'The Dapper Cats' by Anouska Huggins


The Dapper Cats are due on stage.
            But you’re not here.
            You missed our soundcheck. In the place that reeks of sour hops and stale toilets. Where tortoiseshell light slinks through curtain gaps. Our yowling amp drowned out by the landlady, her vacuum cleaner lapping at the snaking wires.  As my guitar string arched too far. And snapped.
            You weren’t there to smooth my skinny tie: your palms sweeping my checked shirt in downstrokes. To strum my waxed hair with your fingers. To laugh at my oversized glasses, slide them from my face and press them onto yours, black frames startling against your pelmet of calico hair.
            You didn’t have a bourbon and flat cola waiting for me. At the bar, where my shoes fused to the carpet. As the audience prowled to the beat of chatter, the harmonies of laughter. Your friends were there: curvy as the waist of my guitar. In their denim shorts and painted Cleopatra eyes. Sneaking vodka from their rosewood-coloured satchels. They glared at me and skulked away, hissing:
            ‘We said he’d disappoint her.’
            ‘Make believe rock stars are always so blah.’
            Then stalked other Cats, perched on stools, ready to pounce.
            You weren’t cheering from the wings. As the room dimmed, the crowd hushed. The amps purred. The absinthe-green lights sprung to life.
            The Dapper Cats are about to go on stage.
            But I’m not there.
I’ve left them; to find you.

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