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Seeing Allen

  • By Sheila Heti
  • Issue 7
  • Fable

It was the first day I considered seeing Allen—as if on this sunny day there was nothing to do but get dressed, leave the house, and walk down the street to the place we once shared. I’d held a grudge for far too long over the fact that he had stolen my cat, the one creature I loved, who he also loved. But it had been my cat, not Allen's.

When I got to the building, I buzzed 403, and when I heard his voice crackle through the speaker, I said, You know who it is. It's Harold.

There was a hesitation on the other end, then that familiar buzzing, so I pulled on the glass door and went up, taking the stairs two at a time.

I reached the landing—faded blue walls and blue carpeting—then went and knocked, and Allen opened the door. My cat was square in his arms. I reached out to pat him. Furry, I said. My heart sunk. I saw how I still loved Furry, my feelings undiminished. Allen, I said, bringing up old wounds. How could you?

Allen said, I could love Furry better. I always could and there was no one here who didn't know it, Furry included. At this, the cat leapt from his arms and ran back into the apartment—to where in the apartment, I did not know.

Can I come in? I asked. Allen yawned and said, Sure, and stood back as I entered. There was wicker everywhere. I have to say, I was impressed. Allan had taste, he had always had taste, there was no denying it—better taste than Judith or I had—big green plants all around, a nice environment for a cat. I understood Furry's happiness at living there.

Allen, I said, if I could have told you that what you did hurt and alarmed me... Furry was the only creature who loved me, who I also loved, and you had so much sex, probably still do, and people looked up to you at work, and you had the confidence of cashiers and store clerks...

Allen nodded at all this and left to pour himself a drink. I went to stand at the large picture window, from which one could see, in the near distance, the Don Valley, with the busy highway running up and down it on either side. Then I turned. Furry! I cried, and Furry emerged, purring, from beyond a doorway. I got down low and put my hands out and called, Furry.

Furry came to my hands and sniffed them and I picked Furry up. I said, Furry is a good cat.

Allen came towards us with his drink. He reached out and stroked her. I said it made no difference what had gone between us in the past, for Furry was obviously happy here with Allen. I told Allen that I still had no other friends, that no one looked up to me. I said, How could you take my cat, knowing what you knew of my life?

Harry, he said. For the millionth time, Furry was never your cat. When Judith moved in, Judith brought Furry. When she relocated to Asia, she said to me, “Allen, you can have Furry.” Then you had a fit. “I want Furry!’ you cried, and Judith said, “Allen has a better track record than you.” Then I got rich so you moved out.

You kicked me out, I corrected.

How can you continue to this day to insist that Furry is or ever was your cat?

I stood there unspeaking as Furry jumped from my arms and ran off into another room. I had once been a roommate in this place, a roommate of Judith and Allen. What about my Andy Rooney records? I said.

Those belong to you and I should have sent them, Allen replied, and he went over to his record case and pulled out three records and put them into my hands.

Thanks, I said, I think we're even.

I called good-bye to Furry, then said, Good-bye Allen. He said, See ya, Harold, and opened the door to let me out. I wanted to remain in that apartment a little while longer—to head over to the picture window and gaze out at the Don Valley one more time, but I didn’t want Allen thinking that I wanted to move back in. You have everything I don’t have—except my Andy Rooney albums, I said, wrongly imagining that this would effect a note of triumph as I left.

Sheila Heti is the author of six books. She lives in Toronto.

"Ferndale" © Ed Panar, from the series Animals That Saw Me