Picture the scene, if you will. A late night, a mildly drunken (and bloody cold) bike ride home, avoiding the detritus of youth resplendent in sheer stockings bent double on the promenade, skipping the worst of the hills, and arriving at a sleeping house rather flustered, and very much ready for bed. The door opens. Primarily because I put the key in and turned it before pushing, but let’s not spoil the mood. I begin the trial of manoeuvring the bike into the hallway before realising that that ball of ginger mischief is three feet away, having spotted the outside world and, more to the point, an opportunity for a stab at freedom. Well, when he sees freedom it really is conditional. Conditional on his knowing damn well the food will continue to flow.
I curse, and edge the bike straight at him, a tactic that usually has him scuttling back towards the warmth and safety of the house. Not this night – he’s a tenacious fucker, and waits, and waits … and then shoots out into the chilly night like a furry cork. Bollocks. I can’t shut the door as there’s nowhere for him to hide, no gardens, no front paths, no bushes. Just cars. Not good. I park the bike, divest myself of my outer gear and wander out intent on tempting him back.
Ginger has this plaintive mew quite at odds with his character. It’s mostly fake. He mews and trots towards you before vanishing again … I pop in and out of the house like a yoyo, trying the rattling the food bowl trick … nada.
He trots back, then vanishes again, so I decide to walk up to get him. The front door wide open. I advance.
There’s a sudden frantic thudding up the road, and a young lady in a party dress, covered in graffiti, is running up the middle of the road. When she gets to me, I say something like ‘that’s not something you see every day’, and she stops. We shake hands. I explain I’m looking for my recalcitrant cat. We both try to tempt him back, but he’s simply not having it. ‘Cup of tea?’ I say. She thinks, then demurs, and we wander back to the house.
And have tea.
Door open for when Ginger decides to grace us with his presence.
We talk about literature, music, art, philosophy (a bit) for I guess an hour and a half. As you do at 1am. With someone you’ve met on the street. We’re both drunk. She’s got people’s names written all over her. As you do. She’s been playing bingo. Obviously. And decided things weren’t right, so went for a run.
Utterly logical to her.
‘Don’t you sometimes just feel the need to run?’
Not exactly, but I’m guessing there’s a corollary somewhere in my strange world.
‘I’m tying to have every experience I can so that I have something to write about.’
Then she decides it’s time to go back from whence she came. And so she does.
It’s an evening I have yet to entirely work out.
But the book was called Quarantine, Lucy. Just in case you forgot.