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Exit Meatball

July 25, 2020

Meatball died the other day. Everybody said he was a good cat.

It has been eight years since I last saw him, eight years since I wrote the last Meatball post here (you can see them all by clicking the tab above, labeled “Meatball”). About a year and a half ago I received word from Ariel, who first brought him to Charlottesville, that he was alive and well, living not far from where I grew up in Northern Virginia. But for all their lordly languor, cats burn hot with life, and never for too long. So news of his death was no great shock. I am sure many were surprised he was still alive, before he died. Even when he was quite young he had an air of maturity about him, and I remember my own surprise, early in our acquaintance, when learning of his youth. Though he did enjoy some kid stuff that gave tell, like scampering up trees and that somewhat regrettable goth phase.

But though the news was no shock, our last meeting long ago, and though I had no expectation of ever seeing him again, Meatball was a pal of my mine, and he cannot pass unmourned.

We live in a time when people can barely even pretend to tolerate other people. And dogs have lost all credibility. They are like uncannily wholesome characters from a ’50s sitcom, all “Gee!” and “Howdy” and “Woof! Woof! Guess who? I’m a dog!” Who can believe in dog’s love? Who feels worthy of it? Or thinks that anyone could really be so happy to see you? Who among today’s humans can help but be suspicious, thinking the dogs are just mocking us with their affection, that when we are gone they go wild, masturbating with our shoes and committing obscenities with our toothbrushes and selling all our sensitive data to Russian hackers? But cats we can believe in. In our terrible loneliness we can reach out to their glorious solitude. You say to a cat, “It’s just you and me buddy,” and it is always true.

Meatball passed through the lives of many people. A few he graciously allowed to feed him. His natural home was the neighborhood, his natural role the hunter. Litter box? Hell, the whole world was his litter box. D.H Lawrence wrote, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” Meatball was an American cat, and matched that description well enough. But he was also soft to the touch, and sometimes all he wanted was for someone to pet him. He was a cutie and people were glad to see him.

When I think of Meatball I think of windows. I already told the one story in “Meatball Memories,” when he came into my room through the open window. But there was also something from back when I first met him, the brief period when we were both living at Fort Summit. Two or three times at least, after spending the whole night out, he would come home at dawn, jump up on my windowsill, and cry out to me through the screen until I woke up and fetched him in. Much later, towards the end of his stay in Charlottesville, I remember being over at the house on Graves Street that had been his house, to the extent that he was housed at all. But at this point he had officially been moved to another place, not far away but beyond his usual territory. He did not accept the move and kept coming back. He was back that night but not allowed inside, so he just stood at the the window, looking in at us. I went over and put my hand on the glass and from his side he rubbed against that spot, as if rubbing against my hand. Not just for moment, he kept doing it, pressing the side of his head and neck against the windowpane. Like a prison visit in a movie, but without the phones, so I don’t know if he was purring.

So now the window is shut, shuttered, and barred forever. In that field of the imagination called life, mine and maybe yours, another beloved is lost for all to come, kept only in memory. I will cherish him there. He was a good friend, an admirable badass, and soft to the touch. To Meatball!

(yet even now the legend grows, of the ghost cat that haunts the street of Graves)



From → Meatball

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