8.02 / February 2013

Iao’s Strays

listen to this story

I’m watching you watching all those cats and what I’m seeing is the big fight that happened here over two hundred years ago. All the blood and bodies that filled up the valley. I’m watching you ignoring the green walls that I swear are creeping closer like the army is on the other side, pushing us toward the Iao Needle, the peak that’s higher than the Eiffel Tower. I’m remembering how earlier I showed you the guidebook and told you the story of the great King Kamehameha, and how you were bored with everything except for the part about the Iao cats.

I’m thinking about flying home alone.

I’m changing my ticket, I’m getting drunk in the bar at the airport. I get the window seat for once. I’m grinning as the flight attendant hands me my second vodka and tomato.

I’m remembering I used to think it was great that you could love beaten-up things, homeless cats and dogs and people. I’m seeing all those fleas you’re about to invite on your hand and up your arm and into your clothes, mega-sized Hawaiian fleas, I mean have you seen the cockroaches here? Even though I said don’t touch the cats, you’re not supposed to, they’re wild. Of course it has to be the one with a missing eye and open sores and a cauliflower ear, of course you have to choose the most disgusting thing to love. I’m feeling nauseous and it’s not just the way the valley seems to be sucking us in, like we could get trapped beneath the bones. Now you’re stroking the thing and it’s rubbing up against you, all over your legs. I’m listening to a tourist with two cameras around his neck tell you not to pet the cat, that it could bite and feral means wild don’t you know that Miss. Now he’s heading for me and chuckling, saying your sister sure likes animals and I want to say we’re not sisters like all those times before except then I was proud of it. I’m getting that up-and-down look from him and it makes me feel dirty because he’s old but I kind of like what he’s doing. I look down at my camera and feel ashamed for telling you I don’t like taking pictures of people and that’s why you’re not in any from this trip. After six years you know I’m lying because there are no new things after so long together except I don’t want to be with you, I don’t love you, goodbye.

I swear I’m not seeing this but you are picking the thing up and it’s all over your shirt and I am backing away. I’m yelling at you, Monny I fucking mean it and you’re crying and saying something about a vet and I’m like Monica you better not be serious, these cats live in fucking paradise, look around you.

I’m trying to stay on the winding road. The cat is shitting, it’s actually shitting and you won’t let me open a window because the cat could get loose and jump out. I am for sure going to throw up. Your directions are terrible so I’m pulling over. I stop near the shack where we had those Mai Tais and I am rewriting the memory so that it happened with someone else, so that when the cute waitress calls me Hon, the girl I am with is proud. The girl I am with (who is not you, are you getting this?) does not go all funny and charge outside and stay angry until I have to apologize, me. She didn’t have this idea that the two of us would come here and hide away in some cabin on the beach without seeing anyone for ten days. She doesn’t know it’s possible to want to tuck me away, to want to stow a person.

I am looking for my wallet when I remember you have it and the big guy at the counter is rolling his eyes and my face is going red because he’s already made me the drink. I am wondering if there is change in the car because without my wallet I can’t drink this Mai Tai and do this shot and then the next thing on my list which is call a cab and get on that plane without you. I find a five-dollar bill in my pocket and say don’t worry about the shot. I close my eyes and behind my eyelids, in the stuff I usually see there, crouching among all the flickering lights and lines and blobs of color, is you.

My eyes are wet and I look for a napkin and the shot is in front of me. The waitress, the one from the other night, says Hon it’s on the house. I am seeing how I could tell her everything, how I would go home with her. How not very long after I would get on that plane by myself and in the window seat I would order my drinks (without you feeling left out) and watch whatever movie I wanted (without you saying Tessie let’s save it, watch it together). The waitress is taking my hand and telling me I am beautiful. She hopes whoever he is will get his act together soon. I am squeezing her hand, my fingers wrapped around the diamonds on her wedding band.

In the vet’s office I ask for you but the man at the desk says you’ve already left. You weren’t at the car. I am across the street and on the beach and at first I can’t see you but halfway down, there. I am feeling bad for thinking you remind me of one of those wobbly toys that can’t fall down, the way you are sitting there cross-legged, holding your stomach in your hands. Like I do every time I look at you, I think of how it was me who made you this way, how all the convincing and planning and doing is all on me.

You don’t look at me when I sit down. I say I need my wallet back. You tell me they can’t do much for the cat except put her down or sedate her long enough to get back to Iao. You say she was so sweet, she licked your hand when they laid her out on the table. You say if the cat goes back after being at the vet, the other cats might attack her when they pick up the foreign smells. They said you shouldn’t have touched her. You say I was right. You hand me the car keys and my wallet.

You tell me you’re thinking of staying on here a while, alone. That you’d like to have the baby in a place where once you were happy. You want to show him the Iao Valley, where all the war and blood and bodies are a story on a placard, and now people come from all around, to see the family of feral cats.

Eiko Alexander has stories published or forthcoming in Pachinko! and 13 Magazine, and recently completed a novel called BAD KID. She lives in Toronto and makes websites for a living, sometimes in her pajamas.
8.02 / February 2013