Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Cat from Hell

Hungover, tired as hell, damp from a shower, and dreading work, I opened the door to leave my apartment and heard a strange noise in the hallway.
"What is that strange noise?" I said to myself.
I perked my ears and listened closely, but didn't hear anything. I closed the door almost all the way, keeping my hand on the knob, and looked across the room at my sleepy-eyed girlfriend sitting up in bed, curious, confused.
"What's going on?"
"I heard a strange noise in the hallway. What do you think it is?"
I opened the door to get another listen and some sort of creature immediately shot through the crack like a bullet.

I jumped out of my shoes, onto the ceiling, and back into them. What was it? A diseased rat? Possum? Raccoon? Skunk? Feral dog?

As the faceless monster frantically darted around the apartment and my heartbeat worked its way back toward normal, I saw it was only a cat. I hate cats; they smell, I'm allergic, they're boring, arrogant, and rude. Would it bite me? Would it scratch me?

As I debated whether or not a squirrel or raccoon would have made a better foe, an unkempt middle-aged man stepped into the doorway and offered up some morning breath.
"I'm sorry. He's been a little crazy lately and he thinks he still lives here."
I recognized the man, Dennis, as the weird dude that lived in my apartment for years and years before moving into an identical apartment a mere two flights up. Even though we are probably more similar than I would like to admit--or maybe because of that fact--I was glad he decided not to cross the threshold and venture into my intimate space (it's an adorably/annoyingly small apartment).

When I toured my apartment...five years ago(?), trying to decided if the place was right for me, Dennis was in the throes of his big lazy move upstairs and pretty much all that remained were dozens upon dozens of milk crates stuffed with old records, stacked floor to ceiling along an entire wall. I'm a record collector myself, so you'd think I would think somebody who had tons of records would be cool, but these babies might as well have been yellowed newspapers--something about that gargantuan wall of musty records and its prominent location in the apartment screamed mentally-deranged loner pack-rat.

Based on that small bit of data, before I even met him, in my mind Dennis was a middle-aged hermitic freelance saxophone instructor or jazz music critic who decided years ago, maybe after his only girlfriend left him for their accountant, to hole up in an old brick building in Koreatown--probably since before the neighborhood was swallowed by the insatiable Korean monster and was still mostly Hispanic--smoking cigarettes with the shades drawn, never venturing outside save his midnight walks to the pleasantly uncrowded 24-hour grocery store and the ritualistic weekly moving of the ancient Volvo station wagon for street cleaning.

Not long after I moved into my apartment, I got a piece of Dennis' mail--which is the only reason I know his first name--and decided to give it to him by hand, since I knew where he lived and I was curious to see what he was like. Our neighborly interaction/intrusion of personal space lasted all of two seconds and did nothing but confirm my earlier impression about this guy's weirdness, reclusive nature, and potential for jazz saxophone instruction.

Dennis had long dirty-blond hair, wore tinted prescription glasses, didn't open the door more than 4 inches and never said a word when I politely handed him his mail and tried to make a bit of small talk (I hate small talk, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do).

To see this man standing inches from my face, at eight o'clock in the morning, years after our first/last meeting, seconds after being startled nearly to death by a crazed cat I never knew he had, and still stung by a hellacious hangover, was a bit much. I froze.

Luckily, my girlfriend leapt out of bed and corralled the cat before conversation between Dennis and I became necessary. Once the prickly pet was handed over and Dennis apologized for the intrusion, I nodded, closed the door, and took a breath.

"That cat scared the shit out of me!" I had to say out loud.
My girlfriend and I looked at each other as if we had both seen a ghost. Wishing to put the entire incident behind me, I opened the door for a third time, checked to make sure the coast was clear, and headed off to work, a bit closer to death than I was the last time I opened that portal to reality.


No comments: