It’s Thursday evening. It’s now 5pm. I have no date tonight, no dinner with a friend. I’m drumming my fingers and I start to think about the #MeToo movement. We are in charge of our own destiny, aren’t we? Why should women wait for men to tell us where we stand, what to do or, to paraphrase Marvin Gaye, what in God’s name is going on? I want some sort of resolution – closure. I realise, through fear, I’ve been pussyfooting around David because I want to see my cats (he’s looking after them as animals are not allowed in my new London flat). Plus, I’ve just had my hair dyed. I really hate having a beauty treatment and it not being appreciated: like a snowdrop, raising its delicate head, only to be flattened by a snow plough.
So I order an Uber to his flat. As it speeds across Vauxhall Bridge, I get more and more nervous. What will I say? What will I do? What if a woman opens the door? What if his ex-girlfriend ‘Garnier Fructis’ has abandoned her new husband in the Australian Outback and returned, claiming David as The One? And what’s my plan, exactly? I have no car with me. No cat baskets. No giant net. No M&S prawns. Will my cats still recognise me after, what, four months?
I ask the driver to drop me at the corner, feeling like Starsky without Hutch, but with much better knitwear. Only when I get out of the car do I realise it’s starting to rain. I’m not good in the rain; I start to resemble Monica from Friends in Barbados. Then I come to my senses. He’s been ignoring me. He has my cats. I have every right to find out how they are. There’s no telling if David is in, as his bedroom is at the front of the house on the ground floor and I’ve never known him to open his curtains. Why bother, frankly, when you only have to close them again? But I try to peer through a small hole. Isn’t it strange? Thirty years have passed and I’m still trying to sneak a peek in his front window. But there is nothing. Darkness.
Gathering all my courage, I ring his doorbell. There is no sound, and not just because I’m deaf. Seems broken. I ring the flat upstairs. Nothing. I lift the letterbox and peer. Just piles of pizza delivery leaflets, prams and letters doubtless addressed to Garnier Fructis, despite the fact she left years ago. I ing him. It goes straight to voicemail; that strange Northern accent he never lost, despite leaving Rochdale in the 60s. I contemplate what to do.
I know! Garden! Well, nothing Monty Don would recognise – more a lump of solidified concrete covered in weeds; something more up Alan Titchmarsh’s street as a ‘before’. I really must nominate David for a makeover. ‘War wound?’ ‘Nah. Just an addiction to The Chase.’
I creep round the building next door (empty? a hostel?) to the wall that I know is one patch of weeds away from his compacted square. I find a block of wood to teeter on and I hiss. ‘Susie! Minstrel! It’s Mummy!’ Nothing. I don’t call Sweetie as she’s frail and I don’t want to encourage her to climb. I call again. This is hopeless. I consider scaling the wall but I don’t want to get tasered: it’s that sort of area.
I think of the number of times, in the dead of night, I’ve stood calling Susie. She was the reason I left London. She’d gone missing again and I was in fear something really awful had happened. And now, tonight, the love of my life is in the same city, on the same night, feet away, and I cannot get to her. I’m Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer.
I dig out my phone to summon a cab and, as I do so, there is a slight rustling and a chirrup. And there, on the wall, by my face, is my Susie. She rubs her tabby rump on my face. I run her tail through my hands; it’s skinny, but not too thin. Her coat is damp. She smells slightly of smoke but I don’t mind that: David passive smoking on an 18-year-old semi-feral cat is not what will kill her. She startles; my cab’s here. I leave her, parading on the wall, tail a question mark, and I feel my heart break into a million pieces.