January 23, 2010


Here, Xavier is holding Louis-Philippe on the D train coming back from the Bronx - from Louis-Philippe's birthplace in an alley near 149th Street - Grand Concourse. Beware, this is something of a remorseful tale.

The alley was hers. Or so she claimed, in her white and blue terricloth robe, which appeared to be as permanent as any of her body parts. The birds were also hers. Permanent looking too. 37 or so in cages, at the exterior of the house and invading the entire first floor of her brownstone, (which explains why all the curtains were drawn and the house was pitch black on a sunny day...or at least it could, possibly, be one explanation). Their imprint was there on the terricloth robe; the cats' equally.

"I've already got 8 of them and if I could, I'd live in some big house somewhere and have 30 cats. I can't - my dad's allergic, so he will be really thrilled when you get this one off of our hands. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck before he could get feral like his brothers and sisters." (Here, she paused to point at two raw scars on her hands - apparently evidence of Louis-Philippe's siblings' savage behavior). "They are still crying for me out there; I hear them now."

She stopped and held her maimed finger out in the air, beckoning them, and cocked her head to listen. I don't know about Xavier, but I heard nothing supplementary to the squawks of the birds.

We walked away with the little gray kitten wrapped in a white piece of cloth. He was frantically trying to escape and as we descended into the pit of the subway, we were terrified that he was going to end up making a transfer that we would miss. We imagined his little head staring out the window of another subway passing by - ME--->OW.

Louis-Philippe had a little kitten's body and would shake his butt in preparation for attack, my favorite quality of all members of the feline family. He only stayed 2.5 days with us, because, well I can't say exactly, beyond saying that moving to a new city across the Atlantic and getting a new kitten in the same week is perhaps not really lucid or well-reasoned. It was not Louis-Philippe's fault.

Sunday night he got dropped off at the animal place. We couldn't live with it. Monday morning I was in a taxi cab, trying to control the horrible rising feeling in my chest and my breathing. I arrived, jumped out and pretended to be a friend of "Xavier's - the guy who brought the gray kitten last night."

"Number 845220 - go to the adoption trailer."

A line of people scrolled out the door. To the girl in front of me: "What animal are you waiting for?" anxiety dripping from my words.

"A kitten," smiling.

"Oh yeah? Which number?"


I practically did damage, grabbing the slip of paper from her hand. "That is my cat! Err, my friend brought him last night and I am here to get him."

"Well, that is the cat I've selected and I'm in front of you. Sorry."
Tears (only slightly appreciable) from my eyes (only the beginning). Of regret, of confusion of self-condemnation.

"You will take really good care of him right?" Pleading.

"Oh yes, I am a Columbia grad student and I'm just finishing my program and now I work from home. I get lonely. Have you met this kitten?" She was understandably confused.

Cringing/nodding, "Yes, he is marvelous, Louis-Philippe. He is gray and has white whiskers that fan out and come forward when he is on the hunt. He already uses a litter box. He cries at night, but he is just scared and little."

She paused, not sure how to deal with me. She was in front of me in line after all. "Well, let me take your phone number and if anything comes up, I'll call you. My name is Chu."

I walked down the ramp of the adoption trailer with a heavy head and collapsed shoulders. I walked across town on 110th and cried, out in the open. To be fair, I was mollified knowing Louis-Philippe was going to cuddle up with Chu. They would look at the computer screen together and he would shake his butt and then pounce on the mouse moving across it (he did this with me). But then I really cried - out of loss and feeling rash and indolent. By the time I got to Madison, I was howling.

"Miss!" "MISS!" "GET BACK HERE!" I heard an aggressive command behind me and turned around.

A second voice:"Girl, get back here. Come on. Look, we all girls and we all been through it."

I was clamped in an enormous hug. A Harlem crossing guard in a neon-yellow jersey and her friend.

"You lose your job? What he do to you? We all know it."

"You a Christian? Listen, when they curse you - you bless them. You BLESS them. Come here." Another enormous hug.

I had not uttered a word. This was all in a commanding, aggressive tone; someone passing by might think the ladies yelling at me were the reason for my emotional outburst, but, no, they were easing my pain. I was still crying when I walked away from the crosswalk, but it was ebbed by the stupefaction that random people in the streets would stop to comfort me like that about little Louis-Philippe.


Jill said...

That was a sad tale. I understand the attachment to animals. It happens quickly. For a second I thought the women calling after you was Chu changing her mind. A hug from a stranger is good too.

Gina said...

Oh Emilie...what a sweet, sad story. I'm teary-eyed for you and for Louis-Philippe. I would have been bawling in the street too. So glad those sweet girls stepped in with some comfort. Maybe Chu will call...

Emilie said...

Thank you Gina...yes, small, but tragic for me. Hey, I want to hear the rest of your story that we never finished...

Gina said...

That's right...never did tell you about that crazy encounter, did I? I'll email you. You'll at least get a chuckle. ;)

canada said...

This one has made me cry...

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