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January 2, 2023


Nick Perilli

I bite into a burnt piece of popcorn that tastes like a refrigerator with a mouse melted to the warm compressor. I pass a piece to the tuxedo cat next to me. She isn’t interested. She lived that taste all her life, in the apartment from which I stole her.

Roaches move in the shadows. They traveled with me from that place even though I trashed all my clothes. I forgot to get rid of my shoes. The leather teems by the door.

We inhabit an AirBnB somewhere between Phoenix and California. The walls are thin. They breathe. I imagine a  Renaissance painting on the other side covering a peephole for the host’s use. I cover up with a towel, but I refuse to get in the black and white shower.

The cat’s owner came home from his trip, the roaches parting ways for him in the hall. The king. Maybe he understands why his cat is missing. His place has never known cleanliness. There is something old, unclean and writhing under his bed.

It chases me when I dare to dream.

I hear the AirBnB host climbing the steep, creaking stairs, whispering alone to his mother. We shared a light dinner after I checked in, at a table in their gothic kitchen. The cat sharpens her nails on my stomach. I bleed a little on the mattress, while the roaches move my shoes around the space.

The tuxedo cat purrs.