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Monday, December 1, 2014

Cats and Cat Catchers

When we were young, we would play together outside. He, two years my senior, and me, precocious, and annoying, and wanting terribly to be like him.

We would play cats and cat catchers while running through the sprinklers in our swimsuits on our front lawn. We were, of course, playing the cats, or sometimes their human allies, and we were striving to evade the cat catchers who wished to lock us away.

I remember walking with our arms straight out in front of us when we had been "caught" by the cat catchers, like the way zombies used to walk in the movies back when they were still slow and only mildly hungry for brains, or the way mummies walked in the Scooby Doo cartoons.

That's also sort of what Puddy looked like when we carried her on rare occasions when she would let us without hissing and scratching and biting. She was a cantankerous old cat who was too big for a young kid to carry normally, so we'd carry her under the front legs, lower legs dangling unsupported. No wonder she was so loathsome towards us.

As the sprinklers cycled through their rotation, our make believe story would play out, and we'd end up sprawled on our beach towels, morning light turning to noon and sun warmly drying the water in our suits. Sometimes the games would continue into the backyard as the sprinkler rotation moved around the house, or sometimes we would have had our fill of the sun and the sprinklers, and would take our games inside. He had a talent for drawing, and he would create our cat and cat catcher characters in paper dolls which we cut out to play with.

Zac was constantly drawing when we were kids. I observed sometimes that he would actually have scenes play out in real time on his sketchbook, the act of drawing becoming the art. I'd watch as his imagination created scenes and characters and battles and scribbled explosions. He would feverishly draw the scenes from his head and their action, and just as quickly blow it up in some glorious battle I could almost hear. I wasn't able to draw like that. To draw actively. To draw what I saw in my head as I saw it, because I didn't really see much in my head. I had vague notions. Some colors or textures maybe. But to put something on paper, I needed to see it in life. I didn't really have a mind's eye. But he did. In a way what he saw in his head sometimes seemed more present and real to him than what was around us, or so I observed.

I always liked to observe him, because he was different from me in the way he approached things, in the way he experienced the world, and it fascinated me. I admired him and wanted to be like him. Sometimes I wasn't the best little sister. I would prod him. I knew sometimes which buttons to push to get reactions from him. I liked to push buttons back then. To know what would happen. We were friends, but I was also a little pest. But he was always quick to forgive me. He was not really capable of harboring ill will toward someone. He doesn't really see people like that.

Eventually I grew out of my pest phase and our friendship evolved. We stopped playing cats and cat catchers and other forms of make believe at some point, the way children just suddenly stop those things. We moved on to other things, like exploring the small wild wooded area in our neighborhood that is now a somewhat more tamed nature park. We played board games and video games and watched movies.

One day, we had grown up and I moved out of the house and went to school, and then to work, and then more school and more work in a different state. I have not been the best at keeping in touch. I'm not great at it anyway, but I also struggle with avoidance as a means of coping with difficult things. And for the past seven or so years, I've been largely avoiding the reality of my brother's cancer that is eating him up. It's taking my brother. My friend. My partner in fending off cat catchers and saving the cats from the evil of the world. He's still here but I don't know how long that will be true. And I don't know how to say to him before he's gone that he's meant so much to me my whole life. And he still means so much to me. And he's a much stronger person than I am for being forced to face daily what I can only bear to avoid. I'm sorry Zac. For how I have failed to do or say or be what I should have. I love you and I love all that you have been in your life and for me in mine. I want you to know that now. I am not saying goodbye. I'm saying I'm here.

Please stay here with me a little while longer.

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