The death of the neighbor

As is often said, the streets of cities are veins whose rougher or less rough walls shel­ter the ants that we are. It is also said that the hous­es of the cities, although con­comi­tant, are closed silos. Neigh­bors know each oth­er very lit­tle, rarely say hello.

This was the case of my neigh­bor whom I knew main­ly for his pussy Aria. It was named after my neigh­bors on the ground floor because she looks like the Games of Thrones char­ac­ter with her severe expres­sion and slight­ly bulging eyes.

Last year, Aria had come to Yves and Lau­ren­t’s house, my neigh­bors and friends, to car­ry her kit­tens one by one. She was already feed­ing at their home, in addi­tion to Arthur, the tiger cat who is one of the many breed­ers who sat­is­fied the poor cat with her per­pet­u­al heat. Yves and Lau­rent had adopt­ed two of these kit­tens while our neigh­bor had kept one, while the fourth kit­ten went to anoth­er friend’s house. That was about the only com­mu­ni­ca­tion we had with this man.

He often left his door open, espe­cial­ly on good days. Aria was con­stant­ly out there, preg­nant or not. She would dis­ap­pear until she gave birth to her cubs, then come back to eat at Yves and Lau­ren­t’s house. Arthur would some­times chase her away, but that’s all. Oth­er cats also come to roam on my friends’ prop­er­ty, because Lau­rent has found him­self a pro­tec­tor’s soul for some time.

This spring, Aria becomes preg­nant again. Win­ter is a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult. The neigh­bor’s door remains closed. Kit­tens are born. The neigh­bor’s door has long since been ajar. This does not sur­prise us. Spring is cool, some­times even cold. We see the kit­tens appear. We are of course intrigued by the result­ing dress­es because there are so many cats around Aria that she always has sur­pris­es in store for us.

Three or four very hot days are com­ing. A pesti­len­tial smell emerges, at first we don’t know where from. It is believed to be a dead ani­mal under the gallery, but the smell becomes clear­er, it comes from upstairs. As Aria shows signs of dis­tress and tries to lure the kit­tens down – we guess she wants to bring us her off­spring – Lau­rent decides to go knock in the evening at the neigh­bor’s open back door. The smell is strong. Already at the entrance to the kitchen, the smell becomes unbear­able and the show in the kitchen is more than des­o­late. Food every­where, spilled bot­tles. Lau­rent tries to move for­ward, but he is pan­icked, espe­cial­ly as he has to con­tain trau­mat­ic mem­o­ries. He turns back and Yves, her hus­band, calls the police.

When they arrived, it was 9:00 p. m. There are two of them, climb­ing the same stairs Lau­rent used. The kit­tens fled to the back­yard. The police offi­cers noticed the same decay and smell, backed away and decid­ed to go for­ward to see if they would not see some­thing from the win­dow. They ask us if we don’t have any masks of any kind. I am ren­o­vat­ing my apart­ment, I have dust masks that they glad­ly accept.

The win­dow of the room, which over­looks the front, is opaque and their attempt to light the room quick­ly makes them dis­cov­er that a tragedy has occurred. They decide to get high, enter, bare­ly thir­ty sec­onds lat­er, come out of it, feel­ing nauseous.

—Fuck ! said one of them.

They quick­ly get out near their car, with stom­ach pains, ready to vomit.

—It’s black, it’s dark, I’ve nev­er seen so many flies in my life ! I’ve nev­er seen any­thing like it !

They have cer­tain­ly seen oth­ers, but not of this kind. They talk to each oth­er with­out notic­ing that I’m here.

—Fuck ! Fuck ! It must have been two or three weeks since he died !

I offer them water from the top of my bal­cony as a qui­et neigh­bor. They come to their sens­es and smile at me.

—It’s all right, sir, we have what we need in the car.

A police­man takes out the rib­bon that you see in all the movies and secures the door to pre­serve the area. The oth­er goes back to the back to talk with Yves and Lau­rent who had mean­while man­aged to catch the three kit­tens with the amaz­ing help of Arthur who was there to put his big paw on the kit­tens that were run­ning away in front of Lau­rent. No trace of last year’s cat sup­pos­ed­ly stay­ing with the man. Aria was nowhere to be found. The kit­tens are safe in my friends’ house.

We go home, I light incense, because the smell, my faith, how to say it, is the smell of the end of things. I fall asleep quick­ly, how­ev­er. I’m strange­ly calm in these sit­u­a­tions. It was dif­fer­ent from my friends. I fell asleep even though I knew that on the oth­er side of the wall, a man was lying putre­fied and black­ened in a con­cert of hap­py flies.

I knew that the body was not removed until around 3:00 in the morn­ing. Lau­rent was not asleep and a police­man came to take his state­ment around 1:00 a. m.

The next day, Yves came to see me, ask­ing me if I could take the kit­tens. It was hell the day before because three kit­tens fac­ing three adult cats is not imme­di­ate friend­ship. I accept­ed and my friends on Face­book were able to fol­low the evo­lu­tion of the lit­tle ani­mals, at first afraid, then more and more… uh.… mis­chie­vous ? adorable ? play­ful ? funny ?

On Face­book, I am invit­ed to keep them, because the kit­tens seem to have adopt­ed me. For his part, Yves began the process with a shel­ter, after the advice of anoth­er nice neigh­bor who works there vol­un­tar­i­ly. The shel­ter guar­an­tees that the cats will not be euth­a­nized and that they will be placed in a fos­ter family.

It frees me up, I have nei­ther the will, the mon­ey nor the spir­it to col­lect three cats. I have giv­en enough to the ani­mal pop­u­la­tion and I have some­thing else to do, espe­cial­ly fin­ish­ing my apart­ment dur­ing my first holiday.

And then there’s some­thing else I’ll talk about in oth­er walks. Speak­ing of these, I once again left them aban­doned. It’s a sign that my life does­n’t take place above a keyboard.

A police­man called Yves back a few days ago, pro­vid­ed the iden­ti­ty of the man, who has a daugh­ter. She would have expressed the desire to wel­come the kit­tens, but Yves’ attempts to con­tact her proved unsuc­cess­ful. The man was just a lit­tle younger than me. The police do not believe in sui­cide or crim­i­nal death. The man suf­fered, it seems, from a lot of back pain.

We did­n’t know any­thing about that. The walls of the hous­es are so opaque. The dra­mas are expe­ri­enced as so many unac­knowl­edged sins. It’s sad and life-saving.

As for the kit­tens, they are hap­py, inno­cent, not know­ing at all what the future holds for them. I have tak­en many pic­tures of them, both moved and serene. I have oth­er things to wor­ry about, as they say, even if it would nev­er occur to me to hurt one of them.

A man died alone. Many peo­ple found it dra­mat­ic, sad. It is above all the great pain he pre­sum­ably expe­ri­enced, it seems to me, that is ter­ri­ble. How­ev­er, I don’t want to let his dra­ma dis­tract me from my life. I’m in the back like these kit­tens. We must con­tin­ue to live, espe­cial­ly with, at last, these days so beau­ti­ful and com­fort­able in front of us.

We may meet again in a par­adise or among the atoms of oth­er inter­stel­lar cats.