The Visitor

cream cheese
and honey,
some chocolate syrup.

the things our young
piece together
despite the solemn vow
to never sit down,
slurping crunchy Ramen.

striped straws
and cups,
a makeshift interview.

invitations by laptop
scatter salt
upon tasteless plans
that cannot cross
unattended streets.

cotton blouse
and hat,
sunburned friendships.

Cat No. 53 of the 500 Cats Project

heat wave

light off the horizon
bounces back onto you,
shielding your eyes
and patting your knees.

unruly bangs in flight,
disrupted and singed
like shavings of whiskers,
exploration clipped.

it is doubtful we’ve met
though the humming I hold
operates on AAA batteries
charged again, thoughtlessly.

the coolness of soil
in margarine pots
are the feathered pillows
you’d like to buy.

my shadow stays put
and my nods remain curt
while you turn towards home,
checkered tennis shoes far apart.

Cat No. 52 of the 500 Cats Project

We are going to China.

Charlie, we’ll go on a journey.
The one I’ve promised,
for every seared slice
of pork I’ve snatched
from your bright red bowl.

We are going to China,
whether you like it or not.
But I’ve got a feeling,
as you giggle upright,
that anywhere’s better than here.

You spy a chaparral inches away
and utter suggestions
humbly like those guilty moths
that destroyed sissy’s sweater.
Not quite soft, not quite us.

I chew on my paw and dig,
remembering all your belated birthdays
and how I tried to apologize,
falling on my back,
greetings unheard.

Wine glasses chime from within
and they draw from a hat.
Summer downpour waiting.
I will continue to hope
while you pack our bags.

Cat No. 51 of the 500 Cats Project

Grey Cloud, Adored

You are not a boyfriend, though I’m confident that no one should surpass you in the ranks of cuteness and agility. While the toilet’s ceramics remain dustless and compact, you protest every morning, pawing underneath a closed door, announcing your hurt feelings. Though you’ve been here for less than ten days, you’ve already pushed me out of bed. The daiquiri futon is yours, but only as you wish. The same applies to leaps and twists before my alarm clock rings. You journey when you want to, and only when you want to. However, the “where” confines itself to the corners of our efficiency.

For now, we make with what we have. A plaid wool blanket over bistro table packaging, a box from the Post Office wedged between pillows the size of you. You wriggle, emulating ergonomic comforts, but you also test for breast cancer with little sensitivity. Of course, I’d be wearing a work blouse, laying in bed and reaching for conversational profundities in the film Pretty Woman. You seem to tolerate it more than Jim Gaffigan’s impression of humans as self-cleaning animals. You’re a masseuse who presses like metal on cows. The shrewd, but concerned nurse who wanders the halls of adolescent mental wards, scolding the children for giggling, but not with qualified annoyance. After all, they are children, and I am a people-fearer with thoughts best quantified by the gallon of milk you wish you could relish every day. I hear you retreat when I lock the door, and I see you dance half past five. You’re a clock of numbers with rotating typeface, ticking consistently as moods shift.

You are not an adopted child. Perhaps that is my role. Or maybe I’m just that girl with the damp spiral on which you sit while exorcising your own tangled demons. I’ve lost track of all my unruly split-ends, so I suppose I can somewhat sympathize. I’ve noticed you enjoy simple things. Flat surfaces, and five-foot descents. If it weren’t for you, my latest ugly Christmas sweater would have hung limp in one of my three closets. Naturally, your favorite neighbors the bathroom, and daily, I see you opening it, straining yourself to play a tuneless accordion to enjoy its creaky song every single time.

I assume you feel I’m a lot of work, though you’re too polite to say so. A week ago, you lowered yourself into the sink when I called for you. I’m unsure as to whether this relates to my giving you canned salmon that same morning, or the paper bowl of unfinished Lucky Charms wobbling on the nearby stovetop. I caught you rolling your eyes as I circled my thumbs through your skin. Then you meekly growled when I dialed for the pet E.R. I told them you were lethargic, that I didn’t really know you, that I just wanted to give you a preventative bath so mosquitoes could feast unrivaled.

***

“You’ve never had a cat, yes?” The veterinary technician didn’t try not to laugh.

“No, this is my first. He used to be a friend’s, and I’ve always liked him, so I took him home, and he’s nice. Needy, but docile.” This was probably your fifth night at my apartment, and I hardly knew anything of you.

“So, you’re not exactly sure what makes for typical behavior.”

“No, I don’t really know. Oh my God, he’s purring.” You closed your eyes and I held your face, counting the seconds between each blink.

“Oh?” There was coughing at the line’s other end.

“I mean, is it normal?”

“What’s normal?”

“The purring! He’s not even fighting me. He’s hardly moving. Oh my God, he’s a little ball and I’m pouring more water and he won’t even fight.”

“Well, not all of them do.” She realized my panic was serious. I’ve admired cats from afar, but I never had the privilege of having one lick my salty fingers.

“What?”

“Every cat’s different. Not all of them hate baths. Some are even lethargic by nature.”

“So he’s not having a seizure.” I declared, rather than asked for reassurance.

“Again, it depends on the cat.” My ears burned scarlet as I sensed the vet tech smirk from the northwest side of town. “Look, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Finish the bath and keep a good eye on her. If she still seems slow tomorrow morning, walk her in and we’ll take a look.”

“Will do.” I nodded, chin pushing buttons I fought not to touch while running my hand through your Dawn-soaked ruffles.

“Oh, and one more thing.” This amused operator ignored the flatness of a clumsily dialed “7.”

“Yes?”

“Don’t use Hartz flea drops. That results in seizures.”

You climbed onto the counter as I ended the call. I wondered what I said to leave an impression that you were ever a “she.” Hardly dry, you speckled our sofa, spreading your legs and chewing on the down around your crotch. I had reason enough to rename you George Michael. You had, and will have, countless reasons to dash for shelter when I come home. Endearingly, you’re shameless. I’m the neurotic one, moving about like a laser beam, but not quite so awesome.

***

You are a patient roommate, emerging from your bed box every morning with a warbling roar that demands a lion’s mane. I’m skeptical of the fact that you’re seven years old, but I’m sure you think to yourself that I’m five as milk spots my blazers when I finish my Fruit Loops. Every morning, you scratch. Not so much on the sofa, but on that ugly Christmas sweater. Finally, it’s serving its purpose, a coarse piece of parchment for your sarcastic poetry.

Arriving a week after I moved in, you’re actually more than a roommate. A crisis line without static, as long as I leave birthday parties with barbecue instead of balloons. Unlike the childhood goldfish, and despite your affinity for the cool and wet, you’re grappling with complex things. Ambivalence, fear, apprehension. But you don’t seem to dislike me. At least your claws haven’t said so.

*Like his roommate, George Batman Michael dabbles in creative writing. Follow him on Instagram for daily updates and experiments in free verse.