From the outset of the visit, something begins to take form. It starts out like a movement in the corner of your eye that disappears when you try to catch it: there and then not there, followed, of course, by a troubled pause and then a shrug. But in its persistence, it grows into something niggling, something significant that’s not quite remembered, like the ambientdread in wondering whether you’ve turned off the coffee-maker. And increasingly, you think about the Oblique Strategies, which you’ve left back at the studio, or rather, one card in the deck–the cautionary one, the one that reads, The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten.
It’s on the evening of the second day, at her basement pantry, when you finally nail what’s eluded you before it once more slips away: where the hell is the cat, the other love of Beatrice’s life? Because there’s no litter box in the house, but there isn’t a pet door either, and thinking about it, you haven’t seen any food or water bowls.
So staring at the pantry door, you work through the possibilities. First, the obvious–that the cat’s gone missing, lost in this new neighborhood. Second, that Minna has been hospitalized, though there have been no calls to the vet. The third and grimmest scenario is that the cat is simply dead–maybe hit by a car or, unthinkably, killed by Jack.
Where the hell is Minna? But no, that’s not the question: the problem isn’t that she’s missing–it’s that her absence has gone unmentioned. And even that doesn’t go far enough; it doesn’t capture what’s actually wrong: Beatrice’s silence isn’t as disturbing as her seeming lack of concern. True, she may be waiting to tell you about the cat, whatever that news might be, butin the meantime, her brave-face happiness is seamless and disconcerting. Minna is, after all, like a child; so loved and often referenced you have to keep reminding yourself you haven’t been introduced.
But whatever has happened to the cat must have only just occurred, and people often deal with worry and grief in ways that seem mysterious. So even though the disconnect with Minna is disturbing, it seems better to wait and give her some room until she’s ready to open up.
Then suddenly Beatrice is calling downstairs, asking if you’re okay, which seems almost telepathic in the midst of wondering the same thing about her. And it makes you feel as if you’ve been caught out because no, you’re not okay, so you search for the response most like a polite smile and discover I’m straightening the pantry. A good choice because it underscores your helpfulness and at the same time avoids her question.
“Well, get yourself up here right away, because suddenly I feel like dancing.” That brave-face happiness once again, seamless and disconcerting . . .