The Path of the Black Cat
As the long bus ride home from work spends even longer minutes of my day, I think about life.
It isn't uncommon to think about the concept of life, especially in my mind, where I visualize it as a word puzzle. Where instead of letters, each mark names an action, which spells out an opportunity. So -- metaphorically speaking -- I've been slowly highlighting one action after another in hopes of discovering a complete set. School, bus rides, work, aching feet, money wasted...the list goes on as my mental highlighter runs seamlessly through each character. The current "word" in the puzzle is a particularly long one, but I can only hope it'll turn out to be satisfactory in my search for completion.
I replay the same foreign songs over and over at full volume.
Full volume, because the woman behind me refuses to hold a quiet conversation on the phone.
Foreign, because I hate to hear my own language repeating the same phrases and stories only in different octaves. At least with German or Chinese I can pretend the song is about whatever I want it to be about. Tonight, the words that slither obscurely through my ears tell a story I often fantasize of:
It's a rich, upbeat tale about a young and beautiful person; someone who does polite things without reaching for something in return, not even in their mind. Someone who is loved for their virtues, for their talents, and their smile.
This person does not take the bus everywhere they go. They don't wish bad things upon others no matter the circumstance. They grasp their opportunities by the shirt collar and take every risk to get to where they are the happiest in their life.
I step off the bus, as the weight of my elongated face nearly brings me to the ground before my own two feet have the chance. Walking across the street, I realize something moving in the middle of the road.
I dismiss it as a plastic bag, or a loose branch that fell to the earth during a recent wind storm.
The object kicks wildly, and I realize as I come closer that it is not litter, but a kitten in the center of the road. A car zooms by and misses it, but only by a millimeter. The cat has already been hit, and I watch in quiet shock as the animal kicks one last time, then falls still. A few men stand on their front porch to watch as the cat slowly loses its battle.
I can't help but stare, mouth agape as I pass the scene, closer to the shallow-breathing animal than anyone else had yet come. I think the person in my fantasy would stop walking. They would ask the bystanders what happened and demand that some type of animal service be called, and that a memorial should be set for the cat whose life was so publicly dismissed.
But I am not the fictional character of a story in some other language, no matter how often I wish I were. I take a deep breath and, swallowing the raw metallic taste I now have, keep walking north toward my family's small home.
I try to convince myself that I will work harder to finish my puzzle, and will achieve great things in life. I try to convince myself that bus rides home and eviction notices in a life of gray are just a stepping stone toward happiness.
I am not the person I want to be so badly. I step up the creaking wooden stairs toward the front door of my "home", and force myself to come to terms with the realization that the only promise in my life is that I will either go out silently, or kick bravely until the very end.