Cats by Andrés Vaamonde

You know, for all the flak I give this place, I have to say they have done a number on the couches. I remember a few years back there were only two in the entire rec room, and they tended to be more hole than couch. Now, look at this, ten beauties lined up perfectly in front of the window wall, in all their upholstered glory.

I see your nametag is still freshly pinned to your lapel. No fraying or anything. Excuse me, I have somehow forgotten to introduce myself. My name is Julius and welcome to Lotus. Ah, forgive me, you are new. Lotus is slang for what some of us call this place. I hope you would agree it has a far better ring than Olympus Hospital For the Mentally Ill. Why do you think we adopted a pseudonym?

There is probably something you need to know about me by the way. Lean in close, I really can’t say this loudly. I do not belong here. I am the only sane person in this entire place.
You look unconvinced. There’s a glint in your eye. OK, fine, I will divulge my story. But you have to promise to listen. With your eyes and ears too, not just that pen and recording thing.

I am a writer. I am. Thank you, yes, it is a noble profession. A professor of mine once said: “We read and write because we are members of the human race. We sustain life with all kinds of different utilities but we stay alive for writing and reading.” Yes he does have a beard. So you know of John Keating’s work as well? Wonderful.

Anyway, I had been a lawyer, way back when. But at some point in my thirties I quit all that business. It was just too bland, you know? You haven’t experienced absolute boredom till you’re one hundred pages deep in worker compensation intake forms. I had the same routine every morning. Wake up, shower, drink a cup of coffee, get dressed, walk out the door, drink another cup, drive to work, set up in my office, drink a third cup. I’d blink and I’d be home again. Routine is tiring, and I was exhausted. They say insanity is defined as the repetition of a thing, over and over, though it still doesn’t work, and that’s kind of how I saw myself as a lawyer. So I let loose a little and quit, to become normal.

This is how I found writing. Though I had a natural talent, I knew money would be tight, so I moved in here after being persuaded by friends. It turned out to be a blessing. I have churned out books, had a handful of plays produced, and even did some spoken word for a little. I get calls day and night from old friends praising me, asking if they could come and visit, watch a performance, learn from me for a little while. Just like you now.

Would you like me to read you one of my poems? OK. It’s entitled Até, The Goddess. ??I am a vampire.
There are socks in my shoes that weigh
heavy like cement. I cannot walk because of them.
Chris Smart is sitting on my lap. I am petting his hair. Have you ever stared
at your fingernails, wondered what they are made of? Mine are shells of pills.
A cat outside still barks from this morning. I wonder if he’ll ever shut up. Madness
creeps with him now. His name is Julius, and so am I, and so I am. He only speaks
with this voice, the written one, the one that yells in ink. Help him, me, the cat. He, I,
the cat are tearing at our organs, trying to rip apart pills–capsules that encapsulate
us.
But they have strong conviction.
But so do many things.
Repetition is the worst affliction, so here I am
and here too is the end of this poem.
Goodnight.

Did you like it?

Why are you frowning? What are you writing?

Did I say something I shouldn’t have?