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It is in the early evening hours when Harry hears his cat meowing plaintively from the fire escape outside his window. The cat has no name although Harry is a writer and has enough creative names for a thousand cats. When talking to the cat, Harry calls him one of two names. The first one is Cat, which is obvious, and the second is You. "Hey, You," Harry will say affectionately as the cat twines itself around Harry's ankles. "What is it you want, Cat?"
Right now the cat is rubbing and pawing against the window glass, which is spotted with specks of white paint that flew there unintentionally when Harry painted the walls last spring. His fur is stuck to his body because of the pouring rain that drips onto him from the rusty metal fire escape, and he looks like a skinny caricature of a cat. He meows loudly. Harry looks up from his computer, which he has been crying about for the past fifteen minutes because it won't do what he wants it to. He sees the cat and stops crying. "Hi there, Cat" he says. He leans over and opens the window, letting in a gust of cool wind and rain. The cat leaps through the open window, as if afraid that Harry will suddenly close it and half his tail will still be outside. He climbs on top of the refrigerator and licks his fur as if his tongue will dry him instead of just making him wetter. Harry closes the window. His shirt is damp from the rain so he takes it off, revealing a torso that used to be handsome, with abundant chest hair that women loved a couple years ago, but now fashions have changed and they think is disgusting. Not that Harry would know firsthand. He hasn't been with a woman for a long time; he's not sure how long.
There is a knock on the door. "Who could that be?" asks Harry to Cat, who doesn't know either but of course can't tell Harry that because cats can't talk. Harry opens the door and there standing in the dim hallway (the light bulb blew out a couple days ago) is a woman. She is hard to see, because she has a dark face and her hair comes over her eyes. She is wearing a cape, not the fashionable kind that Harry has seen teenagers wear, their hair dyed black and their lips a dark maroon, as they walk around with a permanent snarl on their faces. This woman's cape is short and it's almost like a poncho except it's light purple and has fringe. "Hello?" he asks uncertainly, having never seen a woman at this door before except for his sister, who sometimes drops in but not often because they don't have much in common, and Harry thinks he gets on her nerves.
The woman at the door is staring at him blankly and he wonders if he has said something strange or if perhaps she is a lunatic. She reminds him of self-portraits by Freda Kahlo. She has a strange kind of beauty that is female but at the same time also male. She speaks. Her voice doesn't fit; it is breathy and like a little girl's, but should be strong and supple to fit her appearance.
"I think I have the wrong apartment," she says and looks at him for a couple of seconds before turning to leave. The fringe on her cape swings out.
"Well, maybe you don't," Harry says with a cool ease that surprises him, "Who are looking for?"
She turns to him with a skeptical look. She squints her eyes as she thinks.
"Henry ... Henry something. I don't know the last name," she says.
"Well, I'm Harry," says Harry, hopefully.
"I don't think I'm looking for a Harry," the woman says, still with that look on her face. "Thank you, though." She turns around and goes down the stairs, making little noise, like a cat.
"Wait," calls Harry, and his voice breaks, "What's your name?" The minute it's out of his mouth he feels more stupid than he's ever felt before, and he wants to turn around and close the door and not see the woman on the stairs any more. But she has stopped and maybe she'll answer his question. He waits, not breathing. She doesn't turn around but is standing still, one foot poised to meet the stair below like a figure on a TV screen after someone presses the pause button. Harry waits for her to say something. But then it's like it never happened, and she starts moving again and doesn't turn around, and she reaches the bottom of the stairs. Harry catches a brief glimpse of the sidewalk, glistening with rain in the light from the streetlight. Then she closes the door and he turns around and closes his, too. 1