My boyfriend has two cats that he loves. Josephine Foster and Klaus Kinski, better known as Josie and Kinski. They’re housecats, stuck in a small fifth-floor apartment. Naturally, they’re happy, bored, scaredy cats. And naturally, they love to run between our five little rooms, sit on the balcony, and look out the window. He and I argue sometimes about them, because I don’t like that they can’t go out, and he thinks that it’s dangerous, that they would get hit by cars, and that anyway they’re two years old and it’s too late now.
Kinski likes particularly to sit on the windowsill and look down. She isn’t afraid. I’m not afraid either; she’s a grown cat, she needs air and she can make her own decisions. And she’s agile, of course; she’s a cat and they’re agile.
Konstantin allows it, doesn’t like it, and closes the window when he leaves the house. I leave it open when I leave the house.
He says that cats fall all the time. I say No no, ridiculous, sure maybe but what are you going to do, never let them out in any way at all? I think it’s worse that way than the dangerous way. If they were my cats they would go in and out, up and down the stairs and into the street if they wanted. They’re spayed. Cats need adventure, and if they die young, they were still happy cats.
Last night at a dinner, a friend passed me a small tupperware of bones. They belonged to her little black Muerte, the freest of Haus cats, who had had ample opportunity to roam and learn the ropes of survival. She fell out the window, and broke her chin in two. My friend had told me the story before, and when she did, I said, Oh, so they do fall out the window.
Now she passed the bones, which she had unearthed three months after the fall. Some were missing. The flesh hadn’t completely come away, so she buried those again, would take them back out the next time she could. She wants to rebuild Meurte with her bones and wire, as an act of love and remembrance.
I held the small skull, saw the chin, split like a wishbone, with one little canine on each side. One friend there was a vet; he said it was the most common injury for cats who fall far.
I held a femur, and it seemed cold to me, colder than a little bone should be. I mentioned it and people said it wasn’t any colder than anything else in the room, but it felt so to me, and I thought, this is why people talk about cold bones.
I came home at 2:00, thought I saw the sleeping form of Konstantin in the bundled comforter in the dark. I went to brush my teeth and heard the door click. He had just come home with red plastic carrier. It was dusty; he was using it for the first time in a long time.
He said, One of the cats somehow fell out the window. I said, no.. he was joking. No, he wasn’t, she fell; Kinski. She fell to the street and broke — no, not her little chin, but her hip, her paw. She fell while he was out because the window was open. He came home and saw her hunched on the street before the door.
I had a thought, that maybe when I took the tiny skull in my fingers, maybe at that exact second, Kinski slid from the sill. Maybe the skull still had some vertigo about it, residual, a moment so dizzying that Meurte’s bones can still remember it. Maybe as I touched them, it flew from me to my closest cat on the sill, to Kinski, who was just at the right spot for it to take hold. Or maybe Meurte felt me there, a stranger petting her, found Kinski, and threw her.
Maybe she just fell. Shouldn’t she have been sitting there?