There’s been something going on with the cat’s left eye for about a week now, this cloudy gray ooze leaking out of her tear duct. I’ve been swabbing it away with a cotton ball, once in the morning before I leave for work and once in the evening when I get home. She doesn’t let Owen do it. We’ve been trying to hold off on another trip to the vet. Poor thing is already on five daily medications, and at some point you’ve just got to consider quality of life.
Last Thursday we slept through our alarm. Owen told me to just hurry, go, he’d take care of all the cat’s morning stuff. After I left, he was able to get her hyperthyroid drops in one ear, but after that she ran under our bed, scooting out of his reach as he went from one side of the bed to the other, trying to grab her. She didn’t even come out when he shook her bag of treats. He tried for forty-five minutes before he really needed to go.
When we got home that night there was this black scab crusted over half her left eye. It looked thick and craggy. I fed her, dampening a washcloth while she ate, and then I took off my shoes and waited on the couch. Sweet girl always comes to cuddle after she eats. Owen sat down beside me with his laptop and started flipping through some pictures his mom had sent from our weekend at the beach. The cat hopped up on my lap. I let her purr and rub her little face across mine for a bit, and then I clasped my hand around the back of her neck and began to dab at her eye with the damp washcloth.
I was half paying attention to the cat’s eye, half looking at the laptop when Owen paused on a wide-shot that his mom had taken from where we’d set up our chairs. The beach was crowded, but I zeroed in almost immediately on this one woman standing in the surf, facing out toward the ocean. She had long, white thighs and an impossibly narrow waist. She stood with her hands on her hips, her spine tall. The sun reflected off her dark hair. I leaned over to get a closer look, feeling something between envy and attraction toward this woman. Her body, her posture, her life.
Owen clicked to the next picture. No, go back, I said, and when he did I spotted him in the picture too, unmistakable in those orange swim trunks. He stood right beside the woman, his hand on the small of her back.
I stopped. My back. The woman, it was me. I squinted at the screen, trying to comprehend my mistake. My hair, my thighs, my waist. I looked away from the picture, embarrassed. I’d been ogling my own body. What kind of asshole is attracted to herself?
The cat stared up at me from my lap, ears flicking. Her eye was clean, but where was that scab? The washcloth was clean. I took my hand off the back of her neck and looked down my blouse, pulled at the creases of my slacks, and slid my hands between the cushions of the couch. Nothing. The cat stayed on my lap while I searched. When I stopped moving she put a paw on each of my shoulders and lifted herself to my face, pressing her sweet little skull against my mouth. Owen closed his laptop and asked what I’d like to do for dinner.