1. It Follows
I stepped out for a cigarette this morning and an old Korean woman, clutching a gray and white Shih Tzu, stumbled into me, wild hair, mask askew, eyes in a panic, stomping the ground with one foot and hissing Korean toward a cat, a black cat, with only one ear that I recognized from before the pandemic began when I saw it under a car one day in the rain where I’d gotten close and opened a can of tuna for it, but it ran off rather than be near me, though it wasn’t afraid now, looking up at the woman, the Shih Tzu, and eventually: me, while the woman was saying something to me in Korean back at the cat who moved closer; eyes latched to the Shih Tzu as it walked between my legs, rubbing its body against my calf before it looked up at me and I felt I could read its mind: “I’ll let you have the old lady if you leave me the Shih Tzu,” is what it was about to say before our connection was broken by the arrival of a car, a silver Hyundai that pulled up with the door opened that the old Korean woman dove through, Shih Tzu first, and then the car took off so I said “oh well,” to the cat and reached down to scratch the back of its neck but it leaned away and looked up at me so that I could see myself through its eyes: masked, tired, lonely, disinfected, and it scoffed, turned its back, and strut slowly away even though I called, before it got out of earshot, “you’re not safe either, you know” but it didn’t turn, didn’t give me the satisfaction, only walked, as if with all the time in the world, in the direction the silver Hyundai had gone.
I drink a glass of water before bed. I stand and watch my cats try to eat the cockroaches crawling over my cutting board. Those damn cockroaches. The first time I saw them, I went numb behind the ears and almost puked. Six cans of Raid, a dozen roach traps, a kitchen full of containers filled with dried goods and one month later, I just watch them. There are hundreds more now; many of them are babies. Someone has been getting their freak on. Good for them. In the morning, reality knows only two things: the roaches have fled into the cutlery drawer, or the dish rack, the rice maker, the cabinet beneath the sink, the cracks in the walls, above the shelves, beneath the floorboards, behind the toilet, under the bath, or in some other dark nook, cranny, or crevice inside this apartment of seemingly endless dark nooks, crannies, and crevices; also the cats are hungry. I am truly grateful that they are so fat and sweet, those cats, and they cuddle. But hell, what good are they, really.
It is 3P.M. I decide to take a shower. I take off my sweatpants. Wash up. Put my sweatpants back on. On my way back to my desk I notice there are three empty tins of cat food on the bookcase. It must be Wednesday. I find my cat at the bottom of the stairs. How are you baby? I ask. Meow, he says. Oh, it’s Thursday. I go back upstairs and open a new can for him. I’m living at my mother’s house. Her back porch looks out onto a parking lot. She bought a decorative vase for me to leave my cigarettes in. Ashtrays are nasty, she said. I go out there to smoke. There is a dumpster in the parking lot and behind it, a swamp. A group of kids are rolling around on skateboards. I want to shoot them with a BB gun. We’ve got to have a BB gun somewhere, I think. One of the kids looks up at me. I realize I am scratching my crotch. He frowns. I wave. Sorry, I call out to him. It is hot. I go back inside. I take off my sweatpants and cut them above the knees. I put them back on and go outside for another cigarette. The kids are gone. A raven is perched on the end of the porch. It watches me. I wave. I hold out my arm and it flies over to perch on my wrist. Holy shit, I think. I feel special. Its claws tighten and it hurts. Ow! I cry. It doesn’t move and I panic. I shake my arm and it flies off. I’m sorry! I call after it. I turn to see my cat in his bed, suctioned to the window, watching and, though I must be imagining it, chuckling.