Cat Sense

You meet a man in a bar in a strange town. He has a cat on his lap, and he orders a cup of coffee, slowly spoons sugar into it. He strokes the cat’s black fur and says, “This contact is illusory. The cat and I are separated as though by a pane of glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of the instant.” What do you say back to him? And he to you? What does the cat do? What happened to this man before he came into the bar?

It’s Friday night and after a long exhausting week at work I decide a beer at the local pub would be a nice way to unwind. I do this fairly often and am looking forward to exchanging pleasantries and listening to a little mindless drivel from the barflies and then be on my way home. I walk in and all is as it should be. The relaxed atmosphere almost immediately takes over me and the week slowly begins to slip away from memory. I pick out a barstool, ask for what’s on tap and settle into my perch while tuning my ears to the sounds of the conversations around me deciding which is the least cerebral. To my left, I notice a kindly older gentleman fumbling with his stool. He is no more than 5’5, wearing a 50’s style flannel suit, with a smoking pipe hanging out of the right side of his mouth. The smell of the pipe fills me and at once takes me back to evenings with my grandfather. This man reminds me much of my pappy, I know I should reach over and give him a hand with his unruly seat but something catches my eye. It takes a good long minute for what I am looking at to sink in. I am certainly familiar with what a cat looks like but was never expecting to see one in a bar. The man sees me looking and smiles at me as he finally settles himself and the cat into his seat next to me. I’m so taken with the scene that I don’t even notice the bartender bring him a coffee. The old man methodically scoops sugar into the cup and begins to stir. Then without looking away from the cup, he says to me very matter-of-factly,”This contact is illusory. The cat and I are separated as though by a pane of glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present,in the eternity of the instant.”

The jet black cat sheepishly looks up at him as if understanding and agreeing with what he said. With every gentle stroke the cat lifts his nose, flattens his ears and closes his eyes knowing the exact position every part of him must be in to get the most enjoyment from each caress. I can’t take my eyes off the little beast while contemplating the strange remark. This isn’t the idiotic blather I was hoping to encounter this evening. My first instinct is that maybe it, in fact,  was just the crazy babble of a lonely old man. However, something in the sternness of his gaze and depths I can see in his eyes tell me that he knows very well what he is saying. This was a conclusion he had often contemplated and perhaps even something he had attempted to discuss with others. I still am not certain that I understand what he means but before I know it, I am responding, “There is something beautiful and freeing about living with no past or future to weigh on your mind. To only have this single moment to concern yourself with.”  I feel like a moron the moment the last words leave my lips and think for sure I’m going to have this batty old man think I am the insane one in this odd conversation.

To my surprise he bolts up straight and turns his shoulders facing me, cocks his head a bit to the right and for the first time since entering the bar, stops petting his companion. “Indeed,” he replies almost in relief. He smiles as he lifts himself from the stool and drops off of it with his feet soundlessly hitting the floor. Gracefully, the man and his cat exit the bar, I am certain he never even took a sip of the still steaming coffee left in place where they had been sitting.

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