The First of Many “Tails”

I have to take Cat to be a collector; whether or not he assembled the collection contained in this box as a whole, he almost certainly pasted together the thick volume entitled “Tails” to be found within. Although, thinking about it for even a moment, I have exceedingly scant evidence to prove that hypothesis, but some liberties and leaps are going to have to be taken in order to construct any kind of viable picture of this person. In my first, cursory leafing through the book, it seems entirely reasonable to me that the vignettes and musings contained would emerge from the mind of a single individual, scattered of topic and seriousness though they are. As ever, I will lean towards reproducing those which seem to have anything to do with one another, in hopes of further constellating Cat In The Hat and his legend. The format here is most assuredly scrapbook, in the most literal sense: the vast majority of the pages are other pieces of paper affixed with a clear adhesive, mostly quite neatly, though towards the end there is markedly less care taken, either out of haste or possibly the work of a less fastidious archivist. Some of the leaves inside seem extracted from another notebook, others are cleanly cut from periodicals, still others are the backs of envelopes or receipts; whatever Cat (or whomever) could put his hands on to jot them down. If there is in fact an order, be it chronological, alphabetical, thematic, or otherwise, then the pieces must surely have been entered according to such a plan after being assembled in advance. If not, as is my current opinion, though there may still have been some principle of inclusion or exclusion, they were added as Cat saw fit, in batches or individually. I needn’t generalize or categorize the items included in “Tails,” as simply including them here will suffice at present. Truly, any commentary which might be offered at all is best left until we’ve gathered a better menu of what’s available from which to deduce.

On a large paper dinner napkin, in blue ballpoint pen:

The Professor and Reich went over plans for the “Pleasure Palace,” or the former might have been describing it to the latter. It is apparently a place where one can find any pleasure they might imagine, provided they are in stock. It might be a turkey sandwich or a winning point for your favorite sporting franchise, but it might also be something a little more idealistic, like winning your 7th grade debate competition or eating a snow cone for the first time. Some of the Pleasure Palace’s wares also sound more relief-oriented, for instance a cut which no longer itches as it is healing, or a difficult day of work being over. Reich is finally onboard when informed of the availability of hitting a home run at one’s little league game. Whether it need be the winning home run remains uncertain, and possibly unnecessary.

On the back of a bar coaster, otherwise unmarked:

It’s a gang of tough seagulls, bullying all the other birds, stealing bits of people’s sandwiches off of beach blankets. They’re snapping their wings in time, like they just flew out of seagull West Side Story. It is a beautiful immigrant story of gull-crossed lovers. These guys are going to be a massive hit. They don’t follow any of society’s conventions.

On a series of sheets of unlined paper, written small and tremulously:

We talk about dreams all the time, and I love it. It always seems like the right conversation to have, either about specific little films we have experienced the night before or those which flutter through our heads during the day. Those are more repetitive. It is easy to dream when we are together, anyway. Sleeping beside one another, in cramped quarters, means our bodies intersect at points unexpected. A forearm contacts a knee and forms a conduit, a heel and a shin complete a circuit. If we lapse into sleep perpendicular, then the top of one skull might merge with the firm, but febrile, hip. But more recently sleep has felt like more of a game, a game of escaping nightmares. I have seen enough, or we have seen enough, to fill a lifetime with nightmares. If the waking world is bad enough, sleep can be a respite. But if there are terrors waiting there too, then there is no escape. Things grow out of proportion, they expand and contract, and they take on shapes which cannot and should not exist in reality.

When I consider it, it doesn’t seem so nightmarish, but I know the terror I feel and it’s the same as the fear of running from some terrible force which is absolutely going to catch you and harm you just for attempting to live. It is the fear of being alive according to a status given you by a government: criminal, refugee, illegal. It is the sleeping version of the waking terror of having your self-determination revoked.

The dream itself is circular, it winds back upon itself. It isn’t that anything particularly frightening happens, but the same thoughts keep spiraling, questions answered with other questions which finally recur onto themselves. I must be quick and agile to avoid the danger which awaits me. This is not frightening by itself, I understand my own capabilities, it is part of my very name. I must be certain, admitting of no doubt in the principles according to which I act. This is fine also, although moving quickly might sometimes contradict being convicted, but ideally they work together. Where it begins to get more difficult is that I must also be convinced of something beyond myself, to the point where it cannot be disproven. I must wed myself to a supernatural notion which is at once beyond me and also a part of me. I often think, when I am awake and sitting on the steps outside the house, that this notion is freedom, but in the dream, nothing feels sufficient. Almost the last requirement, or result, is truth, and at this I begin to quake even as I write. The questions multiply: whose truth? And who is to say? If it is my truth, propped up by my belief and I am at all uncertain, then does it all collapse? If that is the case, I certainly hope the belief isn’t freedom, because I need and require it. But somewhere in this swirl of question and uncertainty battling with convictions I feel as if I must have even if I cannot list them or articulate them at all, from somewhere comes a bolt of flame, and the walls are alit around me, and it requires every ounce of my thinking to escape. And I always do escape, every time. The nightmare does not want me to perish, because dead men don’t experience terror.

There’s a sort of West Indies, island music playing through the entire thing as well, very bright and forceful. It feels like it ought to be inspiring even as I am experiencing it, but it inspires me only to dread. When I wake up, it’ll still be there, like an aftertaste which can take hours to chase away. Because the ultimate realization is that I needed the dexterity all along to escape the burning room. Belief and conviction were just bridges, they were neither the goal nor the means to a greater end. They each simply linked the cycle back on itself.

And there is no saving me, not really, because it is a nightmare and what might happen will simply happen. The only remedy is not a remedy at all. It is prevention. Prevention means, in this case, staying awake, because awake means alive and asleep means afraid. What a terrible choice which cannot be avoided and eventually is made for me.