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Portrait | K.

Day is breaking into the room like a thief. Unwanted and uninvited, it enters heedlessly, searching for her. When it finally finds her, it steals her most precious treasure. The loss is painful to her, but she recognizes and accepts the consciousness that replaces it.

There’s no alternative, but to rise.

She peels back the heavy covers of her bed, exposing her body. Her skin is soft and smooth in the sun’s light. But she’s familiar with morning’s advances, and shrugs them off by stepping into the shadows of the room.

Though her manner denies it; she is voluptuous. Doubt or disinterest has rounded her otherwise vivid, feminine silhouette; her shoulders are heavy, her back rounded. She hides from her womanly figure, but it’s impossible to hide. Standing, pear-bottom back to the breeze from the open window, she squints into the future.

There is a robe hanging from a makeshift dresser constructed of stacked boxes, wire grids held by plastic joints. Piles of soft, thick, and furry clothes fill each opening and spill out onto the floor. She steps toward the robe, pushing her foot through a mound of garments. The disturbed garments shift and wriggle and two eyes open widely to stare up at her. They observe her lazily, as though they are looking down on her. There is a character in those eyes in the form of a question, a dare, and a threat.

With neither anger, nor frustration, she slides her foot beneath, between the pile and the carpet. The staring eyes widen in disbelief. Claws appear and stretch toward her bare foot; an idle gesture of a waking animal, and a quiet reminder to be taken seriously. She only beams back at the creature, unwavering.

The clothes are free to choose. She does not possess them. She never has. She would not want them that way. Scars of proof run the lengths of her arms and legs. The claws are simply in their nature.

Several pairs of eyes open around the room. The piles—all the various patterns, textures, and colors—are stirred by the stand-off. Every cubby and every nook comes to life with slow, deliberate motions. The clothing-cats stretch, arch, and observe languidly.

She wriggles her toes beneath the animus of socks and sweaters, flirtatiously challenging. Its eyes blink once. It shrugs. It stands smoothly. It leaps to her chest.

Her arms curl around its bottom to help it hold on. Its claws are out, scratching her tenderness. Grimacing, she invites the clothing-cat even closer hoping to make it more comfortable, hoping it will retract the needles. The length of fur wraps itself over her shoulder leaving marks on her skin but not breaking it.

With the first settled, the remaining piles strewn around the room take their turns. They leap to her. They jockey for position. They face-off, hiss, acquiesce, and eventually settle over her body. They are warm, soft, and piercing.

They are also hungry.

Their pleasant and sonorous purring is offset by contemptuous whining, impatient mews demanding attention. She sighs once, and leaves the bedroom.

The clothes shift and paw at her, never able to decide where they should be. They fall from her liquidly at times, padded thuds echoing off the floor. An interchange of sinuous fur forms a pool beneath her as she glides down the hall.

There are open doors to either side of the hall, and in each room there are little piles of garments as though laundry baskets had exploded in each. The furry stacks come to life as she passes. They join her flowing ensemble.

In the kitchen, the whining becomes persistent and the purring coercive. There is more bickering and restless aggression. It is their nature. They are hungry, and they must be fed.

Opening can after can, package after package, she satisfies each one. They fly from her to the food leaving her naked again, but only briefly, as the first served are already returning to her as she leaves the kitchen.

Covered in what can only ever be ephemeral contentment, she returns to the bedroom. A man waits in her bed. He’s been for a while… but the cats have always been.

She stands tall and confident, a unique smile curling her lips. The clothes leap from her easily, curling up into cozy places all over the room and floor. Licking her lips, she crawls onto the bed on all fours. She rolls the man over and straddles him. She is radiant, and she tells him she loves him. The man grabs her hard, and pulls her close.

She accepts.

She cares.

She loves warmly.

She loves without conditions.

It’s her nature.

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