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.