cat doors and space time

How did he get in? The same way he got out, I guess. Slowly, really feeling borderline silly, I got down on all fours and crawled to the cat door. My legs felt heavy and cold and as the circulation started to work again were starting to tingle. I ignored them and bent my face down to the cat door as if I was a cat. Of course I knew that I wouldn’t fit through the small opening, just wide enough for Plinius, not even, after some adjustments, wide enough for the neighborhood raccoon who, attracted by Plinius cat food bowl, had twice raided the kitchen. I felt cold night air on my hand pushing up the slot and then on my face. I pushed closer to the opening and peeked out.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland after she had tumbled down the rabbit hole. I could see Plinius’ world bright and clear. Too bright actually. There was daylight out there, in front of my kitchen door, bright sun light reflected off the silver ripples of the lake. Plinius sat, back to me, at the shore, and washed his coat thoroughly with his cat tongue as if to cleanse himself of my human touch. I knew the lake by the characteristic shape of the mountains that surrounded it. The place existed. Only it was not in my backyard where I had, only moments before, watched Plinius through the doorglass as he was diving into the night. The lake glaring in the sunlight was far up in Vermont, Lake Willoughby, a deep glacial body of water wedged between two mountains with biblical names where my mother, Phoebe and I had spent our summer. I had not the first idea why I would see it through the cat door.

Plinius seemed to think nothing of it, and he just continued to lick his lower back, proceeding systematically to the tail. He paid no attention to me and would not have either if he had cleaned himself on the kitchen rug behind me. I turned back for a reality check, back to see the night kitchen in my own house, closing the cat door gently as if to protect the night in my house from that other wordly daylight. Or the daylight out there from the night leaking out of a cat door in my world. Because in my spacetime it was still night, my kitchen was still dark except for the weak glow of the night light.

Out there where Plinius roamed, it was not only bright day but an entirely different geographical place altogether. Not New Humble Jersey. I pressed my face again the cat door again. Plinius had taken advantage of my distraction and had removed himself from the scene. It was dark out there, the smooth, velveteen darkness of our own backyard. In the distance over the black leaved silhouettes of the tree tops I could see a star. My own backyard and starlight traveling over a distance of 430 light years.

Plinius, the cat logarithm

Finding Plinius could be impossible at times. For days on end the only sign of his existence could be that his cat bowl was empty in the morning. At some point, mostly drawn by Phoebe’s calls in the evening, he would walk out of the shadows in the garden and return home to sleep in the margins for a couple of days or on his favorite chair in the kitchen. I was never certain of his return. In that way he was like my father, too. It was very likely he would come to pick us up for a weekend but never entirely. When I shared this observation with my mother once, she quoted from “The Hobbit”: It’s a dangerous step, the first step out of your own front door.” Implying, I guess, that no one really knows whether they are going to return at night. But the remark wasn’t all that helpful. Some people do make more of an effort than others to come back. My father had a challenging work schedule in a big law office in the city. I guess, I was somewhat harsh towards him. Still.

Walking into the kitchen that night I found Plinius right away. He was sitting in his favorite chair, looking up and squinting his eyes as if he had actually been waiting for me. A small reading light had been kept burning as every night in case we girls were to walk into the kitchen in search of something to drink. I walked over to Plinius and kneeled down in front of his chair. He yawned and turned his head to the side. “Plinius,” I whispered, putting my fingers in his fur. He felt real, shaggy softness, powdery cat fur smell with a hint of cat litter. I put my nose into his fur and inhaled. A real cat. When I looked up, Plinius had closed his eyes again. He wasn’t purring, mind you. But he let me be. Unusual. As I looked at him, my face close to his face, noticing a bit of mucus leaking from his dirty pink cat nose, the long whiskers, the white grandpa beard on his chin, there seemed to be, in his very presence, a message. It was like working on a math problem, knowing you just had to think right about and even more importantly look right, look in the right way, whatever that meant, at the equation and you would understand it. That was how math usually was for me, the answer to a problem was right there, in front of my eyes, on the paper, I just had to bring it into focus.

And that was what Plinius seemed to be to me that night in the kitchen, a living and breathing logarithm to express a specific, meaningful relationship between an unknown value and me, cat2me is the output from the function cat2 when the input is me. I looked at him really hard. Did Phoebe speak cat as well? Did she know what kind of a cat logarithm Plinius was? Plinius himself couldn’t be bothered to help me. cat2phoebe is the output from the function cat2 when the input is phoebe. Plinius sighed as if bored by my slow mind, moved a bit under my hands, and farted.