Scene 1: The Bites
“My cat is cheating on me with a younger, more attractive neighbour who offers him better food”
I am sat on the stairs combing fleas out of my cat’s ginger coat. They’re harder to spot here. On the whiter bits it’s much easier and therefore less satisfying. It’s ten o’clock at night and we’ve gotten into this reluctant routine where Alfie will meet me at various locations around the house around this time and sit patiently while I attempt to free him from the invasion with a fine-toothed comb, a bowl of water from Poundland (not the water part) and some toilet roll.
It’s a perfectly tuned operation now and I have learnt to steady the comb on its way to the water so as not to jolt the fleas into any awareness of their impending death by asphyxiation. I feel a little bad as I watch them drown; in my top ten worst deaths chart, drowning is at the top. Frantically they swim towards the edge or to the surface and, if they manage it, they’ll soon find an avalanche of toilet roll forcing them back under again. I’d find it intolerable if it wasn’t for the bite marks which currently range from my legs to my shoulders. The legs are the worst. It’d be nice to have my legs back. If I ever wrote a top ten body parts, my legs would definitely be in the top three. Those fleas have sunk them at most to a nine. So it’s actually in part quite satisfying. Plus there’s the suffering of poor Alfie, who now spends most his days licking himself furiously like he’s on acid.
When I’m not morbidly watching the little things drown, wishing they’d do it quicker, I am thinking about the next day, about the day I’ve had, remembering lines from Gilmore Girls (the current Netflix phenomena) thinking how tired I am or congratulating myself on getting such a good haul from the last comb through: four in one! This jubilation is soon destroyed by the stark realisation that it’s really not getting any better, despite my efforts. But one key thing I do get out of this time with Alfie, the thing that made me really start thinking about domesticity, is that all day I berate my cat, my own decision to get a cat, my cat’s tendency towards fleas, the possibility that my cat is cheating on me with a younger, more attractive neighbour who offers him better food; and I feel frustrated and het up and pretty remorseful about the whole thing.
And then. When we sit down together, say at the bottom of the stairs, and I am combing him through, it all disappears. I am happy to be doing this chore – it’s not even a chore- I am happy to be doing this wonderful altruistic act for my cat. Except I’m not sure it can be classed as altruistic when my legs stand to benefit so wonderfully from the deed. Still. And it doesn’t matter that I’m tired. It would be nice, I am terribly unfeminist to admit, to have a partner around to lighten the load. To sit with me while I comb him and at least be a witness to the ritual. But you can’t have everything. And it doesn’t matter that I’ve been up all night working and I’m supposed to be resting in bed right now, reading or at least scanning through Tweets. I am happy to do my bit. It even feels rewarding.
I’m surrounded on the stairs by clothes I should have sorted out weeks ago: giveaways from my sister than probably wouldn’t go to a bad home on freecycle. Then there’s my washing still in the machine and my plate from dinner still on the table. This of course I will sort out tomorrow. Without fail. It’s a certainty. I can’t feel bad about it right now because look at me spending time helping something that doesn’t involve the suffix self. Look at me doing something out of duty.
This, I figure, is the most domestic thing I have ever done. The scene is perfect: me in my mismatched pyjamas scratching my legs, bike in the hallway with a plant in the basket, clothes all over the bottom of the stairs, a towel which has fallen from the banister above, books perched on the steps above my head, an empty water bottle, my mobile occasionally twirping from watsapps that will most likely bore me, twigs which live perched between the banister and the wall, the cat, the Poundland bowl of water and the toilet roll. You can just call me Miss Stepford.