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Monday, January 16, 2012


     caterpillar lioness

Wondering what it is about cats and dogs, pets, that is so satisfying for me all along my way. In childhood, I had dogs, cats, chickens and caged birds (canaries and parakeets) for pets. I've never been one to sit with a dog or a cat and tell it my troubles, or anything. I think of them living without words, so I prefer to communicate with them without words, learn their silent language and interact with them learning from them how to communicate without Sit, Heel, Roll Over, Shake hands, Play dead. I've never wanted to make a pet into a circus animal, though I have loved seeing shows of dogs jumping over backwards, jumping through a ring of fire, etc. What happens with me is I fall in love with them, they fall in love with me and we develop an inseparable relationship, such that if I were to die on Caterpillar, there's a good chance she'd die of grief soon after. When I lose one of my non-verbal friends, I feel the same grief as when a human friend dies.

About a year ago I read something that said pets are often surrogates for absence of human relationship. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Sometimes when I hold Caterpillar and tell her I love her, I'll question if I'm playing surrogate. It always comes back, no. The human psyche is too powerful for me to attempt to live with another person's energy, psychology, control issues, needs, demands, wants, deception. Married, I would have to be one of those men who has his own space with a locked door that is off limits to kids and wives. Being honest with myself, I have found from experience that I don't do well living with somebody else. I get accused of not talking. What happens is, the other becomes so predictable she turns boring. This is what happened in the marriage. She became boring to me, because I knew in advance her response/reaction to anything I might say, so I wouldn't say it. She grew frustrated, because I talked so little, and I grew frustrated because she was too predictable. She had an endless list of wants that meant debt I couldn't stand living with. I felt lonely married and have never felt lonely unmarried. I feel lonely if I don't have a cat or a dog.

That's another marriage issue. "You love that damn dog more than you love me." It is so tempting to say, "That's right," but I know what comes next. Hell to pay. Like daddy telling me when I was 14 that he'll kill me if I join the Communist Party--this was back in McCarthy times when the government had the populace freaked over Communism, like they do over terrorism now. Then I hear, but terrorism is real. It's real only as a reaction to American aggression against poor people of color. The end of American aggression would be the end of terrorism if it weren't so convenient for population control, a shared enemy, a bad to contrast against our own good. Being told I'd be killed for joining the Communist Party set off an alarm. I'd never been interested in Communism before that moment. After that, I was looking for the recruiting station. Suddenly, I was sympathetic with Communism without even knowing what it was, except the preacher at church said it was bad.

I tried to look at Communism like something I'd like. I read about Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, and said this was even worse than home. Hitler was home. Stalin was worse. Mao was worse. I was looking for an antidote to living under fascism. Finally, there came a time I realized, after much denial, that there is nothing desirable about Soviet and Maoist Communism. Wasn't anything desirable about Hitler either. Even though our American democracy is a matter of pretend, we white people, nonetheless, don't feel directly oppressed the way people in the Soviet bloc and mainland China felt it. Communism turned out to be a very dark, brooding cloud that controlled people by fear. That wasn't for me. That's what I was objecting to at home with parents, that dark, brooding cloud, control by fear. There's an old saying, nobody's happy when mama aint happy. It applies to daddy as well. Daddy's dark cloud brooded over the entire house. The tension in the house felt like something you had to cut your way through with a machete. It was the same dark brooding as I felt in Xao Xingjian's novel, One Man's Bible. Mao must not have been very happy; he kept his entire nation in brooding despair.

I dislike that oppressed feeling. I feel I understand it, somewhat, in the black people. It is a dark cloud the black people in America live under. The same can be said for Hispanics, anybody not white, except the poor. I'm privileged with whiteness, something I see in the white people around me that no one seems to get, that white people in American are privileged and take it for granted, same as the rich do with wealth. In most intimate proximity with another human, like living together, tensions grow and the feelings from my developing years trigger the feeling of oppression when I've got somebody I once thought something of yelling in my face telling me what's wrong with who I am. The next thing that happens is I'm gone, no turning back, no reassessing relationship, no apologies. The first time I showed this aspect of myself in married life was at a table playing bridge with X and her parents. I, a beginner, made a bad move. X across the table exploded into a rage at me for being stupid. I rose from my chair and announced, I will never play another game of bridge. Game over. That was it. I hate that shit. When I went out the door forever, it was after a shouting in my face experience when I told myself I do not have to live like this. I do have a choice. 

My dogs and my cats are good company. That they don't talk is a lot to be said for them. I don't like to talk either, so we have good relationships. I have to watch the use of that word relationship. Since about the 1980s it has meant fucking. Like now, dating also means fucking. "We've been dating (fucking) for three months." When I say I have a relationship with my pets does not mean we're fucking. I think we have the original meaning of relationship. We care about each other, we live in the same place, I never yell at them, they never yell at me. I am so bad about being yelled at, that I have walked off jobs over it. I don't accept such behavior from anyone for any reason, no matter how close, no matter my vulnerability. When somebody believes they know me well enough they can yell in my face, is when they find out they don't know me at all. That individual dies to me. They actually die before my eyes. Not like fall down dead in imagination. It's like the person I once knew, I don't know any more. Whatever the nature of our relationship, it's over, totally. I figure somebody that needs to talk to me yelling and accusing is somebody who doesn't want me around. Dogs and cats don't tell things behind your back. They're not fickle and they don't deceive. I don't think of Caterpillar a surrogate of something I don't want. I think of her as my friend.


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