Written with my Thursday group with the prompts: hard to be human, when she refused him he. . ., the loneliness, run out of. . ., viscous, a large cat’s body but not a cat, challenge, everybody likes a puppy, think the unthinkable and tell me a story, the sky you were born under, laughter is a gift, I’ve cried for you, ride your indoor bike, I need to touch, wildness
Julian thought of loneliness as something amber-colored and viscous, like pine sap or maple syrup, something that has gotten hard in a glass bottle. It moves slow, loneliness does. It makes you feel heavy in your legs and around your solar plexus.
Julian had become an expert in loneliness without wanting to, of course. It had just happened. Still, when Madelyn refused him, Julian didn’t want to admit it, but he felt relieved. He’d only proposed because he felt he’d run out of options. His sister and brother-in-law, his father and step-mother all kept telling him so settle down. Emphasis on the settling. So he gave it a shot and she’d said no. “I cry for you,” Madelyn told him as they sat in his car in front of her parents’ house. “I just don’t think you’re marriage material. I don’t know what will become of you.” The she squeezed his hand and left. He thought he’d bust a gut laughing. Laughter—it’s a gift.
When he got home his godmother Daphne was sitting on the steps of his apartment building. He hadn’t seen Daphne in a decade, not since his mother’s funeral. She was eating sunflower seeds and scrolling Facebook on her phone. She wore blue jeans, a fringed suede jacket and a headband that made her look like she had cat ears. She looked up as Julian entered the foyer.
“There you are, Jules,” she said as if it’d only been ten minutes. “You know, she said holding up a photo of a whippet on her screen, “everybody likes a puppy. Have you considered that?”
“What?” he blurted. “I mean, hello, Daphne. Um, what are you doing here? And how did you know where I live?”
“Oh,” she said quickly taking his arm as she walked up the steps with him. “Don’t you worry about that. I promised your Mom I’d watch out for you and I’ve been ever vigilant. But tonight I got a notion that I needed to touch you, that’s all. And isn’t it good to be face to face.”
“Sure, sure,” he said tentatively, wondering if he had any tea to serve her–or maybe he still had a bottle of Rosé. They’d reached his door, and she strode across the front room to the kitchen as soon as he unlocked it. “I’ll have a beer,” she said decisively.
“Okay.” It seemed she was going to run this show.
He handed her a bottle and she rambled on. “I’ve come to remind you of your legacy,” she announced. “Your mother was a story teller. Poetry is the sky you were born under!” She turned to face him, noting his look of confusion. “Nonetheless, it is hard to be a human. Perhaps, for a time—just a short while—you might consider becoming a cat. I think you’d do well as a cat.” She eyed his frame from head to toe. “You’d have a large cat body, but you’d pass. A cat, but not a cat, if you know what I mean.”
“No, I actually don’t know what you mean.” He gestured toward chairs at the kitchen table, and she sat down. “I don’t think I want to know what you mean,” he concluded.
She perched on the edge of her chair while he settled in across from her. “You need a challenge, a push to re-discover your path. It’s time to stop riding an indoor bike and go out in search of the wildness within and without.”
“I don’t know what that means,” he said again, and she jumped to her feet.
“Julian!” she shouted, suddenly moved to climb atop the kitchen chair. “It’s time to find out what everything means. If you don’t know the answer, then make it up as you go along. Be creative. The world is crazy and craves guidance. If you’re not sure, just do what I do.”
“Think the unthinkable and then tell it as a story.” She climbed down to grasp his hand. “Your story may shock you or it may heal you, but it will definitely wake you up.”
Photo by Dhruv Mehra