Well, there you are, I say as I open the front door to fetch the paper. Kitten is curled up on the wicker chair by the door, where Ben usually appears in the morning if he happens to get stuck outside at night. Ben comes up the front steps just then, grousing about his breakfast. I scoop him up and bring him inside, where his nice glass bowl is waiting for him on his placemat by the kitchen door. I believe cats should have nice clean pretty bowls from which to eat, and that they should match their water dishes, if possible, and that they should always have a placemat. Cats do not need napkins.
That's what you get for sneaking out at night, I tell him, burying my face in his soft fur. You get stuck and have to stay out there.
Ben quacks a little and I set him down by his food. After all that noise, he only takes a bite or two and then walks off. Ben's breakfast will last all morning. He's a grazer.
Anna's getting married on Saturday, I tell him. Ben is really Anna's cat, on more or less permanent loan from a New York apartment in which his ceaseless quacking was pushing everybody over the edge. Interestingly, his brother -- who remains a New Yorker -- has taken up incessant meowing since Ben left, as if it were a domestic responsibility passed on to him. A family systems clinician ought to write this up.
Today Anna and I will have lunch, her last lunch with me as a single girl. We have lunched through life, she and I: lunches as a break during the school day, when I would swing by Campbell School and grab her for a quick sandwich (we called them "business lunches"), quick lunch breaks in New York restaurants when she was in college, elegant Sunday brunches when she was a young career woman, a salad lunch at the school where she teaches, just a month or two ago. I remember a lunch with my own mother when I was about to have my first baby. And a lunch with that same girl at the trattoria in town, just before her wedding. Last lunches.
Ben has no comment on the upcoming wedding; he will not attend. I am not sure cats understand the bittersweetness of even the best things in life. How joy and sorrow mingle as one era gives way to another. I think that's a human thing.
You don't have any tuna? Ben says silently as he gazes at his bowl.