when i drop my cat off:
the clinic is in a truck. it is set to arrive at 7a.m. but will only take the first 21 animals, so we get there early. i arrive at 5:37 a.m. after letting many teenage boys take pictures of my cat between 125th street and Petland Discounts 162 St. i am number 11 on the list. it is dark outside and we sit on various surfaces with our various pets to wait for the truck. there is a handsome man with a creamy voice and a chubby pug.
an old stubbly man across the sidewalk tells me he is known as doggy dennis in his neighborhood. doggy dennis is here with his neighbor’s dog. doggy dennis tells me i should have been a model and buys me coffee. says i must be smart if i’m going to columbia university. says his daughter-in-law went there and she’s soooo smart, uses words he doesn’t even know, he has to look them up in a dictionary. i tell him that doesn’t make her any smarter than anybody else and he says she’s so smart. i tell doggy dennis that i am majoring in neuroscience and he says he wanted to be a brain surgeon but never got the chance. i wonder if i had been a model would doggy dennis have gotten the chance to study brains?
there is a man who seems italian in his resemblance to my own bellowing uncles. his son has slicked back dark hair and his new dog loves him a lot. the son’s mother died recently. the man brags to me, i have five kids… all by the same wife. he asks me how i like the bronx because he knows from the shaved sides of my white head and my black boots with the elastic panels on the sides that i am not from around here. i say i like it very well and he says really? and i nod. he tells me how it needs restructuring. he tells me that the city has started developing affordable housing across the street from his parents’ apartment and gestures to the man sitting in front of the corner store rubbing his knee like he is trying to start a fire with the friction. now we have trash like that sitting in front of stores says the italian man with the five kids by the same dead wife.
a woman asks me in spanish if there is a sign-up list and i
can’t get it together fast enough to say no habla espanol before someone
jumps in to answer. the italian man says white! to the woman and you’re
in the bronx now!! to me and laughs a deep laugh. there are only three
languages you need, he says. spanish, haitian, and hood.
everyone admires my cat carrier. it looks like a spaceship, with a plastic bubble that my cat can see out of. they all want to know how much it cost and where i got it and when i say $35 they all nod approvingly, like it was cheap enough that it turns out i do belong standing on the sidewalk with them.
when i pick my cat up:
i am excited to see doggy dennis. he notes my changed shirt
and says i look pretty. i discover the lobsters and crabs in the tanks in the
store behind him, and i wonder how i missed them this morning.
italian man yells vermont! to me out of his car because he does not remember my name but he does remember my homeland. he introduces me to another of his sons. i remember now that the one with slicked black hair has the same name as his father, but i do not remember what it was.
the handsome man with the creamy voice and the chubby pug appears next to me. backstreet’s back oh yeah, he says in reference to the clique of pet parents we formed over the course of the dark morning. he slips away a moment later and i don’t see him again before i leave. i think my cat might have liked his dog if they had ever really met.
the ASPCA hands back the male cats first, a half hour late, typical bronx according to italian man. everyone congratulates me when i emerge from the truck. they have been listening to me say i want my baby every two minutes for the past hour.
i tell a person with short curly hair where i got my cat carrier. they nod in approval when i say it was $35.
doggie dennis high fives me, probably just to touch me,
but it doesn’t scare me.
i say it was nice to meet you all! and walk away.