SHE thought of herself as a washi housewife. Washi is the fancy paper favored by hobbyists decorating their journals in the YouTube videos she had been watching frequently.
In these scrapbooks, the washi is often just a strip holding down the corner of a cute cut-out. Sometimes, the hobbyist will stick a washi in a bare spot in the page, relieving it with the tape’s wash of color or delicate tracery.
In the Japanese pop culture of “kawaii,” washi tape, no matter how cute, stays at the periphery. Marginalia, she thought, applying it to herself.
If she didn’t live with him, she would be an absentee housewife. She knows she would rather read books than prepare meals and clean the place. Not that she minds the washing after meals. There is something inarguable and preordained about sluicing dirty dishes with water, soaping and rinsing, and drying them.
After she replaces the clean dishes in the racks, she takes a whiff of the plates’ sparkling expectancy, their readiness to be called again for the next meal, the subsequent dousing and purging.
When the cat gave birth last Tuesday, she counted it a blessing that he was gone the next day for a business trip. The cat was a stray that once brought her kittens and stayed. She gave birth to another litter but nested it elsewhere. She never saw that brood.
The thread of mewling she first heard while she was lost reading and trying to extricate herself from a writer arguing about sex, gender, and desire.
When she followed that keening to the box she had discarded after unpacking it of groceries, when she peered in and found the cat panting and the sleek, wet thing lying between her sopping hind legs, she panicked.
Her children were grown. Menopause was a thoughtless guest who promised to come but so far, had stayed away. Giving birth was hardly on her reading list, but she did what she thought the cat needed based on what she remembered from long ago: a bowl of water and food.
And an umbrella. It was near noon when the second thing slipped out and the third. When the cat finally emerged to drink the bowl dry, she took a break herself, feeling she had taken part in the cat and kittens’ passage.
The first evening she didn’t sleep well. After supper, many homeowners let their dogs out to run and pee. From the upstairs window, she watched the dogs bark and chase up and down their street, her fear coming and going with their baying.
At first light, she moved the box with the kittens to the kitchen where the grills prevented anything bigger than a cat from entering. The cat, clean and well-groomed again, re-entered the box. She stood outside, sleeplessness sluicing out all dreams of sparkling plates.