Nine Lives

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I’ve been thinking about the cats lately.

Our neighbor-friends are going out of town and we’re going to feed their cat. In the instruction email, she mentions the cat should be fed twice a day.

I think about the giant self dispensing container we had for both food and water and how Flannel’s gut hung so low it dragged on the floor only months after we bought her.

She was a gray kitten we came across in a cage amongst a few others, outside of a Barnes & Noble somewhere on the Upper West Side. The guy selling them was weathered and a bit odd, but gave us an address in Harlem to come pick her up.

They were housed in makeshift shack on the roof of a building, whose one wall was stacked high with cages. During the transaction, the guy offered us drugs, which we politely declined. He had a connection with the ASPCA, so we had her spade in one of their mobile homes for strays and low-income families whose pets need medical attention.

She was joined by her older brother, Salem, in our 500 square foot apartment in Yorktown. They were fast friends.

Salem was three or so years older, a birthday gift to my new boyfriend.

His first home was in Chicago, on the same street I just moved on to over a decade later. We are eight blocks south of that old apartment, where I had lived with that boyfriend and his roommate.

I forgot about that apartment, or at least, forgot the street name until my mom pointed it out.

It’s four blocks away from my last apartment before I moved to the suburbs two years ago.

I’ve been in and out of this city so many times things are always vaguely familiar and tied to some piece of my history.

Night One of our move, I remember an old favorite bar of mine, which is now just a few blocks away and suggest we eat there for dinner. I’m relieved and a bit wistful that it hasn’t changed at all. Again, an old haunt from a different ex-boyfriend who used to live across the street.

We spent plenty of nights and Sunday mornings eating and drinking and playing couple.

The food is exactly the same. I even recognize one of the bartenders after all these years.

A bar in Wicker Park I used to spend many nights at now has a sister location two blocks from my new apartment. It’s taken over the amazing Italian restaurant where I had my second date with the latter ex-boyfriend.

Everything is a circle somehow.

***

I’m on the Brown Line now. This is third time I’ve used it exclusively, though that’s less than I’ve been near the Red or Blue.

Sometimes I look around to see if I recognize someone.

I doubt I will, but then again, I have an uncanny ability to run into people from my past all the time.

There are several different versions of me depending on the year. Depending on the neighborhood. Depending on who I was dating.

I’m the same.

I’ve changed.

“What do you think?” I’d want to ask, but never would.

I am me. Mother. Partner. Worker. Things I’ve never been at all or all at once.

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