In this dirty, old part of the city
where the sun refused to shine
People tell me their ain’t no use in tryin’
The Animals 1965 song We Gotta Get Out Of This Place opens with those lyrics.
Sometimes living in the city can feel like that.
Big buildings looming. Concrete and steel. Garbage on the streets. Trees being cut down again and again. Too much traffic. Too many obnoxious people flaunting their mobile phones like medieval broadswords. Too much noise and dust and smoggy, gray light.
I can deal with those things. They’re not necessarily negatives in my eyes. I’m used to them. If the stark edginess of a city is tempered with a bit of green space and some things that suggest humans actually live there, then I’m OK with the overblown industrial motif of it all.
But sometimes the humans who live there are not worth bothering with. I often liken my life to a Sci-Fi novel. I think it’s called something like Fortress. I envision that I single-handedly am holding back the apocalypse erecting a wall around the perimeter of my garden that cannot, will not be breached. Stalwart, ready, in the trenches, armed with nothing more than the long garden shears I use to trim the tops of the camellia bushes and that old umbrella I have with the spike on the end. I stand. Naked and alone.
Fortress, indeed. I should call the Sci-Fi novel that is my life Why-Don’t-You-Just-Come-In-And-Take-Everything-I-Have-Including-My-Self-Respect.
Except you can’t have my self-respect.
It is the one thing I will fight to the death for. Even if all I have is a mouldy old umbrella to defend myself with.
What am I actually talking about?
My neighbours. Yes, you know them. Those pus-filled, brimstone spitting spawn from the Hellmouth who live next door.
They have gone on holiday. Their twenty-something kids come and go. Eating all the food from the fridge, painstakingly checking their mother’s internet history in case she has left the password to Netbank lying around somewhere so they can inadvertently transfer some cash (I just pressed ENTER and it put five grand in my account….); smoking so much pot that the other night the garden was filled with such a large amount of acrid, sickly sweet smoke that I actually saw the ghost of Bob Marley.
This is all fine and to be expected except for one thing. They are not feeding their little cat. Now I like that cat. I don’t know her name but she is cute. She has white stockings on her feet. A little calico cat. That cat and I have been friends for the past four years. Secretly.
The other day the little cat was crying in that pitiful way cats sometimes do. Not in the I want attention NOW way that my Aunt Jo’s old cat Winston used to do. That was a cat that would have fit in to 21st century life with aplomb – self-centred, narcissistic, in your face. He was named after Winston Churchill who is my Aunt’s favourite politician hands down. I’m not sure if it is possible but I think some animals can channel their namesake because that cat would not have looked out of place with a bowler hat and a cigar. I am also certain that when he miaowed it was with a perfectly crisp English intonation.
But I am rambling. Winston used to cry in a demanding way. Petulant, fractious, it’s all about me, me me; but the little cat next door was crying in a way that said: I’m hungry and alone.
She was skinny. I don’t know how long it had been since she’d eaten. I had some cat food in the pantry (which I keep in case a stray cat happens along) which she wolfed down. She also drank an entire bowl of water.
And she was cold. Really cold. It was one of those late Autumn days where the wind comes up from Antarctica and cuts you like a knife. She was shivering. I had an old blanket in the laundry that I was considering throwing out so I let her wrap herself up in it. She settled down, gave a cute little sigh and fell asleep.
When one of the stoner kids came home I went out and let her have it. She is 25 years old and cannot be responsible enough to look after a cat. It’s pathetic.
She didn’t even have the good grace to apologise or thank me, just looked at the ground while picking at a love bite on her neck.
About two hours later I got a phone call. It was Stoner Girl’s parents calling from their 5-star resort. I got the impression I had interrupted their cocktails and I braced myself for a rant. But the rant didn’t come. They thanked me. Actually, thanked me for caring for their cat. They said they couldn’t live with themselves if anything happened to that cat. They said they had misjudged me.
Stoner Girl’s parents and I have had some vicious fights in which they have more or less said that I am a second-class citizen because I rent my house. I didn’t know these facts until I met them but apparently renters are under-educated, usually drug dealers, never put out their garbage and are basically a menace to society. Because they rent they are not worth talking to in a courteous way. Ever.
Do I sound resentful? Damn straight. Do not ever judge me based on your perception of how much money I do or do not have. Just don’t do it. It is one of the things I cannot forgive.
My neighbour asked if we could have a coffee when she returns but I refused. I am a cold-hearted bitch when it comes to stuff like this. They have treated me so badly that I just can’t go back. I would never ever let an animal suffer no matter who it belonged to but to give the time of day to a woman who has threatened to sue me because I complained about her kids having a party with 200 people in their tiny semi-detached house when she went away for the weekend? Well, it just won’t be happening.
Perhaps the tension between us will ease. And that is a good thing. But as far as I’m concerned nothing terribly much has changed. For now the bridges just keep on burning.