“Read it again!” she exclaimed, with barely contained enthusiasm.
“Again? This would be the third time” the reader half-objected, half-noted.
“I’m nervous about tomorrow”
“You’ll do fine. It will be like defending your bachelor thesis, only this time you’ve already gone through the motions once before. The other soon-to-be masters will be more nervous than you”
“I know. But. Read”
“Fine. Here goes. Ahem. I am a Cat, by Natsume Sōseki. Chapter one”
Leaves fell on this wet autumn morn, and the library was in a festive mood. A large number of new books had been brought in, mostly by queer authors. To say that the new wing would be focused on gender would be something of an understatement; it would catch the general drift, but not convey the magnitude of the tornado about to hit the readership. There was a theme, and there was a lot of it.
Detractors called it the gay wing; the bureaucracy had a far less inspiring name in mind. But one sneaky librarian had gone the extra length of acquiring a plus-sized copy of the Gay Science, to be featured prominently at the fore on this opening day.
A gay morn, indeed.
She didn’t know much about these things, but she knew they were not supposed to meow. This was enough reason for her to make the call.
She made the call.
“It meows”, she said by means of introduction. “It’s not supposed to meow.”
“Are you calling me just because you want me to come over?”
Without even the slightest hint of hesitation, she replied. “Yes. Also, it’s not supposed to meow.”
“I’ll be right over”, the voice on the other end said affectionately.
The mood was somber, yet strangely cheerful. Funerals are seldom merry occasions, but this one was something close to it. There are tragic deaths where everything just stops, where those left behind have to rebuild their lives in toto ex post facto. Then, there are less dramatic deaths, where everyone involved saw it coming and had made their peace with it before it happened. Both are losses, but the latter seemed the proper way to go. There is a dignity to it, of knowing how to live and how to die, and how to proceed from there.
The room was somber, but there were also laughs. Somehow, the two went together. Remembering the one who passed also meant remembering all the shenanigans he had been involved in over his many years, and the retelling could only be a source of merriment for those who remembered. More so for those who only just now found out.
Them finding out was what he’d wanted. So they did. And laughed.
The little one purred. For being such a small creature, it had a surprisingly deep and resounding purr. Merely a small pile of fur, the little feline happily reverberated in absolute content.
“Did you know” she said, rubbing the little subwoofer behind the ear, “that when cats purr, they are connected to every other purring cat in the world?”
He smiled and gently affected its belly. “Listening to this one, it sounds like a galactic hivemind of purr.”
“That sounds about right” she said as the little one somehow purred ever louder, perfectly in tune with the world.
She was the bringer of good news. The hospital also had a bringer of bad news, but she was not it. Bringing good news is very different from bringing bad news, and she had only learnt how to bring the good ones. So she did. She made the calls to inform that, yes, he had survived, yes, it was a girl, yes, everything went fine, she should be up and about before anyone knew it. It was good news, and it was hard work.
More than once she had been reprimanded for being more of a messenger of hope than a hospital employee, and more than once the good fortune had changed. Nothing was certain, until it was.
But. Someone had to share the good news when there was any. She was that someone. Of this, at least, she was certain.
After the news of the breakup had broken, a surprising number of concerned friends had shown up to offer condolences and emotional support. As breakups go, it wasn’t a bad one. Sometimes, these things just do not work, and when both parties agree about it, breaking up is just the proper thing to do. But the sheer amount of friends made him feel like a traffic cop from those old movies – move along, nothing to see here, circulate.
While he was touched and moved by the sheer volume of emotional disaster preparedness displayed, he was also struck by how misdirected it was. Somewhere in his mind was a suspicion that he might be conflating needing and deserving, but, for the time being, he had more pressing concerns. What did you even do with half a dozen casseroles?
The sound was comforting. A light drizzle, nothing remarkable, just rain. But the sound of it brought back memories of an old home, of how things used to be in another time and another place. Things do change over time, and life has no patience for things standing still, but some things do make the memories return. Sometimes happy, sometimes melancholy, sometimes just a simple marvel of rediscovering. Memories come in shapes and sizes.
This drizzle. It was hard to determine just what emotional memory it resurfaced, except this fleeting but necessary sense of comfort.
It seemed a good idea to linger for a while.
At the bottom of the box, there was an MP3 player. An old-style, physical, single purpose MP3 player, which did nothing but play the files stored upon it. It had been years since she last saw the thing, and curiosity (combined with a slight weariness of the spring cleaning process) made her take a moment to rediscover what was on it.
Turns out, it was a mixtape she had made for a friend. All the best post-breakup songs her younger self could muster, in one single package. The friend had made up with the whomever, way back when, so there had been no reason to gift the mixtape at the time. However, at present, it would be more useful than she really wanted to admit.
She returned to the work at hand.
He looked at the portrait. Despite his efforts, something was off. A single nuance of color off, to be precise. He could not tell exactly what, but something was not what it was supposed to be. Even though everything was ostensibly as it should – every object was in its proper place, and the portrait looked like the person it was supposed to depict – something was still irking him.
Even though the client probably would not notice, he had to find out what it was. So he set out to paint another portrait. His restless worry would allow nothing else.