All my cats eventually become bookends, prone to occupy opposite chairs or otherwise come together separately; the Catma Sutra cats occasionally take a break from snuggling and chasing to display their talent for symmetry.
I hadn’t listened to that Simon and Garfunkel tune for a while; I’d forgotten how much I liked it, and them. When I was twelve, and popular music all had to rock, roll and “have a beat,” they were the only contemporary singers whose albums I bought. I had to be convinced — a schoolfellow who had been about my only friend since the fourth grade was keen on them right from “Scarborough Fair” onward. She took up the guitar, wanting to make some of the same sounds, and I liked playing with hers so much that I didn’t have much trouble talking my musician father into getting me one of my own. You can see it behind one of the chairs in the picture. I used to sing coffee houses with original material — musically not too bad, I think, though the songs themselves make me wince now.
My friend kept on singing, even cut an album eventually, but long before that she had let me know five different ways that I was no longer cool enough to be more than admitted to her general vicinity. I’ll never quite figure it out — suddenly, one day, she became a political obsessive, prone to badger waiters who didn’t speak English about Union Lettuce, talk about The Struggle, and fret over whether she should try to be a lesbian until the patriarchy was overthrown. After years of practicing chords for hours, sharing favorite books, sleeping over weekend after weekend, swapping our literary juvenilia, I never saw her except in the company of a herd of self-consciously shabby Children Of Privilege preoccupied with the same issues — usually discussing them over a game of Hearts, of all things. Somehow, despite this, she felt called on to lecture me about how I conducted my sex life; it’s amazing how prudish Liberation can make people.
The last time she knocked on my door — about 1978 — I could hear that she was trailing the usual gaggle of world-saving sad sacks in blue jeans and Birkenstocks. I didn’t answer. She left a box of fan fiction that we had once written together on the doorstep.
I heard about the album from an old classmate, years later, and bought it, what the hell. It was neither bad nor good. There was a song of her own composition that mentioned me wistfully, stuffed in between crap about victory for the workers and solidarity with the campesinas. It would have made you pipe your eye, except that she knew damn well where to find me, and I was not the one who had turned into a Pod Person.
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…
Simon and Garfunkel seem to be singing those lines from an alternate universe. Cats are much better at this kind of thing than humans are.