Matt Salesses on winning, losing, fighting, and making up.
Cathreen reads to me last week’s column about Boise choking, as if it didn’t happen to us, as if I were not the one who wrote it. She seems to blame me twice. We are lying in bed in the dark. I want to sleep, but I don’t want to be the only one asleep, for some reason. I want to share our dreams. Cathreen watches Korean video clips online and talks about our nephews. I tell her I am writing an essay now about sports, an essay I have told my friends is about how embarrassing my youth was. It’s hardly me, in print. It’s someone else. I wonder whether she thinks this way, but I know she does not. I wonder whether I am only telling myself this, whether I believe it.
Sometime in my tiredness, I can’t help but let a fight slip in, from where I honestly don’t know. It’s four in the morning, another night now. I try to apologize, but I’m too tired to think. I don’t sleep well. I have fits. Time gets mixed up when I try to remember. I realize that’s what we were fighting about, initially.
I buy flowers, some after our fight, some before; Cathreen plants a garden of herbs and tomatoes, the latter of which she eats like apples, or doused in sugar. Our landlords construct a patio with mosquito lanterns.
The afternoon before our fight I am reading outside when their cat crashes through the woods like a much larger animal and butts her head against me. I reach down to pet her. This is all she wants. She twists onto her back and doesn’t claw me when I scratch her stomach. I call Cathreen on her cell phone so as not to get up, and she brings Boise out for another meeting, or confrontation.
The heat makes the cats smell musty. The breeze carries flower spores. I can hear Boise whining before I see them. Cathreen wants to shave him down to his skin, a look I detest, for the summer.
“Did he pee on you this time?” I ask.
The fortune teller said Cathreen had to bring Boise with her to America. But this was never a question. Sometimes I say our cat is the best thing to ever happen to us, as an us.
When we fight, Boise comforts us. He will be there, nudging us to see if we’re all right.
Now he hisses and the cat I was just petting hisses and Cathreen holds Boy forward to do battle. She claims I’m at fault for his developmental problems (he’s a social ostrich, happier with his head in the sand). She raised him mostly by herself for a couple of years, back when we were long-long-distance, Boston to Korea. Recently, I had six weeks with him myself. When she came back, he was terrified of the outdoors. She takes him out every day now, desperate to fix him.
That other late night, Cathreen’s main criticism of my column was that I shouldn’t write that Boise “lost” to the landlord’s cat. He ran away and hid, sure, but he was not the loser, she says. She says she will support him, to victory. I believe this. I believe that she will do whatever it takes.
She is the one who should make the decisions. I am fine with her leading us.
I imagine she is fine with it, too, though sometimes she complains.
After this fight, and after our later fight, we will salvage this weekend. Now I watch Boise challenge for backyard feline supremacy, looking over the pages of my book, alternating. If I were me, now, I mean the me who is writing us down, I would be thinking about that night, and about losing and winning, about revealing my embarrassing youth, and about tiredness, and about the support of my wife’s loving arms, and about how everything connects and disconnects, and about how any one thing is a direct line to whatever else, like a circuit board of dreams. But I am me, then, instead. I watch my cat turn his head away, then turn back, held close to Cathreen’s chest. I am me expecting the promised victory, unsurprised when that is exactly the result.