In the bodega kitty-corner from me, where I go to purchase emergency toiletries, there lives the most mystical marmalade tabby.
This is not my usual bodega—the Yemeni operation up two blocks, which I support with ferocious loyalty after their fire in June. I believe my monthly purchase of Ben & Jerry’s pints is more than just an investment in local business. It’s more than just a vote for subsidiarity and its more than the solidarity of the neighborly. It’s the coinage of credo, it’s a monetary tendering of Resurrection. I approach the counter each night to exercise my Arabic and offer unto the high priest my five dollars as a sin offering for second chances, a holocaust for new life.
But this is not that bodega. This is the bodega kitty-corner from me, that smells of marijuana and whose shelves are stocked with flat archetypes of staples. It lacks the sheen of Yemeni innovation and the sleek fixtures upward mobility that follows immigration.
But in the back sitting in that comic limpid pose of queenly felines cleaning themselves, sprawls the orange-striped monarch of this place.
I don’t know what guardian angels are. I’ve been wondering for the past year.
Apparently, most Icelanders believe in little people, elves, trolls, or fairies. They are [re?]building pagan shrines. Apparently they can see Proteus rising from the sea just fine, thank you Willy Dubs. But I get it. Because really what is the forces that are pressing all around us: inside our brain, outside out hearts, in the night air around us walking up Convent Avenue. The world is too much with us to be simply an un-peopled nexus of Newtonian laws colliding.
Outside the bodega—the bodega that smells like weed, with rote and dusty shelves, with the cat and not the owner who drills my Arabic greetings with the proud responsibility of a tutor—a man is gyrating up and down.
Is he high? On drugs? Dancing? He is fixing his cane, pulling it out to the correct dimensions.
I go inside, walk back into the cat’s domains. Its little corner that it rules, licking her haunches. She follows me to the counter, and saunters out past me into the street.
After laying down a twenty, I follow her out into the still autumn air. I look for her. She is walking behind the man with the cane, who keeps vigil on the corner. She begins to prowl between cars, stalking, I’m sure the rats who scurry between the trash bags.
But both of them—the man with the cane and the cat—seem to offer the neighborhood more than just their presence, but attention. They are watching, guarding.
Perhaps something like the angels.