The Difference Between Us

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Tonight, too long in my lazyboy, needing a break from myself and my worries, I walk to the kitchen where on the refrigerator door are instructions for how to live in a world of danger and ambiguity: phone numbers of the negatively capable. Codes and passwords. A little handbook in big letters on wrong moves and their politics. I put them there — obsessing, my wife says. She’s a scientist, more worried about invasive species than she is about home invasion. Both of us try hard to see the world as it is. But for weeks I’ve been arguing for an animal larger than a cat to protect us, maybe even to love one of us unconditionally. You can be that one, I’ve said to her; I’ll settle for long walks in the forest, a stick brought to me after I’ve tossed it. She’s in her favorite chair, reading a book about tectonic plates and how they shift. It’s all so uncertain, she says. Unlike me, she’s happy with a mistake that extends a possibility. Our cat is warming himself by the wood stove, all lassitude and privilege. He doesn’t even kill mice.