Frank unexpectedly dropped by with a new lady friend, Theresa, just as we were about to have dinner. Seems no matter how liberated I am or how emancipated women become, the preparation of a meal always plays out the same: the men are outside by the grill holding bottles of beer and talking baseball while the women are inside cutting vegetables, marinating the meat, preparing the salads, basically doing all the things a meal requires outside of dousing the coals with lighter fluid and setting them afire.
I enjoyed chatting with Theresa and found her to be funny and sharp. I was surprised she was with Frank — not because I thought Frank should be with someone boring and stupid but because Frank already had a girlfriend. But I could see what Frank saw in Theresa. She knew how to roast peppers and that it’s good to put grated cheese into tomato sauce. She told stories about her mother and her ex-husband and how she drove out to Bridgehampton one weekend from Jersey and didn’t come back for two years. I couldn’t really talk to Frank’s current girlfriend, Joanne. She drank too much. The first time I met her, she came by to show me how to wallpaper because I’d botched the job I was doing in my bathroom. But she was drunk and kept leaving the pieces soaking in the water for so long, nearly all the glue came off. She’d then slap them on the wall in such a way that everything veered to the right. At least the patterns matched from one piece to the next. Not. The next time she came by, we had just bought these 1960s-style teacup chairs. We had friends over, and Joanne once again drank too much. She sang loudly, talked too much, and kept spinning our 80-year old neighbor, Emily, round and round in one of the teacup chairs.
As I was toasting the bread to serve with pesto, Bruce walked into the kitchen holding our cat.
“I told you she’d come back,” he said, spilling the cat into my arms.
I took the cat in my arms and kept rubbing her back with my hand as the girl who’d found her explained what happened. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. All I could see was Fish, and all I could feel was how she lay in my arms like a wilted flower. It was like holding syrup. She was maleable. This is what trauma looks like, I thought. She must be exhausted. But she was loving, and gentle, a much nicer cat than the one who’d ran away from our house five days earlier. Whatever she’d been through had made her a better pet. She was downright docile.
Over the next three days, I kept asking our neighbor, Trish, who was a party to Fish’s rescue, to tell me the story about how Fish was found because for some reason the information simply wasn’t sinking in. They found her by which house? She was sitting in grass or ivy? Apparently, the young woman who’d found her was walking on the street parallel to ours with her husband, her daughter and her dog, when she spotted Fish lying in the grass. They’d just come from the ice cream shop and had seen one of the posters I’d put up there.
“Isn’t that the lost cat from the poster?” the woman said to her husband.
She started calling out Fish’s name and the cat responded. She asked the man who lived the across the street, Kevin, if he knew the cat and if perhaps it was the cat that had gone missing. Kevin still had one of the flyers I had stuck in people’s mailboxes a few days earlier. His wife called the phone number listed there but got no answer (while I’d stapled flyers to every utility pole in town, I left my cell phone at the bottom of my knapsack where I couldn’t hear it). Knowing approximately where I lived, Kevin took the young woman came around the corner to my block and found my neighbor, Trish, standing outside. They asked her if she could identify my cat.
As Trish followed them back around the corner, the young woman said, “She’s very friendly.”
Trish said when she heard that, she thought, “That’s not Fish.”
But when she looked at the cat lying in the grass, Trish said, “Huh. That is Fish.”
As they carried her around the corner and got closer to my house, Fish began to meow loudly and squirm impatiently in the young woman’s arms.
“She obviously knew where she lived,” Trish said as she recounted the story to me, for the third time.
“Do you think she was meowing like that because she wanted to come home, or because she didn’t want to come home?” I asked.”