Orange Cat

Published online in Quickly, May 2013 and in print in City Works, 2013

 Orange Cat

 End of the hall, a long, dark and narrow passage, a crook to the left, another to the right, then bright morning sunlight from the open door to the fire escape. And next to it, our room, #416. Princely digs on a pauper’s budget. For $25 a night more than the usual dark claustrophobic box, we swagger over our two queen beds in a spacious roomy room, two big windows facing south, not into an alleyway or an elevator shaft or a window in another room in another hotel, but south across a swath of the city skyline of buildings, tall and short, old and new, stark and scalloped, the many-storied Marriott with its outside elevators creeping up and down its side like giant banana slugs on a tree trunk.

I’m me and he’s he, but we’re not the same me and he who boarded a jammed Southwest flight 391 in San Diego this morning and got off an hour and a half later in San Francisco. We left something behind—shrugged off the dailyness of our lives, discarded like our cats shedding their winter coats—leaving spaces, like blank pages in a book, or empty wine bottles, ready for new words or new wine, fresh thoughts and experiences to fill the gaps.

I watch an orange cat with a long expressive tail in the window of a room two floors up in a building on the next block. He bats at the vertical blinds, blithely unaware of an audience yet ostentatiously sleek and chic as a model on a runway, pacing back and forth on his catwalk before he weaves back through the blinds and out of sight. I whisper, “Are you asleep?” to the quilt-covered mound on the other bed, deep into the luxury of a mid-day doze, but there’s no response. In his catnap, he’ll miss the ginger tabby, but he’s usually the more observant one, seeing much that I miss. “Did you notice her nail polish?” he asked me after the server poured our coffee at breakfast. I hadn’t, though her hand had crossed in front of my eyes. “Yellow-ochre,” he said, drawing from the vocabulary of his painter’s palette. I looked when she came back to take our order. How did I miss it? Though I’d have called it “Dijon mustard.”