Visions of torture

The cat is still missing.  Every morning and in the evenings I go
outside into the back garden and call for him.  I hold fast to the hope that soon he will appear over the
top of the back fence where I have seen him so many times before but so far
there is no sign. 
And people tell me stories of cats who have gone missing and
returned unchanged after a number of days, and then there are others, like my
neighbour, who tells me about two of her cats, one who came back with all his claws
missing.  She reckons he must have
been trapped somewhere and had wrenched off his nails trying to escape.  
I have visions of torture, the ripping
off of nails.  The other cat, my
neighbour never saw again, but she was convinced that he had been stolen.
‘Your cat is just a huge ball of
grey fur and so beautiful.  It’d be
easy to keep him.’  
And so I have
visions of the grey cat locked inside someone else’s house, learning fast to
become an indoor cat and happy enough there.  If this is so, then it is preferable to the idea of him
locked inside some lonely garage or pit or other place of torture, or worse
still dead on the side of the road, to be collected as road kill by council workers and heaved
onto a tip or burned in some mass incinerator.  
It is the not knowing that is
hardest of all and then the giving up; the thought that
one day I might stop calling the cat, that I might stop expecting him to return
home.  Then there’s the thought
that he will fade from our memories but never quite go away, not like the cats
who have died in our care, even the one who was killed on the road or the one
whom my husband took to the vet who after a long life at seventeen years needed
to be put down.
Who cares?  a voice inside me says.  It’s only a cat, not a child, not a
person.  Cats matter but how much in the scheme of things?  
I do
not want to exaggerate this loss. 
It is more the sense that it piggybacks on other losses that until now
had remained more hidden from view.
I find myself remembering the time
when I was eight and my oldest brother left home.  He ran away as the expression goes, though he was eighteen
at the time, and went missing.  He had brawled with my father over dinner.   It was Easter time, I remember,
the time of the crucifixion and of Easter eggs.  These two strangely jarring symbols etched in my memory, the
sweet and the bitter of it all.  My
father had picked on him and my brother threw down his knife and fork and
stormed out of the room.  
I did not
see him again for three years. For three years I wondered where he had gone.  And I wondered that my mother
could go about the business of her normal life not knowing the whereabouts of her first born son.  
Years later I found that
after sometime my brother had contacted her. 
He had become a lay missionary in New Guinea.  He was out in the world and doing good.  My mother must have been relieved.  As I would be relieved were I to hear that our
cat is alive and well out there and maybe even ‘doing good’.  

Be concerned but not alarmed

One of our cats has gone missing,
the grey one, the boy.  The one who
is most persistent in his hunger and calls for attention.  My husband tells me this morning, in that combined serious
but also light hearted way of his that says ‘be concerned but not alarmed’, ‘the
cat has not been around for two days’. 
We both know that our cats have a
tendency, each one of them to stray from time to time, for days on end.  And usually they reappear.  But I have no memory of the boy disappearing.  Besides, I’ve been away myself for the
past four days at a conference and I wonder if the two are connected.
I am not the chief carer of the
cats.  I share responsibility with
my husband and with whichever of our daughters are around, but the cat might
have resented the disruption to our house hold routine and taken himself off somewhere.
Forgive me for
anthropomorphising.  At this
conference among other things a few people talked about the notion of ‘post
human lives’.  I won’t go all
theoretical on you other than to say, the notion of post human lives has
something to do with the idea that human beings and animals, and machines, as
well as cyber creatures, all organisms, have more in common than we like to
think.  We tend to create
artificial divides here.  That’s a
crude rendering of this idea of the post human which I continually have the
impulse to call ‘subhuman’.
I relish these conferences, the
ones on autobiography and biography, and on what is roughly called life writing
studies, because there are all these people – in Canberra three hundred of them
– who come together from all over the world to talk about the way people think, paint, photograph, sing and write about their own lives and the lives of
others.  And increasingly, there are
people like me who write and theorise more explicitly about their own lives. 
At the conference in a paper on
digital lives, I talked about my blog. 
The hazards, the pitfalls the exquisite joys of blogging, all dressed up
in a skimpy frock of what gets called ‘blogging theory’. 
And now after all the pleasures of
meeting new people, and of crawling around in my head with new ideas and notions, I
find myself fretting for the cat. 
You might recognise him if you saw
him, a grey cat, a large cat, a boy cat, who has been neutered and who perhaps
resents this because sometimes he looks as though he’s scowling.  But he is a loyal cat.  A gift to one of our daughters from one
of her boyfriends several years ago. 
That daughter has since left
home.  That relationship between
boyfriend and girlfriend  is over
but the cat remains in our care, as many animals do after children leave
home.  They might even be considered
to take the place of the children who leave home. 
And there are other dramas and
sadness afoot – too complex, too personal, to on-the-boil to mention here now, but
the cat’s absence stands as a reminder of the temporality of life, and it frightens me.