I smoke more at night. It may have something to do with the pull of the quiet, yet disconcerting neighborhood outside the front door. I like to watch it. Like to listen to it.
I sit out there until my eyes are dry and sore, listening to the night, and watching the dampness cling to alley cats and teen boys' bicycles.
I live in the kind of neighborhood that is infected with cats, by the way. It's hard to tell if they belong to people, or if they're strays. None of them wear collars, as a license for a cat in Calgary costs a fair bit, and I often get the impression that all the cats are just eating mice and garbage and milling around.
I consider the fact that I'm not much different, when you get down to it.
Later at night, these cats get bolder. They push their noses up against the screen of the kitchen window when I go to get a glass of milk, and sometimes one will jump into my lap when I'm smoking on the front step.
I'm always shocked at how cold suburban cats can be. The cats of my childhood, with their sun-soaking and warm dry noses, don't exist here. These cats are frozen and desperate. Their affection is really just a cry for help.
They skulk around the curving streets and schoolyards with wild, fiery eyes, like they were possessed or something. I don't mind. I let them rub their faces on me until they jump away, suddenly remembering where they were going before they saw me.
Sometimes I scratch their chins. They don't always know what to make of that.
I feel like I'm working in an African orphanage. Their innocence is skewed, and awkward to me.
But I can't resist caring for them.