Alice is 307 years old
Of course this includes the past lives before she was a cat, but mostly, she has lounged on four paws for the better half of her life. Alice has loved, been loved, been the middle of a lovers quarrel, but she has never learned to love herself. She has water stuck in her left ear from when she was a small blonde girl swimming in the ocean. Alice has been Margret, Suzanne, Lauren, and Charlie. Alice has even been a boy, and he thought about girls and licorice and joining the army. Alice the boy didn't last long.
What Alice misses most is watermelon juice on her chin. She misses swim suits and slices of pie and sex. She mourns hot tea and fresh bread, the feeling of Christmas morning, the first swim of summer. She mourns herself; but as a cat, she moves on and remembers there is food in her dish. She misses the sensation of pulling weeds by the roots, of guessing weeds by their roots. She misses being a root.
Before Alice was a cat, like right before, the life before, she turned down ten men for the woman she loved. Alice is counting, maybe the days until she is human again, or the days in bliss she has left. She tells people she has been a dinosaur, a sea lion, a Monarch, and only one of these is a lie. Alice loves lying, as all cats do, about where she has been and who she has been.
Alice forgets everything but the watermelons
When she gets to the grocery store, Alice smells the fresh melon being cut. It is June, and summer is a shade of lip color everyone is wearing. The floors are waxed and her tennis shoes glide over the linoleum. The squeak is a pitch above the radio. People stare. She is wet from swimming in the lake, and maybe she forgot to wring out her hair, or maybe she never put her cover up back on, maybe. She forgets her list in the car, digs aimlessly in her purse, and decides she will have to guess.
There was something before the charcoal but it is gone now. Maybe a meat, or a beverage, lemonade most likely, gin even likelier, but there is nothing so she moves on. The man cutting the watermelon is smiling. He throws the knife down hard, over and over, as if the rind were a shell and the flesh was, well, flesh. She winces. He is offering samples of honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Her shoes squeak closer. Instead of using the rind as a convenient container, he ends each thwack of butcher's knife into a plastic cup. Quaint, she thinks. He smiles at customers without looking at the melon or the knife or his hands so close to the edge. Alice thinks he is smiling just at her. Alice can't tell if she is smiling back. She wants melon but the knife, and the grinning, and the squeaking is too much.
When Alice gets home, she can't remember leaving the store. Panic memory loss is what google told her one time she found herself at the grocery store's parking lot, reversed situation of now. Sitting in the car with the radio off, she sighs, runs her hands through her hair, and looks at the dozens of watermelons in her backseat. Too much, she thinks.
Alice takes herself on a date
Alice is in love. This is a list of things she loves: a front tooth gap, a small scar on the left hand, a freckle above a top lip, the same haircut for ten years. She bubbles up the courage to ask for a date but of course the answer is yes—Alice is in love with herself. She holds her own hand and buys yellow poppies on the corner, bringing the fragrance to her nose, running the softest parts of herself on the petals. Alice sighs. The air is hot and restaurants have opened their walls. She hears laughter and shrieking and only a little sorrow. She sees no one on a date with themselves, couples huddled together with phones in hand, some talking to one another, all furrowed brows. She ponders this while gently laying her jacket on the chair she pulls out for herself. Alice has been cheated and the cheater. She has been lost and loved and left in warm blue hues. Alice knows all love is not real love. She knows there is love for thighs and love for eyes and love for the taste of both. She knows people bend and break for hate masquerading as love, bending and breaking itself, trying to blunder to the light, trying to be the light. Alice orders champagne, toasts herself and drinks the fizz in one gulp. She orders two entrees and eats half of each, pairing steak with shrimp and a little arugula for balance, mashed potatoes every other bite. Wiping the corners of her mouth, she laughs at her own bad jokes and gets chocolate cake to go, for our treat, she teases. Alice leaves the restaurant full and high on love, on the silence of being alone. She is home by dark, humming herself a slow blues song, lights dimming with the sun.