Recently I stayed over at a friend’s flat. They were preparing to move out, but everything was in impeccable order. The living room was in an especially pristine condition. It was whitewashed, with a big white sofa and a big flat screen TV in the corner; a very large and low coffee table in the middle of the room with a big easy chair beside it. The walls were bare, save for one solitary and most prominent exception. A stylish portrait of my friend’s mother was hung up in black and white. It was facing the front door and had been almost the first thing I had seen when I came into the flat, beside the mirror in the landing with photographs of her bare-chested Polish boyfriend. She had been a model in Poland and she was a very fine-looking woman. I had met her earlier in the night with the topless and quite muscular fisherman in the photo. She had given us a lift in her car and had been wearing a very cute hot pink headband with alien antennae. In the photograph, she looked like an old movie star.
We had got there at about two in the morning. The place was empty. Everyone was on a night out. My friend had popped off to have a shower and I was watching some music videos on TV. They kept on playing the Chris Brown song with all the Transformer moves, or videos by Lady Gaga. I’d never seen any of them. It was strange to sit in someone else’s living room all by myself watching their TV, the stuff that they watched all the time. They must have all sat here almost every day doing what I was doing now. I was playing out their life. Every once in a while, I looked over at the photograph of my friend’s mother watching me. She was a very, very fine-looking woman.
And now Pimpushka made his entrance. He was the most beautiful cat I had ever seen up close. In the dim lighting his eyes shone like electric blue sparks. He watched me warily from the open doorway. I had only noticed him. How long had he been sitting and watching me?
I had met him earlier on. He had taken an instant dislike to me. He had the reputation of being a very peevish kind of cat. He had scuttered off when I had held out my hand to him. He reminded me of one of my little nephews.
Now I walked over to him. Keeping a short distance between us two, still in the doorway, I crouched down in front of him. He was the first Russian Bluecat that I had ever seen. His hair was so thick all over his body and so glossy and blue that it was unreal. His face was like an Egyptian statue of a cat. He was achingly beautiful, more beautiful than art. I slowly began to advance my hand toward him, impossibly slowly. When my hand got just two inches away from him, he swiped at me, with the three twig-like talons in his paw fully extended. I jerked my hand away quickly. Whether he was playing or not, I had faster reflexes than him. I hadn’t been surprised that he wanted to hurt me. I smiled.
I started moving my hand towards him in those fractions of fractions of moment and distance. His paw which had stretched out for my blood and skin and taken over my whole vision and thought for a small infinity had magically regained a seemingly inert, neat posture. He stared at me, never blinking. As my hand reached near him a second time, again he swung for me. Again those big thorns just missing me, those barbs that I thought I felt all over my hand.
I was going for a third try but my friend had come back from the shower. We went over to the sofa and sat down.
In the morning of the next day, the flat was still empty. My friend was getting ready to go to work and we were just about to leave. I was watching the TV by myself.
Pimpushka came over again.
I tried to talk to him. He ignored me. He began to scratch at the wooden base of the easy chair by the coffee table. It made a terrible rasping sound. I told him to stop. He ignored me. I stroked his thick blue fur. He scampered off underneath the table. I went back to watching TV.
In the next moment, he was standing again in the doorway, watching me. He wanted to play some more Russian Bluecat Roulette. I said yes.
I walked over. Pimpushka glared at me with those hypnotic blue eyes that had flashed so strangely last night, like two sparks blazing in the sleeping sky.
I extended my hand. And he pounced on me, ripping open the back of it. I noticed the way his claws curled at the top as they drew back. Three bloodless gashes appeared on the tendons in the middle of the hand. A big curved one on the base of my thumb, such a curve, so beautiful. I thought of the perfect circle that Giotto had once drawn as an impromptu demonstration of his skill. My friend had come back. Pimpushka had run off. I was looking at my hand, making sure it did not stain the white sofa and the white carpet.
Pimpushka had been playing cat and mouse with me. He had waited patiently yesterday to see how fast I could be. While I had congratulated myself on the keenness of my sight and my reflexes, he had been calculating my slowness and my weakness. Just now he had punished me for provoking him. This cat had cast his mark upon me.
One may learn a lot from Russian Roulette with a Russian Bluecat.