Del amor al odio
Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas
Clyde was broken from the start. He never jumped up on tables, or looked down from a shelf at a lost mouse. Clyde never put his leg straight up in the air to groom himself like other cats do. Clyde: never groomed, never climbed, always stunk, and became one solid block of fetid, flea infested muscle. When Bonnie liked him she would groom him, but Bonnie liked him only rarely and always briefly. Mostly, we believe, because of the sex.
When Clyde was just a little kitten the second born girl couldn’t stop staring at him. She cocked her head and pressed a finger on his forehead, on his hip, above a pair of disoriented eyes, below a broken vertebrae. She couldn’t figure out why “he didn’t move like a cat.” While other’s kitten’s tails stuck straight up like antennas waiting for signals Clyde’s dangled loosely between his legs soaked in urine, covered in excrement and riddled with black crawling things. Bonnie was broken too, in her own lesser way. Her left ear was torn like a page in an old book, or a small fish on a large hook. The mother was going to return her at first, exchanged her for a less defective Siamese, but her second born adamantly protested, then tried to fix the cat herself, with glue and tape. Bonnie never quite forgot that.
When Bonnie was in heat Clyde would go mad. He was a loud, stocky, angry thing who lived under Bonnie’s constant taunting. She’d sit on a dresser, or atop an opened closet door, or on the staircase railing and she’d stare down at this mad cat pining for her, taking only occasional breaks to a paw his square head, or dig her claws into his thick neck, or bite the bridge of his short nose. Eventually, after she climbed back up a third or fifth time, Clyde would lick his nose or paw-walk out into the patio where he sat humming like a swarm of wasps in a paper bag. He sat and stared up at adjoining windows and nearby walls. He sat and stared and growled and waited for other males caught in Bonnie’s scent to jump down to his level so he could tear them apart. No one slept soundly.
The moment another male touched Clyde’s packed dirt ground his fate was sealed. Clyde would launch himself like a short torpedo and barrel right through bone and fur. Once, he was so angry and fast he ran up the side of a wall and stranded himself on a neighbor’s roof. Another night a cat managed to sneak in through an open window. Clyde ran inside at the sight of a graceful and much larger male slinking toward Bonnie. He let out a long threatening growl like a demented siren and an then even longer steady stream of rank urine, like something else more demented and putrid. The other cat followed suit but Clyde didn’t hesitate. Clyde wasn’t afraid, he didn’t care for tails or grace or hygiene or competition, only, ever: Bonnie. So he ran head first into this other male, bit into and through him and tossed him across the room him like a wet rag. Clyde loved Bonnie.
But it wasn’t enough, he didn’t have a tail and sex requires balance. When Bonnie would finally come down, defeated by persistence, and lift her tail to flag him in Clyde would go madder still. He’d trip over himself to climb on top of her and then immediately slide off. He’d jump up and try again, and slide off again, and jump up and slide off, and jump and slide, and jump again and wear her out. He’d get on top of her and try to gently clip the back of her neck with his teeth but the broken tail stunted his growth, he was shorter than her and he ended up pulling her head at an awkward angle and make her cry. But worse, much worse was the fact that he could barely hold himself on top of her. He’d topple or trip right off, or else he spent all his energy trying to balance himself so that thrusting with his hips became almost impossible. The second born and her older sister watched dismayed, they heard Bonnie crying and poor Clyde out of breath, and they asked their mother to take him to the vet.
“He’s ripping her up with this nonsense,” he said and instructed the girls to help Clyde. “When he climbs on top of her, help him push, like this.” He motion with his hand as if pushing a tiny child on a tiny swing, “do you understand?” The second born will remember all this one day and say, “I saw his little penis, and I never touched anything. No. But I don’t know if it was a problem of aim or stiffness. To us then, it was all a matter of penetration.” So when Bonnie comes down from her dresser or closet door one girl helped Clyde stay on top while the second born put her hand just above Clyde’s broken tail and pushed him into her. Bonnie will never forget this either.
There is a chance the accident with the tail may have affected other parts as well, Clyde reproductive system, certainly. But this remains unclear. Either way the second born changes Clyde’s name to Juan, Casto Castisimo Casto Juan. Casto, Gato, Cato, Cat. Or, John the Chaste. (Sometimes, Juan Clyde Patricio Gaviota, and Bonnie Cecilia Gaviota, in homage to John Livingston Seagull.) She answers the phone and says, “Residence of John the Chaste, how may I help you?” She invents professions and famous friends, “Oh John is busy in Barranquilla, in Cali, in Paris. Such a busy man. A dentist don’t you know?” When the mother sends her to buy a bit of bread, or cheese, or calendula for her throat, the second born returns with the change and throws it back at her mother, bill by bill by bill. “Here woman,” she says, “this is from John. Buy yourself something nice.” The second born calls him son, and says how lucky she is to have such a successful son at that, sure to take care of her in her old age. And when Bonnie is in heat she’ll put her hand on Clyde’s lower back and push him in again and hope for kittens.
One night while the first born girl sleeps she will dream her feet are on fire. She’ll turn in her sleep and feel this terrible warmth seeping onto her. When she finally wakes she’ll find Bonnie semi-conscious and limp, a viscous mass with a single eye bleeding and still between Bonnie’s legs. The mother will call for the vet and instruct him to make Bonnie’s periods stop, he’ll give her a shot and a calendar for the next shot, and the next shot, and the next. Bonnie’s body will be full of hormones and then full of tumors before a lonely, Clyde-less end. Clyde’s tail will claim him first. The rotten thing will lead to infection, and the infection to kidney failure. Bonnie will never forget, and one day she’ll find the second born sitting on the floor at the bottom of the staircase and she’ll approach her slowly. She’ll make a sound like a snuffed out candle and then a muffled hum like a swarm of wasps, and then she’ll jump. She’ll dig her front claws deeply into the back of the girl’s head, she’ll dig her feet into her the girl’s neck, and she’ll scratch furiously.
Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas graduated from BYU with a BA in English and is concurrently completing two MFA's at the University of Iowa in Creative Nonfiction and Literary Translation. She was born and raised in Bogota Colombia, translates from Spanish to English and is interested in untranslatable and linguistically unnegotiable.