I don’t know where my cat is. I have been here only a week and I’m afraid a coyote got her. The old lady kept worrying about it, waking me early in the morning, and telling me to keep her in my room. Well, that was impossible. She’s a nocturnal animal, so it’s either I get sleep and she is happy roaming around, with the only side effect being a window open enough to let the bugs in, or I close the window and she starts using a litter box again and is angry and making noise doing everything to keep me up at night. I would use the rest of the house, let her roam the living room and the kitchen, but Irma wouldn’t have that either, so here I am possible dead cat I’ll never see again. I’ve been thinking about it all day. Irma would say I told you so. Coyotes tearing her apart. I thought about when I got her and she peed all over the bed, and sat huddled in the closet covered in clothes. I thought about Portland, and Berkeley, and Oakland, and San Rafael, and all of the times I dragged her to a new place, to have her throw up and foam at the mouth, completely losing her mind with the change, and then becoming comfortable, and kneading my belly like a content little sister. What if she doesn’t come back tonight. And tomorrow. I’m going to put everything off, and sit here and think about it. Call her name quietly so Irma doesn’t hear. And hope. Miyoki. Miyoki. Miyoki.
I’m also thinking about Einstein. My first cat junior year of undergrad at Oregon. Einstein who came up to me at the animal shelter all black and white skin and bones and large white whiskers sprouting off of her face like a mad scientist. Both cats had wild green eyes. Einstein lived with me and five other people so she was more sociable, more friendly, but smelled bad and some people called her Skunk or Pepe le Peu. I took her to the Oregon country and she killed all of the rodents and placed them at the front door for us when we got back from work at midnight. Sometimes we’d step on a dead rat and yell at her. Einstein who sat in empty boxes. Einstein who tore up newspapers and ate the family of baby mice out of the toilet paper under the sink. I left to teach in Korea for year and she only lasted three months, and then she stopped eating and Adam said it was because she was sad and missed me. I told him to take her to the vet; I would pay for everything. He didn’t and a week later she was dead. He said he cried. He said he put her in the ground and prayed for her, but I cried more and screamed at him over the phone and refused to talk to him for two months. I was pissed that he killed me cat. I was pissed that he kissed another girl who was closing the health food store with him now and going home with him after midnight to an empty house with no cat. I couldn’t believe he did that to me. I blamed him. He said she had digestion problems, and that’s why she smelled. I fucking hate you, I thought. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
Fuck Irma for saying my cat would get eaten by a coyote. I think if it’s true it’s her fault for making it a possibility. They smell fear, and she sweats it out of her like an old, ripe onion.
Before I came to Murphys I spent the night at the farm. The farm is my dad’s friend’s farm half way between Calaveras County and San Francisco. It’s just as hot and dry and brown in the summer. It used to be a race horse ranch and now it’s an organic farm with berries and vegetables and herbs. Miyoki disappeared the morning I woke to drive to Murphys. I couldn’t find her and I opened a can of tuna and walked around the house and street for an hour. I looked in all of the rooms of the house, and under the house and called her name and glared at the Italian boy who had come to WWOOF with the farm, and was standing there doing nothing, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the day’s schedule. I finally found her hiding in the office closet, invisible in a corner like when I first found her on craigslist and brought her home. She was lost and hiding away in a corner, and I was relieved. So maybe she found another interior corner to hide. I looked in the bedroom. I looked under the couches. The only other place would be Irma’s closet and I can’t go in there without proving I lost my cat. So I’m sitting out here watching the sunset, and frowning. I wish Irma would leave. She’s not supposed to be here. She lives in Walnut Creek with her husband and her renovation plans on an Air BB. She should be there, and I should be here by myself with my dog and cat. I hate how this family friend puts me in these situations. “I have a nice hilltop house you can stay at. $1 a month”. Hell yes. I was paying $1200 for a closet, and grad school is over, why not? I will come here, apply for jobs. Except it wasn’t on the farm it was in Calaveras County. Okay no problem, it’s in the boonies. Except it’s not a house for me, it’s shared with an old lady who comes in and out half the time because she pretends to be working to organize the mercantile store in Angels Camps ten minutes west. That’s where Mark Twain wrote about the famous jumping frogs of Calaveras County. Downtown is a strop of old wester buildings and plaques with the names of all the winning frogs and the length the leapt.
Four years ago I left Portland, Oregon, and drove all of my belongings, with my cat in the front seat of a Uhaul, to the farm. From there the family friend, (John, who was in the Air Force in Spain with my parents and said to have introduced them), flew me to Guatemala with him to check up on his dying sister. She had a little room in the middle of nowhere, an old drunk with a fake bronze wilted tan, and gold nail polish and bleached hair. She looked like a Barbie Doll that fell in a bonfire. We figured out who was helping her cope with her last days, and money that had somehow disappeared with the help of shoddy caretakers. I felt like I was in a detective story. We flew back to California and a couple of days later I flew to the east coast to work for John’s company as a creative director. I quit art school for this, and daydreamed about being a powerful business woman in New York City. Except I wasn’t in New York, I was in New Jersey, and the position wasn’t as powerful as I imagined. I was serving taste tests of an organic chinese food from the New Jersey factory to Whole Foods in New York, and the rest of the time fighting the actual business leaders with the their shitty Logo and brand design ideas. I felt like I was the actual artist, and my opinion was meaningless. I felt like I wanted to stay in New York. I liked walking through Central Park. I even got a membership to the MET. But I was only there a month and John grew angry that I wasn’t doing what I was told with the logo, and that my ideas weren’t real business ideas, and without pay and without discussion, he flew me back to California to work at the mercantile. This is when it was actually owned by the farm, which is no longer the case. When he flew me back he had disgruntled volunteers serving sandwiches and ice cream. They all were my age, and complained about how small the town was and how they didn’t really want to be there doing that. They were like exchange students without the classes, and they were as disappointed as I was living in Clifton, New Jersey, between the longest sewer system in the world and a conglomeration of Russian food shops and Chinese factories. I couldn’t afford New York but I couldn’t survive the mercantile, and the lack of freedom and the dream to get a masters in fine art left me reeling, so I pleaded with my mom to wire me $1000, and I moved into a place I found on craiglist in Berkeley. I knew Berkeley from undergrad. I spent two summers there, one working as a door to door canvasser for the environment and one working at Mills College as a lifeguard and living in the architecture frat at UC Berkeley. This new place was a basement apartment shared with a manic depressive girl who just broke up with her boyfriend. She hated me two days after I moved in, and I was too exhilarated to be free again to notice. The move to the east coast and back wasn’t in my list of life goals, but being near San Francisco and pursuing art was, so I signed up for classes at the largest art university in the city and got a job at a local running shoe store. I quit smoking again. I ran and I went to class and the girl moved out and I move upstairs. What I forgot to mention was that when I was in New Jersey my cat was left on the farm with the promise that she would somehow be flown out to me. And yet a month passed and she never was and I missed her and worried about her. So part of returning was to see my cat again, and here she was on the farm, anxious and waiting. I took her to the basement apartment and she was also anxious, hiding in the bathroom, annoying the mani depressive roommate. So the move upstairs into a larger studio apartment was the first time since Portland that she was happy, and because of that I was also happy. We stayed there for two years. The first year I studied at this art school for a term. I learned that it was a real estate market. I learned that they had buildings all around the city and that it was a commercial hazard and students that went there were terrible and losing money for nothing. I learned that it wasn’t respected as a true fine art university, and my coworker at the running shoe store, a recent graduate from a true fine art university, told me what the good schools were, and how I had made a mistake. So I quit of course. And a term passed and I worked full time looking at people’s feet and telling them how to run better, and what shoes to wear and what size to start buying. I then enrolled at another university, a respectable prestigious school overlooking Northbeach and a block from curly Lombard St. I bought a new camera, and got extra financial aid from Wells Fargo and a grant and a cosignature from my mom that sent my dad reeling. I worked and I went to school, and then I spent three years at this school until it was all over and I had a masters and here I was, talking to John again, trusting him again. I couldn’t help but think about his sister with the gold nail polish and fake tan, the fake hair and the glossy alcoholic’s eyes. She was sent to live in a little house in the middle of nowhere. Wasn’t I sent to live in a little house in the middle of nowhere? I looked at it one way and I was given $1 rent house to take my time and find a good job for the next chapter of my life. I looked at it another way and I saw a man that I discredited as a lying, pretentious jerk, and told to take a hike and bailed on four years prior, with no verbal contact for two years until circumstances had me leaving Oakland and my parents insisted I communicate with him again. The convoluted mess that is this story wraps up in Murphys, where I’m sitting here watching the sunset and worrying about my cat. All of the chaos behind me, and the little stories I plan to tell from the Bay Area, and through it all from Portland to Murphys was my cat, and now the only noises are the birds, and my loud head saying her name again and again. Miyoki. Miyoki. Where did she go?