Love Cats by Bayveen O’Connell

It’s the first full moon since he went back to Germany. You told him you’d follow, give in your notice at the library. He emails every second day, a generation Y old-schooler. It’s sweet, it’s your thing, it’s how you met. You made contact, asked if he’d do a reading for National Book Day, September. Sometimes he sends selfies at his writing desk on the days he doesn’t email. You’re not fooled by the scattered mess of post-its, you know his mind is a crisp Excel file. He asks you how you are and what you’re reading.

This Monday you send a selfie with a glass of Merlot and The Cat by Colette. It’s an in-joke, perfect because in Madigan’s, after the library Q &A, when the cover band struck up the first chords of Love Cats, you saw a flash in his eye and he followed you onto the dance floor.

He emails about your choice of story: “Who’s the asshole, the wife or the cat?” It’s all been very playful up to now, but you feel that this is something of a challenge. Possession and jealousy, such sticky notions. The cat owned the man first, didn’t she? But why can’t the man be the asshole for his indecision? You take out your black thin-line pen and sketch a triptych:a couple walking a cat on a leash, a cat walking a couple on a leash, a man alone with a ring in one hand and a collar in the other. You scan it and send it to him.

He never asks when you’re coming, if you’re coming. He left the proposal there, hanging in the headiness of his hot breath in your ear: “You draw, I’ll script, let’s make a graphic novel or six, between, you know, afternoons of…”

Was this him rubbing up against you? Marking you, leaving his stubborn white hairs on your pristine black tights? You wonder how he’s going to respond to the leashes and the cats and prepare for a stretched wait.

On Thursday, there’s a crispness in the air as you lock up. The last of the yellowed leaves scrape at the gutters. You walk along Fitzwilliam Quay beside the canal and hear a shuffling behind you. Turning, no-one’s there, instead it’s a scrawny whippet, standing, shivering with tufts gone out of its coat. It stares up at you and you move closer, seeing no collar. What can be done for this unloved thing? You pet it with your glove and it stops shaking, so you let it follow you home. Into the bath it goes, you hose it down and bundle it in the fluffiest towel you have. After dinner, with the dog beside you on the couch, you open your laptop. There it is, right on time, an email from him. But you don’t open it.

Bayveen O’Connell is based in Dublin, loves travel and gravitates towards dark things. Her flash, CNF and poems have appeared in The Cabinet of Heed, Former Cactus, Lonesome October Lit, Molotov Cocktail, Train Lit Mag, Boyne Berries and others.