A Visit from the Cat Man
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom .
â€œYou should meet my son,â€ he says.
Iâ€™m meditating, and he surprises me. Heâ€™s an interesting man and an enjoyable conversationalist. Heâ€™s in his mid-60â€™s, and if I were a couple of decades older, I might even find him downright fascinating. Heâ€™s thin and not much taller than I am, with eyes that are aging but still quite lovely behind the squints as he smiles. Heâ€™s soft-spoken and calm, and there are facets of myself that I find in him. Weâ€™ve been talking about art and music and writing, about the passion they inspire, about the way theyâ€™re their own language that others might or might not understand.
But why heâ€™s in my meditation, Iâ€™m not certain. A few nights ago, he showed up in a dream. Iâ€™ve never met this man on the physical plane.
â€œYou should meet my son,â€ he says. â€œYouâ€™d love him.â€
â€œHow do you know?â€
â€œIs he anything like you?â€
â€œNo. Younger.â€ Heâ€™s amused. He takes a seat opposite mine and loses his train of thought while he strokes the two cats that purr and twist around his ankles. Theyâ€™re not my cats. I donâ€™t have cats. He must have brought them with him. This is the first time heâ€™s mentioned his son to me. â€œYou would love him,â€ he says again.
â€œThen maybe you should tell your son to call me sometime.â€
He looks suddenly serious. â€œI have. Heâ€™s terrified of having a relationship with you,â€ he says. Then he adds, â€œAnd terrified not to.â€
I donâ€™t understand. I donâ€™t bite…hard. â€œWhy would he be afraid of me?â€
â€œNot of you. Of what you represent.â€
â€œAnd whatâ€™s that?â€ And does this son of his even know enough about me to know what I represent?
â€œAnd thatâ€™s terrifying to him? I would think that would be a wonderful thing.â€
â€œWhat heâ€™s terrified of,â€ the man says, scooping up a cat to pet it, â€œis screwing up something that good.â€
â€œBut your son…he wants to meet me in spite of his fears?â€
â€œThen why doesnâ€™t he?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Heâ€™s waiting.â€
One of the cats sidles up to my ankle and pushes his head against the curve of my calf. I brush softly at his fur. He nuzzles my palm.
â€œWaiting for what? For me?â€
â€œNo. Youâ€™re done.â€
â€œIâ€™m done waiting?â€
â€œNo. Just done.â€
â€œDone with what?â€ I pick up one of the cats but it curls this way and that and out of my arms. I canâ€™t hold onto it.
â€œHealing.â€ He smiles. â€œLittle things will always bubble up unexpectedly and catch you off-guard, but otherwise, youâ€™re done with the hardest work. No one has to wait for you anymore. Not even my son.â€
â€œYour son was waiting for me?â€
â€œNo. He was never waiting for you. You were always ahead of him.â€
I shake my head. I donâ€™t understand.
â€œHeâ€™s not ready yet,â€ the man tells me. â€œHeâ€™s still waiting. Waiting for….â€
â€œWaiting for what?â€ Riddles. Itâ€™s all riddles. â€œWhat is he waiting for?â€
I frown. Am I supposed to meet him at a picnic? Am I to invite him to a picnic on the beach? What?
â€œHeâ€™s waiting for it to be a picnic. For it to be easy. Then heâ€™ll meet you.â€ He nods. â€œYouâ€™ll love him.â€
â€œWill it ever be easy for him? Will it ever be a picnic?â€
The man shrugs and picks up both cats in his arms. â€œDoubt it.â€ He rises to leave, but I stop him.
â€œWhat if he keeps waiting for it to get easy and it never does? Doesnâ€™t he realize it may never be easier for him?â€
â€œYes,â€ he says. He walks into a misty darkness and is gone except for the lingering words, â€œThatâ€™s the problem.â€
â€œWait,â€ I call after him but only stillness answers. â€œYour sonâ€™s name. Whatâ€™s his name? Iâ€™ll find him.â€
â€œNo.â€ Itâ€™s only a thought in the distance, but I hear it clearly. â€œThatâ€™s when heâ€™ll know heâ€™s ready, and when he knows heâ€™s ready, thatâ€™s when heâ€™ll find you.â€
â€œWait,â€ I call after him. â€œWait! Thereâ€™s got to be something more. What am I supposed to do with what youâ€™ve told me?â€
â€œYour job is to hold his place for him.â€ The voice is nothing more now than a fading thought. â€œHis job is to find you.â€