I am sitting in a roadside trattoria about a mile and a half outside of the centre of Ivrea drinking fizzy white wine and wearing another man’s trousers.
Yesterday I took over 300 photographs of people throwing oranges at one another. Then I went back to my hosts to kill some time before meeting a man called Maurizio. While I was waiting for the bus back into town at about 8pm, a black cat ran across the road to my right. Instinctively, from my mouth fell the following word: ‘Kitty’, the tone the same as you might use for a small child who was approaching an open flame.
I imagined the cat getting hit by a car and I felt bad. I love cats. I don’t like it when they get hit by cars. As it happened, I was chanting at the time. These days, when I’m waiting at bus stops or hanging around somewhere where I can’t write, rather than smoking a cigarette, I chant. If any of my old friends are reading this, their instinct will be to mock me. They will imagine me twittering away like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous. As it happens, that’s pretty much spot on. But it isn’t a joke. And it isn’t gibberish. I’m probably not doing it right though because my mind is all over the place. But I’m doing it anyway. I enjoy it. And you never know.
I think the idea is that I’m stockpiling spiritual energy. Frankly, I don’t know what I’m doing. But while I’m doing it I try to think vaguely of being a better person. My old friends would mock me for that too. So be it.
So I saw this black cat crossing the road and I didn’t even think about luck and about whether it was good luck or whether it was bad luck. I just thought about the fact that it was a busy road and that the cat was risking its life darting across it like that. I also thought about my friend Andrea in Bologna and his horny little black kitten, Magda. He doesn’t want to let her outside because he lives on a busy road and he’s afraid she’ll be killed. But he also feels bad about keeping her indoors because that’s no kind of life for anyone. It’s a difficult choice, and one we all face. Do we leave the house and risk our lives? Or do we stay home and have no life at all?
So I chanted for the black cat. Or rather, whilst devoting myself to the mystical teachings of the Lotus sutra, I hoped that the universe would keep that black cat safe. Free from harm. Alive and happy.
Then I met a man called Maurizio who gave me a pair of trousers because mine were covered in dried orange pulp.
This morning I wasted, kind of. I stayed in the unused apartment of my hosts, organised some photos and slept for two hours more than I should have. It was magnificent.
Then I headed for town for the final day of the carnival. I stood at the bus stop for a couple of minutes, maybe less, then I started walking. It’s only a couple of miles and it’s a beautiful day. It’s cold but the sun is shining, and the sun breathes life into everything.
Or so I thought.
I’d been walking for less than a minute when I saw this on the grass verge to my right…
I felt sad. I felt awful actually. It was definitely the same cat. I recognised it. I knew it.
I walked for another three or four minutes, stopped at this trattoria, ordered wine and food and wrote all of the above in my notebook. Then I went back and took the photograph that at first I had resisted. It seemed wrong. But then when I’d written it up, it seemed like I had to. It reminded me of this moment in my life, which was even sadder.
By the way, someone left the following comment on last week’s Venice post: ‘If you don’t like it in Italy, why not try just fucking off back home again, eh?’
What I was going to do was approve the post and then leave some withering reply explaining how wrong he was. After this experience, however, I have decided merely to chant for him. God rest his soul.
This blog post then, cost the ninth life of one Italian cat, and believe me, if I could, I would give it back in a second.
But life goes on.