People Like Cats

You tell me I like people like cats. I like cats—their bodies sit on laps, sprawl desks, stretch alongside thighs during sleep. I like bank tellers who send dog cookies and suckers in the pneumatic tube. At big boxes, I like cashiers handing over the flickering white coil of receipts. I like pushing a mega cart with flats of bubbly water and twenty-five bags of the animal crackers you love. Liking people is like liking cats. Lots of people are like cats—lonesome, winsome, self-lickers of crotch. My aunt was like a cat. She wasn’t a nervous cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She didn’t have any rocking chairs. She just lost her nerve—wouldn’t anyone who loved someone who was gay, trying to pass, who passed time smoking and rolling a cart of drugs. After the divorce, she changed her name, restarted an affair with a married man, and bred a new breed of cats, the Sphinx, folding her hands forever against Scottish Folds. Anymore, she won’t answer her phone. When we visit my ex-uncle with his live-in boyfriend and a futon we can have for free, he makes us dinner, opens your beer, says, I’m not really a barfly, more like a housecat, making me wonder how many housecats there are in the world, and why anyone would want to be a barfly, when you could be a cat. When we get home, me driving DD and you hauling the futon up the stairs, you lay the mattress in the middle of the floor and fall on it, eyes shut, grinning. I crawl into your lap, nuzzle your neck, rubbing my body against your own. You’re right. I say, I like people like cats. Thinking cat snuggles, cat warmth, midnight catcalls, I say, Now that we have a futon, can we get a cat?

LAURA MADELINE WISEMAN’s recent books are An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX [books], 2016) and Leaves of Absence: An Illustrated Guide to Common Garden Affection (Red Dashboard, 2016). Her collaborative book,  Intimates and Fools, is an Honor Book for the 2015 Nebraska Book Award. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.