I can’t find the picture of you. I have two of them. One of them is of you and the dog, taken with a fisheye lens. The other one I found years after it was taken. It fell out of a Norton Anthology – the big green one, with tissue paper pages – along with some concert tickets to bands I’m embarrassed to have liked. I won’t talk about the bands, but I’ll talk about you. You were the worst. You were the best. I got you from a lady I worked with. I don’t remember anything about her except that she was larger and wore those mysterious pants that fall somewhere between sweatpants and slacks that women of her size tend to wear. “You want a kitten?” was how she asked me. At least that’s how I tell the story now. I said I had been thinking about it and she said she’d see if she had anything she thought I’d like. I wasn’t sure how this woman, with whom I’d probably exchanged seven words, would be able to pick the perfect cat for me, but everybody’s an expert at something sometimes.
She came back into my office a few days later. “You still want a kitten?” Sure, why the hell not. She gave me her address in Columbia PA. Columbia sits geographically along the river, near Harrisburg but it is culturally and socio economically dead on the wrong side of the tracks. It is the kind of place that, in my youth, conjured the magic of a species that until recently I thought only existed in Pennsylvania in the late 80′s and early 90′s: the hessian. A recent Joseph Gordon Levitt vehicle has made me realized that this particular brand of greasy longhair was not a phenomenon unique to the Keystone State.
I went to coworker’s house on a weekend and parked my car on a hill. I walked down the hill to her house and the thing about Columbia is that it exists in some sort of metaphorical space that no matter where you are going, you will always be walking down a hill to get there once you park. I could hear the cats, your brothers and sisters, halfway up the block. The yowling was followed by the stench of litter and urine. I knocked on the screen door. Coworker came to the door and greeted me casually, as if nothing was amiss what with all the screaming cats and stench of shit. C’mon in, or something like that, she said. I took exactly one half step in. I kept the other leg on the porch, for safety. “Think I got one over here that’d be perfect for ya,” she said, lifting the front of a lazy boy, sending kittens and cats skittering while one, a little grey one with splotches of brown sat there. She grabbed the kitten by the scruff and handed it to me. “What do you think?” Sure, great, I like grey, this one’s a keeper, ok, gotta go. I backed out of the house and back up the hill.
I put you on the passenger seat of my car. I can’t even remember why I had a camera. Did I bring it to take a picture of you? Was it just in my car? What camera was it? Was it a disposable? I remember nothing of taking the picture, of the drive home, of walking you into my apartment. But I did take a picture that day and you were so tiny and scared. And today on that table you looked so tiny and scared again.
Now all I want is that fucking picture to fall out of that fucking Norton Anthology again because I can’t find the picture or the book.