I woke up at 3:30 AM to the distant sound of cats fighting. We have three cats. And although one might immediately assume that the sound was coming from inside the apartment, I can assure you, the sound was not.
Earlier that day, we had ordered a bottle of wine while sitting outdoors at a cafe. I was trying to get acquainted with a new idea. He was there to read. We ordered a Chardonnay. The wine made the inside walls of my mouth meet up. “They call this a pucker,” I had thought. “What a strange word.”
“Did you know that some people believe that feeling sorrowful is a sickness and can be cured?” I asked him without looking up from my pages.
“Yes, I do remember hearing that.” He answered without looking up from his.
The day was a little drowsy. Still the sun worked hard to be seen. For the most part, we sat in silence. There was one point where our thoughts were splintered by the sound of two feral cats. The sound came from the empty lot next to the café. I wondered if cats made their fights sound worse than they really were. A bird fled the scene by air.
The idea of sorrow being considered an illness made me feel sad. Why would anyone want to fix such a thing? Aren’t we supposed to feel sad every once and a while? These thoughts lay answerless. A lot of thoughts enter and leave my head without the partnership of an answer.
“I wonder if those same people believe happiness is an illness as well.”
I could see myself in the reflection of his dark, mirrored sunglasses. I didn’t like the way I looked. I could see the wrinkles taking root around my eyes and my lips were growing thinner by the day. Even my freckles seemed to want a break.
“You know, the Apple Store had its grand opening last Friday in mid-town. Apple is calling it its ‘Flag Ship’ store. I seem to remember the ‘Flag Ship’ store being in San Francisco when we lived there. We win. New York City always wins. Screw San Francisco.”
My ability to lean toward cattiness surprised me. I had pulled rank over another city because of a computer store as if I had given birth to New York City and San Francisco was someone’s less fortunate, less attractive child. I continued my thought in hopes of sounding less absurd.
“San Francisco would have been a wonderful city to vacation. But there was something about it that made me feel like I was standing at the edge of the planet. Had they not proven that the world was indeed round, I might imagine that it would have dropped off at San Francisco. I’m not sure why it was that I felt that way. But I did. And it didn’t seem to subside in the six months we were there. Perhaps it would have in time. I’m not sure. But there was something very end-of-the-world about it.”
“No, I know what you mean. There was something very Shel Silverstein about it. I’m pretty sure that San Francisco is where the sidewalk ends.”
I laughed. Leave it to him to lighten a conversation.
“Still, someday I hope that I will be able to put my finger on it.”
The cats howled again. One of them seemed to be losing or maybe it just had the more horrific cry.
“I wish I felt better about my career. I wish I could ask the cynical about sorrow doctors if they believe there’s a cure for stagnation. I wonder if there’s one for frustration.”
I thought about our day and the wine and how we left it there. I thought about how the sun had finally given up as we had made dinner and settled in for the night.
It was nearing 4 AM and I had been prematurely pushed awake. I hadn’t heard from the cats again, which led me to believe that they existed only in a dream. I got out of bed and poured myself a glass of water. Perhaps fluid might remind me of sleep.
I watched the cars move along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and wondered if their inhabitants had just woken up or if their headlights were leading them to chilly bed sheets. I wondered if the cabbies were beginning their shifts, or parting with their final fares, getting ready to call it a night. Or morning.
The sadness I had been unknowingly sleeping off before I had awoken remained on my skin like the steam from a hot shower. I reminded myself of the fact that every time I wake up prematurely in the middle of the night without a punctuated reason I was usually greeted by an oppressive sadness. I knew that it would eventually go away. It always did. Nevertheless, as I stood by the window watching the people move to and from someplace unknown to me, I made a list of things I could do to be a better person come morning when I faced another shift.
(Remember birthdays and holidays even if they make people sad. Listen to him when he speaks. Stop wasting your life and stop blaming everyone else. Take better care of yourself for your body needs a break. Take better care of him. Remember that they won’t be here forever take their calls and visit them more. Stop making excuses. Please stop making excuses.)
The moon hung low in the sky just over Southern Manhattan. It was distorted by atmosphere and therefore seemed very close, close enough to touch. It had fought its way out from beneath the clouds like its light source had earlier that day. I wrapped my arms and legs around it like one might a beach ball on an ocean. I dipped my head back and watched New York City upside down, the city who houses the “Flag Ship” Apple store, the city much smarter than all the other cities, the one with imaginary, fighting cats. I hung upside down for a while, letting the blood rush to my head. I let the moon hold me in place and I bobbed up and down, floating along the heavy thoughts of all those who awoke prematurely to an incurable and necessary sorrow.