It is sunny for the first time in five days and there is a small cat on the hood of my car. The cat is fully-grown but delicately built, with petite feet and a button nose. It's huddled and rapt, torn between pursuing a fleeting patch of sun and bit of stray leaf.
I'm huddled and rapt, hugging my arms to by body -or what I trust is still, under the three shirts, two sweatshirts, and an inexplicable plaid hunting parka someone dug out of the downstairs closet, my body. The floors of the old house take cold and keep it. The bones of my hands and feet take cold and keep it. This morning the bedroom windows were dressed in frost.
I've tried to sex this cat -and failed. I say she; my husband says he. Who doesn't try to sex cats? If you don't try to sex cats you've lost all curiosity about life and you might as well go home, buy a recliner, and use it. The difficulty is that sexing a cat is a graceful pas de deux between curiosity and knowledge, and what I know about sexing cats can't dance.
The cat comes around infrequently yet frequently enough that I wish it were mine. I've knelt in the first of the strawberries and in the summer grass and in the steadily encroaching tide of yellowed walnut leaves to entice this cat -and failed. And sometimes, fingers extended, legs doubled up, tongue clacking against my front teeth, I've succeeded. When stroked, the cat alternates between an outsize purr and silent, full-body seizures, as if the urge to flee were lifting it up and dashing it back to earth.
I tell the cat -sexless, gormless- I know the feeling. Down comes a walnut, bang against the hood of the car, and off goes the cat to god knows where. Off goes the warmth to god knows where. I scurry through the house after the last sweet scraps of sun.