Cat power


Location: Upper West Side

Rent: $1600 (rent stabilized)

Square Feet: 630

Occupants: Fred (cat) and his providers (man and woman)

You’ve been lying on your orange back with your white stomach in the air for about three months now in this small but charming apartment on wide, leafy Duke Ellington Boulevard, near Riverside Park. You live here with your providers, but they can’t be publicized for various reasons, so let’s just say one teaches at Harvard— she commutes— and her boyfriend is an editor at, oh, I don’t want to spill the beans. We’re sitting here on the terrace. [Fred goes back in the house.]

Fred, come back. Okay, don’t. If you want to sit in the bedroom I’ll conduct the interview through the window. [Yelling] So you and your providers moved here from Boston where they were suffering in a $1150 one-bedroom apartment with a cathedral ceiling and spiral staircase— like Barbie’s Dream House— though it was in an early-20th-century, ivy-covered Tudor building with a courtyard a few steps from Harvard Yard. That’s the building where you had the affair with your neighbor Viola, who was French and had all this curly brown hair— she was a human— and you’d come back after being at her apartment smelling of perfume. Anyway, before your providers moved here they looked at 35 apartments in two months and got a broker and . . . Fred, get back out here. [About an hour later he comes back to the terrace.]

And they thought this two-room- with-kitchen was too small for the money but of course what did they know, they’re only rent-stabilized seedlings, and, by the way, the former tenant paid $800 and something but the landlord put in some ceiling fans and was able to double the rent. Yet, when your providers saw the terrace in the back, they almost fainted and decided to take the apartment. It feels so high up— the fifth floor— the tops of the trees are all around so it’s like being in a tree house. All the plants, the nasturtium! I bet you think of the terrace not unlike the way Akiko Busch thinks of the front porch. I was just reading her reflections in her book, Geography of Home— how the porch resides “in a realm of uncertainty,” that “ambiguous territory outside the house.” [Fred licks his left paw.]

Of course a roof terrace is always a specific destination rather than a sometime point of passage. It does share the titillation of being a private place in the public air. Anyway, your providers say you’re not happy in New York. You’ve gained weight. You lie around and eat cat food all day. You shouldn’t be such a party pooper. Just be happy you have that darn terrace! Most people in New York are stuck inside their apartments all the time and the days are gone when they could go on the fire escape and sing to each other like Tony and Maria in West Side Story. On summer weekends it’s like living in a bowl of bouillabaisse, no place to go except crowded cafés or parks where everybody is wearing leg packs and doing wheelies like they’re in Santa Monica by the ocean but they’re only near the Hudson River. But you, you can come outside to read or just bring your prey to ground like the other night when you had that black furry thing in your mouth. [Fred licks his right paw.]

Oh, hey, did you hear about those 171 cats that lived with that woman in Virginia though now she has only about 114 because the Humane Society euthanized 51 of them? It was all reported in a Nest magazine exposé. [Fred looks up at the sky.]

I was just trying to relate to you on your level. Find a topic we had in common. [The door opens on the roof terrace next door. A neighbor comes out. She has a ponytail. Fred leaps over the fence.]

You’re going to do it again, like with that neighbor in Boston, aren’t you?