Another Box of Questions and Answers

I keep flipping through the pages of “Tails,” which are at times entertaining and light, at others weighty and a bit frightening, as with some of the previous entries. There are even a few pages which have been liberally painted over with some sort of dry ink, through which their initial contents cannot be discerned. I cannot shake the feeling this Cat guy is hiding from me in these pages, particularly in the longer entries, which require some perseverance to get through, so dense is his syntax at times. There is very little repetition, which is at once refreshing and at the same time a bit off-putting. It is not a rhythm which lends itself to light reading. When I finally hunted down Jack again, he passed off a box of miniature cassette tapes. He said they were answering machine recordings which would “answer all your questions,” even as we both knew there was no way that could be true. It also did not turn out to be true that these were strictly answering machine tapes; at least a couple were comprised of voice recordings made quite deliberately in what I imagine to be the punk house where Cat first showed up. It was a revelation to hear his voice: sonorous but with a distinct gruffness underlying it. He spoke like he wrote, which sometimes made me wonder if he was reading. I somewhat doubt it, but there’s no way to be absolutely certain without asking others who were in the room.

“Jack has described to me the Ex-Girlfriends Club and it sounded like something I needed to see. We walked all the way to the end of the street where our friends do not usually go. You have to walk through a small apartment, which is actually an art gallery, but it is very unusual art. All of the works were either carved directly into the walls or nailed to the ceiling, hanging down over us. There were three rooms of this, then around a corner, then two more, smaller rooms where they were projecting some kind of experimental film. Then one more corner and down some stairs to a basement. This was the Ex-Girlfriends Club, it had a sign to let us know where we were. Jack introduced me to the Queen, and said they had a thing. There were not that many people for nighttime in the neighborhood, but I believe this was because it was very exclusive. The bar was small and too low for stools. Jack flipped a switch and we could see the bar was made of light boxes with all kinds of items under the glass. One box was all champagne wrappers, another one was scraps of men’s suit materials. Jack said that these were pelts, I do not know exactly what he meant by this.

“Jack told me it was always midnight down here until you left, and then it was always daylight until you came back. He has a very unique sense of time. He tried to tell me about the witches, but I had to tell him that we take those creatures quite seriously where I come from. He snapped at me and said he takes them very seriously too, but I do not know if I believed him. I think he believed himself, however. I think Aunt Sandy probably believed him also, as she had just walked up to us. When he started telling me about moving forward always, she walked back away. She said she had heard that story before, but that he should definitely tell me. He does not believe in regret, which was surprising to me. I told him it was a fundamental human right and he said I was vain. I told him there was a saying in his language about pots and kettles, but he did not want to hear about it. He told me to just enjoy myself, which was easy, because I was enjoying myself. I still do not really understand the name of the club, but it is usually a good thing when likeminded people congregate. On the way out I told him that the Future Ex-Girlfriends Club was probably even smaller. He smiled and told me that was true.”

There were other recordings from the Cat, but I thought a few of the answering machine recordings would be useful to transcribe alongside this one. It turned out many of them were probably Jack or, even more likely, residents of the house, calling to remind themselves of things or leaving coded messages for one another to hear later. I don’t think any of them belonged to Cat himself.

“I’m in LA, it’s warm but not as warm as I wanted it to be. I’m going to sleep in the garage, alone, after this call. If anyone is there, it would be nice if they would pick up. Otherwise I am going to take up some of this tape talking about things no one cares about…fine. There are two women who are furious with me. Another one who doesn’t seem to care at all. Another one who is interested in nothing but sex. Another one who I think has given up altogether. And then there’s you, who is listening to this message, and probably knows who the majority of them are. Any ideas” (long pause) “That’s fine too. Goodnight.”

“I dreamed about us all again last night. I thought that was worth mentioning. It was just a dream about dreaming, I don’t remember anything except that we were all there together. That has to be worth something, right? Maybe a country song. Maybe.”

“Uh, hi. I think I left my earrings there two nights ago. I know there are a lot of people around, but these would be big pink hoops. Pretty hard to mistake. I need to get those back. Please call me? You know what, I’m coming by. I’ll just come by and get them, it’s fine.”

“…I’m the trickster…I play tricks, you know? I think I tricked you, now I’m inside. But my heart is pure, the tricks are tricks of love…have faith!”

“I swear to god. Does anyone even live here? I’m calling to ask that someone get some decent wine in this place before I get back. We’re all gonna die, there’s nothing wrong with that, just for the love of whatever holy things you can think of, get some decent wine back in this house. And keep it there. Keep decent wine there. I’m coming home.”

“This is your standard issue aging punk rocker calling. I know the message says never to leave names, but you can probably figure out who I am anyway. Damn it, that was too clever. I don’t remember why I called, but I’ll bet it was important! You’ll regret making me be clever, you miss important messages!”

A possible follow up to the previous Cat recording:

“I told Sparkles about the Ex-Girlfriends Club. I don’t think he was impressed. He suggested starting a different club for Jack to be president. He called it the “Talking to Inanimate Objects Club.” He could tell I was skeptical, but he explained that there was a great deal of comfort in talking to things that could not respond. Or talking to things that felt no obligation to respond. He found it liberating and thought it would be perfect for Jack, who truly appreciates companionship. I asked him where meetings would be held, and he said they could be just about anywhere. When that man smiles, I think you would join any club he formed.”

Minutes later, on the same tape:

“Claiborne has a club also, which he tried to describe to me a bit. He calls it the Awful People’s Club. I have had about enough of these strange clubs, they do not seem to be particularly active, and they accomplish very little. When he began to describe some elaborate set of criteria for admission, I stopped him and told him it sounded pretty straightforward to me. He told me: not only am I the president, I am also the member.”

I reach the conclusion of another session of sifting, and continue to wonder at it all, but I think we are past the point of being hung up on continuity. Lives aren’t continuous and smooth anyway, don’t let any hack biography give any impressions to the contrary. There should be irruptions and eruptions, fissures and valleys, analepses and projections, cycles and severances, pick-ups and grace notes, and so forth.