like we are on different pages sometimes. I am still in the same apartment down in the East Village. I could probably get a better place for the same amount of money but I just hate moving.
So anyways, Nick and I get to my front door and I start getting my keys out of my pocket. I press 5B, my buzzer.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Nick asked me.
“I’m ringing my buzzer? Why?”
“But you live by yourself? Do you expect someone to buzz you in or something?”
“No, it’s for my cat. I buzz up to let him know I’m coming. I gure it’s like Pavlov’s
dogs. If dogs can be taught to salivate at the sound of a bell, I gure my cat would learn to expect me coming home by the ringing of my buzzer. I work 40 hours a week, I feel bad for the little guy cooped up in 250 square feet.”
I still hadn’t found my keys yet but I could tell Nick was looking at me in judgment. I don’t want to be the weird cat owner, but I care about Terry. I got him when he was just a kitten from the shelter and he moved with me from the Rust Belt to the big city. I feel like he actually appreciates my presence. Sometimes he sleeps all day, but those moments when I’m trying to read a magazine or a something and he just puts his face right into mine as if to say, “You know I’m alive here, right?” in the most loving way really make me realize he acknowledges my existence as I do his. It’s like my solipsism is cured for just one moment.
“Do you have an issue with me caring for my cat?” I asked Nick.
“No, I just really don’t get it. You think your cat really knows its you ringing the bell?”
“Well yeah, I ring it at the same time every day basically unless I have to do something late. And usually when that’s the case I fill his food bowl up with extra food so that’s his clue that I won’t be back. Cats are smart. When babies play peekaboo they are amazed because they think when they can’t you see you actually disappear, but when a cat is just a kitten and they see a ball go behind a chair or something they know that it’s going to come out the other end. We don’t get that ability until we’re whatever.. 2 years old? I don’t know, but either way, yeah I think Terry knows it’s me ringing the bell. Every time I come home he’s sitting right by the door.”
We walked up the stairs. There were windows at every landing. The last of the remaining daylight on the wall looked like a surrealist painting, a window pane’s shadow became a crooked crucifix.
Nick turned to me. “What about the mailman?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Like the mailman. If they’re trying to deliver a package or something don’t they ring the bell? And if they presumably come during business hours and you are at work then they will buzz but no one will come up. Or even if someone just bumps into it. Or a food delivery person ringing the wrong apartment.”
“Yeah.. but wait, no. I already said I ring the bell at the same time every day.”
“Do you get the idea of animal years? Like a dog is ve years old in people years but 50 years in dog years or whatever? Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“Yeah I know what you’re talking about. But if you’re saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks I’m going to have to disagree. I had to get a new litterbox last year and Terry had no hesitation in using it right away, he was like seven years old then.”
“I’m not talking about that. What I mean to say is… think about it like this. You know how time seems to get shorter as you get older? It’s because the longer you live, the more time becomes a variable. Like an hour when you’re a teenager seems longer than
it does at our age. Because we’ve lived more hours. And it seems less significant. I mean think about it, there’s 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Every year that goes by that marginal amount of time seems less and less because you’ve experienced, like, thousands of more hours.”
“If a cat only lives for 10, 15 years, then a cat hour is probably way longer than
a human hour. If you’re at work from nine-to-five, then that’s probably like a cat week. Like imagine if you were a kid and your parents went to work Monday morning and left you unattended until Sunday night. If you knew your parents were coming home because they rang the bell on Sunday night, don’t you think you’d be excited if someone rang the bell on Thursday morning? Like maybe mom and dad came home early.”
“I don’t know. I never thought of it like that.”
“I’m not trying to get down on you. It’s your cat, you can do whatever you want withit.”
“No I know. Now I just feel bad like I’ve set my cat up for this depression. Every time someone rings the bell and I’m not there it probably sits there waiting for me. For like a half of a cat week. Fuck. That’s really terrible of me.”
We nally got to my door. I unlocked the deadbolt and opened it. Terry was sitting right there where he normally is when I come home. Nick bent over and scratched him right behind his ear where he liked it. “Sorry we kept you waiting,” he said.
— Ned Russin