No picture today.
Because I'm writing about cats.
And I cannot just now stand to look at one. For some reason, my Facebook and Instagram feeds occasionally erupt with a deluge of cat pictures, the result being that I am cured of social media for a spell. Photos that some people think are cute or amusing can strike visceral terror into my body.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out in the back terraces, which we are trying to tame, clearing crispy brown leaves off the ajuga plants. I'd squatted down to work, on the stone ledge edge of the terrace, enjoying the magical new growth of spring, when I felt the friendly brush of a small, furry animal behind me. My first thought was, "Schubert," and my second thought was, "Shubert should not be out here if I'm not holding his leash!" By the time I realized that it wasn't Schubert, I found myself turning to investigate, and there behind me was a large, supple, undulating black cat. A shuddering wave of horror crashed over me.
The next thing I knew, I was standing upright in the same spot, trembling with nausea, and the cat was skulking at the far side of the yard. I don't know, had I screamed? Honestly, in trying to piece together the progression of events, I wonder if I actually lost consciousness, or if my mind simply blocked out a few seconds of trauma. It has done that before.
For the rest of the day, I kept imagining the sensation of a cat brushing up against the back of me, followed by chills and nausea. I wanted to wash my clothes, take a shower, and never go outside again. It was so horrible, I wasn't even going to write about it.
But the night before last, I had a cat dream. I hate cat dreams. This time there were three cats, mangy orange things, all coming after me. They stared at me, and they stalked me, and they got to me, touching me, three, from different directions. That is the climax of the torment, the physical contact. Once (I think I've written about it) I dreamed that a cat had attached itself to my forearm and was literally eating the flesh off my arm, in my mother's laundry room, next to where she's hung the picture of penguins I painted in fifth grade. There was no particular pain involved in the act of flesh eating. The proximity itself was the terror: being close to, touched, violated by a cat. This is my worst nightmare.
One of the cats in my most recent dream was less malevolent than the other two, but it didn't matter.
Why do I have this debilitating fear of cats?
Also, what do dreams mean, and why am I dreaming about cats right now?
Will I ever be able to relax and enjoy my ajuga again? Or is it forever associated with cats?