Under Protest

Cat—and this time I am operating with near certainty that the man himself is doing the writing—had his hands on the dirty typewriter long enough to do some more substantial writing. I myself have sifted through and transcribed enough of his work to chart some kind of evolution, some progression, if only in the sense that his English at a certain point sharpened sufficiently so as to constitute a style. It is a style unlike any one author I can call to mind, though someone I interviewed who was interested in such things suggested to me that it read like it had been expertly translated into a foreign language and equally expertly translated back. This was sufficiently obfuscating for me at the time and, like much of what I leave for you here, elicits no further comment from me. Nevertheless, I would have a difficult time forensically proving that this was a later or earlier piece of Cat’s writing, but as we narrow in on a psychomythology of the feline man, it seemed as good a place as any to go next. Recall the few determined facts we know about our hero: he has loved and been separated, he has been born and been exiled, he has been party to a crime which very likely was staged and escaped the certainties of the law, he has raised untold sums in unlawful ways for unknown helps to combat unspeakable harms. When he speaks, certainly people listen. We now can count ourselves among those who have.

Typed with a dirty, vowel-filling typewriter on lined, quarter-sized yellow stenographers paper. Each page is headed with the word “PROTEST” and footed with a number:

There are people in every room of this place, which is how I know we are all safe. Even the people who bring in danger just by virtue of who they are bring it in to cleanse it and to convert it. They bring in danger to make it our own. Diesel Jesus is plotting right now. I cannot hear him, but I know it is the case. He wants to be absolutely brutal, it is always building up inside him. He is shaped like a kettle and when his face gets the right shade of red, he walks away with purpose, to prevent eruption. He knows better. He waited out the clock and now can operate legally, right out in the open. I watched him take apart the entire house Sparkles bought and put it back together. It was half the size from the outside but twice as big within. It looked like a garage with four walls, but inside it was completely round, with a false floor. I want to believe he could hide others in there who were not as lucky as he was, those who could not find freedom in the suggested way. Still, his protest was hiding in plain view. When every last act you undertake is legal, you can be stopped by prejudice alone. When they are all illegal, you must find and use the privilege of invisibility. So in a way, I am no one.

They are not kidding when they say I am a cat. No one who knows to call me that doubts why they should. I made it all the way to the top of the naval warehouse, which is something a few other cats have done. The Support helped, and we only had to smash three rusty locks to scale it. I think I could live there, in my invisibility, but that is not how this works. Smart is one thing, but this is bigger. When I look at the floor plan of a building, the doors are all open. They are gaps in the wall, and I can pass right through them with my finger as I trace a path to wherever I need to go. When I look at a map, it looks exactly the same to me. The gaps are smaller, almost invisible themselves, but those black lines are not scorched into the earth at the limit of each city or country, or each plot of land. I asked the Support to shout it with me, because I know it to be true: if one cat is imprisoned, then no cat is free. I put my arm around each of them and reminded them that many, many cats are behind bars. Bars of iron, bars of gold, bars of black lines on pieces of paper which tell bureaucrats that these cats are allowed to be or not.

So they say I prowl. I walk through walls of buildings with out of date plans and I bridge moats with my friends and their minds. If a door is locked from the outside and opens inward, it ought to be kicked in. If a door is locked from the inside and someone cannot exit through it who needs to, then windows need to be relieved of their bars and carefully cut away. The only other alternative is violence. Claws and teeth.

Who is a liberator in the land of liberty? Who wants to be member of a club that would not have them? I learned what they should call me: secessionist. Abolitionist. Escapee. Illegal. Illegitimate. It trips off their hateful tongues which have never known love or need: Illegal.

We make lists of enemies, but it is not the same as it was where I came from. Here it is a kind of game. The racist down the street. The abusive partner. The far right. The near right. The center left. Xenophobes. The police. The government. Too many enemies. Same most places. We can hide or fight, decide where our homes are or not. Or are not.

If I have nothing here, is it all equally mine? I prowl easily down the street, thinking it is all equally mine, which makes it easy to want to share with the others who also have nothing here. Many of them do not think as I do, because they are not allowed to. I will walk through walls for them too, and they will see me coming. But their captors will not. And a thousand other cats will tread on soft pads with sharp claws tensed and retracted, ready to tear up maps and pick every lock in their paths. Their black lines mean nothing to us, because we could not see them in the first place. There is still a crack in everything. It will be our paws that pull it wide open before the light gets in.