Fiction: Playing With Cats

This is part of my newest project: a novel centered around a young woman living on her own in the city. My idea for the novel is to tell it in vignettes, little scenes that sketch out who she is and the events that unfold for her. Enjoy!

Playing With Cats

     You know you’re lonely when you walk into a pet store just to play with the cats.

     You don’t need anything. You don’t need pet food, or pet toys, or really anything related to pets because you don’t have one. It’s not allowed in your apartment. But you do it because all you want is for someone, something, to love you for ten minutes. And because you don’t have the body to be a prostitute, you walk into a pet store. And play with the cats.

     And it works out so well. The cats are there, and there’s no one to play with them. And they’re so cute and fluffy and have fur and little paws and little ears and noses and bones. They just want love. So you play with them for a while, and for a while it all goes well.

     Then the cats start to catch on that you’re playing with them because you’re lonely; you’re playing with them because you need it. And because cats hate to be needed, they start slipping away from you one by one.

     “It’s fine,” you say. “I don’t need you. I didn’t need this. Look how much I don’t need you!” And you turn away with tears on your face.

     It’s not the cats’ fault. That’s how they are. They can’t help it. But it reminds you that you’re the type of lonely person who goes into pet stores just to play with the cats, the kind of person who’s willing to risk the employees staring at you as you walk down the aisles, because there’s that woman again.

     It reminds you that you need a person, any person, to love you for more than ten minutes. And not just in the romantic, someday-my-prince-will-come way. People need people like cats need cats. People need to live all cooped up with other people, and cats… well, the metaphor falls apart there.

     And now the employees are staring at you again, and you go home and curl up on the couch and pretend there’s a cat sitting at the other end. Or a person. Anything, really, that has a brain and cares you exist.

     Anything to keep you from going into the pet store again tomorrow, to play with the cats.

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