Try to think what he would do in the absence of cats. Pry lids from cans of tuna. Roll a ball of yarn in front of the TV. In the sudden, inexplicable absence of cat toys, shake a box of wooden matches.
Pace the kitchen’s chipped tile while your armpits dampen. Unbutton your white coat. Flatten your body against the carpet and burrow halfway under the bed. Press speed dial 4, stop, then say, “F it,” and hit the call button; when it goes straight to his voicemail (wtf?), leave a frenzied, rambling message about the absence of cats.
In the absence of cats, try to remember the last time you noticed their presence: last night—no, this morning—lounging on your pathology text while he sermonized about the superiority of Canadian universal healthcare. Shove the book from the futon. Obviously, no cats.
Feel your chest tighten in the absence of cats. Rub your fingers together, say, Here, kitty, kitty, kitty, and other generic things you imagine people say when faced with the absence of cats.
Dial his number again. Try their names again.
Begin to notice the absence of other things: the wireless printer, the framed Matisse, two entire shelves’ worth of Continental philosophy. The phone hits the carpet. Rush back to the closet. No Converse or cashmere sweater, no sock monkey tie dangling from the shelf. Stagger now, stricken, to the bathroom. The Scope. The beard oil. Half the washcloths. And there, under the window, confirmation of the absence of cats: the absence of their box.
Ashley Kunsa’s creative work has appeared in or is forthcoming from more than a dozen places, including Bayou Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, and Tahoma Literary Review. She has been awarded the Orlando prize for flash fiction from the A Room of Her Own foundation and tied for first prize for Eastern Iowa Review’s Experimental Essay award. Currently she is completing a PhD in English literature at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her husband and son. Find her online at www.ashleykunsa.com.