There’s the man who lives a few doors down. An older man in a trench coat. He has two fat, faded cats. He puts them on leashes and walks them around the neighborhood. He carries a retractable chair. When the cats find a place that suits them, the man opens the chair, sits and lounges until the cats decide to move on. Sometimes the cats want to settle in front of this condo, so the man sets up his chair near the front door.
There he was, the man with cats on leashes, sitting in a chair in the middle of the walkway. The first time I noticed him, at dusk, I was taken aback. Opening the second floor blinds and seeing the outline of a man sitting next to the front door is surprising. When you figure out what the old man is doing, allowing his cats to roam, it makes sense, and yet, he doesn’t really have to set the chair down in the middle of the walkway, but he does, and it is a reminded to me that the front yard and the walkway and the front door are not mine. I may rent them or own them, put fences in front of them and Keep Out signs around them, but the truth is, when an old man walks his cats and needs to sit down in my front yard, he has every right, except the “legal” right, to do so.
Today, it’s windy and cold, and there he sits in the blue canvas folding chair, holding a leash attached to something hidden under the bushes. I opened the second floor window just now and told him how wonderful it was that he cared about his cats. I felt like I should make a connection, being that I was standing on the balcony and his head was directly underneath the balcony.
“Well, Hello up there!” answered the man from his chair. “How nice of you to come out and greet me!”
He was a well-spoken gentleman.
“We love our animals, don’t we?” I said.
“Oh, yes. I live in the apartment building next door and the by-laws insist that animals be kept on leashes whenever they are out of the apartment, even in the hallway. I started these two on leashes when they were tiny kittens.”
“ I’ve never seen a cat on a leash” I said.
“They don’t know the difference, and I get my fresh air. I can sit and watch them, go over my investments in my head, work out deals, very refreshing.”
He had to bend back in his chair and wrench his neck to look up at me.
“For some reason, the cats like to stop here in front of your condo best of all.”
“Well, that’s fine” I said. “I like to watch them.”
“Why, yes.” He smiled and went back to watching the cats, one of whom had dug a hole and was pissing under a rose bush.
I felt ashamed. I didn’t want the man sitting on the walkway, cats or no cats. He had the large lawn in front of the condo and a park near-by with benches so that people didn’t have to carry chairs around with them.
The man was no bother to me. I didn’t have to leer over the balcony at him. I could go inside and empty the dishwasher. Here it was: The limbic territorial reaction to an invasive “other.” I was able to comprehend, using my advanced frontal lobes, that the old man was providing a loving service for his cats and caused me no harm. This didn’t make any difference. “Get the fuck off my sidewalk” I thought.