Issue #100 / 23 May 2008
Little Cat, Vegas
In fact what I had planned for this week was to have a Vegas piece on Page One and dedicate this issue to somebody I saw only briefly this last Saturday, just write a few sentences about this person I saw and put it on Page Two, the Notes page. But that placement would have represented an inversion of values, and the Vegas piece will have to wait. This person I saw is too important— even though I know nothing about her, except what I saw.
This small older woman, with orange hair. I saw her when I was about five-hundred feet away; I was driving east on the 101, last Saturday, about 1:30 in the afternoon. I saw her step into the freeway, with her arms in the air. What the hell? And as I got closer, now with my emergency flashers on and my hand stuck out of the window, signaling to the cars behind me, I heard her screaming, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” What the hell? Cars slowing now and this woman had run, walked, dodged her way across five lanes of traffic and is now at the center divider. I’ve slowed almost to a stop and so have the cars behind me, and I look over to the center divider. I look over and there was a small orange cat, making it down the freeway, moving with the traffic, right at the center divider. Stepping lightly, it was a hot day, and the asphalt must have been hot.
Not everybody was happy. Horns were blowing. But one car, an older car, had slowed and then stopped so that it blocked two lanes of traffic. The woman was at the divider as I drove past; and the cat, I believe, was saved.
That’s not good enough, is it?
I have to honestly tell you that I’m not sure; I want to say that the cat was saved and the woman not harmed. But I’ve got this need to tell the truth here, Veritas: Any Day Now. In the absence of great truths, any overarching veritas, we have to cherish the small truths. So I’m not going to lie and say that I know that the cat was saved and the woman wasn’t harmed.
But it was looking awfully good, wasn’t it? I mean, five lanes of freeway traffic, all slowing, stopping. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” she screamed. And the traffic did stop and she made it to the center divider; I saw that part. And seeing that woman standing at the center divider with a little orange cat in her arms, hell, the cars are going to stop for her, for the woman, even if they don’t give a damn about the cat. Aren’t they? So that she can get back across the freeway?
So I couldn’t see what happened after she got to the center divider. I had slowed so that she could cross in front of me, but I was now down the freeway, and couldn’t find her in my rearview.
But I believe that that she made it, have great hope. The cars were still slowing behind me, and down the freeway now, I saw a woman on the shoulder standing next to an SUV with the rear hatch open. She was talking on a cell phone, and in the back of the SUV I could see a large kennel; she was looking toward the center divider, where the older woman was. Maybe they had been called, an animal rescue organization. Maybe the woman on the shoulder was calling the CHP.
God, was it ever a stupid thing to do. Stopping five lanes of freeway traffic. I can’t stop thinking about it, can’t get that little cat out of my head, the older woman with the orange hair. Yesterday, when I was on my way to a dentist’s appointment, driving on the same freeway, I kept looking to the center divider. God, what would I do if I saw a cat there, a dog? What would happen if I had already driven past? What’s the smart thing to do? Call the CHP on my cell and continue driving? Or get off the freeway, double back and try to get to the center lane, slow down, reach down with my door open and emergency flashers on, and try to get the cat? God, would that be stupid. Spook the cat, it runs under my car. And then if it made it from underneath my car, it runs into four lanes of traffic...See? All these things?
But that woman with orange hair in the freeway, five lanes of traffic, made a decision, small older woman with orange hair. “Stop! Stop! Stop!“ she screamed.
God, was that something! I love her. I’m going to keep that image with me. Maybe that image can work for me. Something about honoring the small truth of the good in us. To counter the evil of the cat on the freeway, whoever put it there, that evil.
And in thinking about the good in us, maybe I’ll go somewhere else next time, understanding the need to get my gloomy self out of my apartment so that Catherine can have some room, I’ll go up the coast somewhere, an idyllic place, sylvan. What a horrible place, Vegas. No, for me, it always is. Whenever I get there, I think, I shouldn’t have done this. What could I have been thinking?
I drove to Vegas three weeks ago, saw no good person in the freeway, older woman, orange hair, hands in the air, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”