The night we met, I showed up at your apartment with fishnets shoved inside my bag. I was too nervous to wear them as I walked from my car to your door. I got catcalled three times anyway.
Catcalling is really bad over here, you told me while we ascended the stairs. You took the lead; I followed timidly. I couldn’t take in your apartment as we stepped inside because I had too much going on in my mind. Your room, though, came across as beautiful—the light soft and careful, your bed sheets floral and muted, your walls white with art strewn about. I complimented the painting above your desk; it’s overtaken by a brown so dark it looks black, and two figures stand in the bottom left corner, hidden but visceral. You thanked me and said no one ever noticed it. I looked at the books stacked on your shelf against your wall. I was still awkward and scared, but I was at home.
You said I was like a cat—the way my eyes wandered, my attention small. I laid my legs on top of yours, and you smiled.
We stayed inside. Our love remained within the walls of your room, though I would never say it was restricted or confined. In the summer, I wore denim shorts and tank tops. I found closer parking spots. I got catcalled by a man skating one day but I didn’t mind. I smiled. I’d sweat on the forty minute drive to you; my car’s AC was broken and I’d decided that was fine.
I sat on your floor, painting on a canvas. It was for my art class. I looked at the corner where your bed met the walls. I stared at it, perplexed, trying to understand the geometrics. I was never good at compositions or technicalities. My professor called my work funny, so misshapen things became my style, unintentional or not.
You laughed at me sitting on your floor with all of my supplies set up. You look like my pet, you said, in your little nook.
I was a stray cat who frequented your home. You fed me, quenched my thirst, offered your affection as treats. I got dopamine rushes when you pet my hair or stroked my cheek. You bought us bottles of wine when I was used to liquor. Suddenly, the whole summer eluded me—the sunny days, the hot air, the sweaty freedom—and it morphed into a Yellow Tail blur.
You were eleven years older than me. I wanted to know what it felt like to be taken care of—to follow, to be someone’s shadow, to be given love that was bigger than what I knew. Once I felt it, I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t be on my own. I wanted to forever keep my head in the crook of your neck, your hands wherever they want to be on me.
You got me my first toy. Your present came in, you said. I felt so small, so silly. I wasn’t going to let you use it on me; I wanted to be the first for myself. And then we got drunk. And then I was on the edge of your bed open and curious like a butterfly. You pleasured me in new ways—you were solidifying your authority, securing our bond, hypnotizing me into being yours. I curled up and rolled around in ecstasy, purring.
I’m gonna get you a cage, you said, fucking me, and a collar and a leash.
The reward of your love and attention eclipsed the pain of trying desperately to elicit it. Mornings without you, I was with you—only in a one-sided kind of way. I lived in my head where I played moments of us over and over. I brought dead memories to life. I clung onto what I could from the nights that didn’t turn into a black haze.
One of those summer painting afternoons, I leaned on your windowsill looking out onto the street. You’re like a cat, you said again. I waited for people walking to look up and see me. I was naked. No one did. You came up behind me, touched my shoulders.
I don’t know if you know, but you do this thing, you said. You’ll wake up and start making these noises, and if I touch you then you’re quiet and you go to sleep. It happens every time you’re here. You were upset, not well-rested. I apologized; you said that you’re just trying to find out what’s wrong with me. What was that term you used, you asked, which I thought just applied to dogs when their owners are away at work and they bark a lot? I said: Separation anxiety? You said: yeah.
I am sitting on the edge of your bed and, without turning your head, you tell me to stop looking at you. I am waiting, I am begging—I am thinking of what trick I could do for you to give me a treat.
Still, in this restless desperation I find pleasure. I like when you tease me, when you’re mean to me. I love when you pay no attention to me, I love when you hit me. I love the one-sided tunnel vision I have for you, I love the pain and the neglect.
It’s winter now. I think I will spend most days wandering around in the snow.