At Mervyns

As the song says…if you asked me, I could write a book. It would be titled ‘Anxiety and the Quadriplegic,’ and it would be quite boring. I am writing it anyway, that is the problem.

Jane and I are currently domiciled in separate apartments. One being located right above the other, this separateness is hardly acute. As soon as we have a house, our living spaces will merge in the traditional way. For now, we have this, his and hers. And whenever I think about our situation clearly, it seems a sort of luck. Transitional, in other words. Sharing space when we want to, retiring to our corners as required. Which sometimes means that Jane sleeps upstairs in her own bed. Having sometimes to do with the cats, sometimes to do with…whatever.

And what is it with the cats? Well, essentially, they yearn for Jane. If cats can be said to yearn for anything. Cats’ yearnings being shrouded in mammalian mystery. This, by the way, has been demonstrated over the course of several nights recently. Jane has one cat named Nutmeg, a rather beautiful animal. Although, her dramatic motivation in terms of cat theater remains obscure. Doubtless a plot is unfolding, but it is either too complicated or too culturally foreign to follow. Not that one needs to follow it. One is in it playing, like it or not, a supporting role.

This drama begins as the human night falls, that is to say, Jane and I get in bed. Did I mention the other cat, Paprika? She – yes, also a she – also stars. But never mind, for our current focus is on stage center, occupied by Nutmeg, or soon to be. Her entrance, cue unknown, occurs somewhere in the first act. That spot varying from one performance to the next, regardless of the house, which remains constant at six mammals, two of them human, two canine. And you know about the cats.

I have told Jane that I rather like the approach of Nutmeg, her entrance signaled by what could pass for a motorboat pulling up to a dock. Purring, she is. And there’s something sweet about the sound of her little motor. Leaping up on the bed, approaching slowly, paws kneading in the way of cats…a gesture that mimics nursing, according to something I once read. Whatever. There she is, purring and kneading. Needing me, it seems. Nice to be needed. Perhaps less nice to be needed in one’s bladder, which is where Nutmeg has a way of alighting. I sleep on my back, somewhat immobilized neuromuscularly. My bladder capacity is already modest enough, so Nutmeg’s additional weight is really not wanted. But she is wanted. I feel wanted. So, what the hell?

And what is hell, but an uncertain length of torture? The latter easily defined as anything unwanted, very wanted. Not just the odd inferno, but anything deeply disruptive of sleep. Which in the fullness of time can be said of the nocturnal Nutmeg experience. I accept the fact that after awhile, this particular cat tires of me and my bladder and goes in search of greener pastures. Such as those on the adjacent pillow, vis-à-vis Jane. I’m not quite sure what happens next. Night is, after all, ostensibly about sleeping, and I’m not taking very good notes at this point. But sometimes Nutmeg appears to settle about Jane’s head. Sometimes not.

At other times, a flurry of cat screeching rends the night. Light artillery would fall more softly on the ear. For cat yells burst out of nowhere and follow no particular pattern, making them even more disturbing…hissing, high-pitched growling, and what could pass for a death cry, all blasting within seconds. This signals, I believe, some unwanted nocturnal contact between Nutmeg and Paprika. Doubtless there is a reason for this, and certainly one cannot find any recipe containing their two namesake spices…which suggests that they do not mix. And if these jungle skirmishes make some sort of feline sense, do consider that these cats are biological sisters.

Note that I am very fond of Jane’s animals, even bonded, let us say. It’s just that as an assemblage, dealing with their totality is like attending a small caucus of the 981,000,031st Interplanetary Congress. On the canine side, there is Bixby, who startles at the clink of a glass but would leap with rapture if a 747 started up next door…and who typically looks the other way when I pet him, canine Asperger’s being what it is. As opposed to Isabella, who after 30 minutes of steady stroking and mutterings of doggie praise is only getting warmed up for the next five hours of steady adoration. You know about the cats. Which is where I end my digression. They are a serious nocturnal distraction.

Which I forget about when considering Jane’s proposed absence, such as last night’s. She wanted to sleep upstairs. Time with the cats. Sleeping without a husband who frequently wakes to pee during the night. Nothing personal, she is at pains to say. But for me there is the anxiety. Of what? Of getting in and out of bed alone, for one thing. Which has become increasingly difficult. Now requiring a somewhat creative approach involving hurling of legs and/or grabbing of the bedside table. And despite the fact that on only one occasion did this prove unworkable, the recollection of being paralytically trapped remains. Thus, quadriplegic anxiety.

I knew it would all be okay, on some level, and that’s why sleeping apart now and then is actually a good thing. Nutmeg can go in search of other bladders. And on this last and previous evening, there was a strange stretch of almost three hours in which I slept solidly, no peeing and no cat. Up until about 4:30 AM when, yes, I bolted awake and stayed that way. Lying in bed, vaguely worrying about whether or not I could maneuver myself up and out of bed long about 7 AM. For which there was only one antidote, I realized about 5 AM, and that was to get up. Empty the urinal. Then get back in bed and talk to the staff at Mervyns.

I mean there they were, the sales crew wandering in and out of a sort of entrance area where they also sold bags of potato chips, bottled drinks, and so on. I wanted them to do something, wanted it rather badly, but would they listen? Oh, no. It’s really hard getting the attention of retail salespeople these days. Finally one of the sales guys rushed out and I tried to follow him. He darted down some side door. Leaving me cooling my heels, waiting to really get into the store and get on with things. Until I realized that the store hadn’t opened. What I did realize, rolling away in some embarrassment, was that there were these buttons mounted inside my sports jacket, held in reserve for some future mishap, probably. And the fabric was so cheap that it was wearing out and the outline of the buttons was wearing through. I made a mental note to buy better quality goods in the future. Not making so acute a note of the fact that Mervyns went bankrupt years ago and now only appears in dreams. Like so much of life. I slept until 7:10.

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