Ivan imagines himself bright and bold. If you peel back the layers of him that are putty and pasty and would do well to fill nail holes in drywall, like toothpaste, behind all that, his core would be bright orange contrasting shapes against a bright blue background. In this reality, people would call him Ivo as he strolled confidently up to them, a manhattan held leisurely, a hearty laugh at the ready.
But he is Ivan. Ivan who is pale, pasty white. Ivan who has never managed to so much as gain the story of a scar he got as a kid. Ivan, who checks his messages and never finds anything beyond a reminder for a doctor's appointment or a reminder from his mother that they're having tea for her birthday on Sunday afternoon and don't be late. He's never late. It should make him angry that she says to be on time when he's never late. It should make him angry that he has no where else to be so will not forget about their plans. It should make him angry that he doesn't have anyone besides his cat to greet him when he gets home at forty. But he's too resigned to get angry.
He unlocks the door to the same one bedroom apartment he's rented the last 15 years and Anne Bancroft, his pristing white cat, rubbing her face against his leg as he walks in. She delicately walks toward the cupboard with the class of someone who knows she's about to get her due. Anne with her private ways of slinking off when she tipped something over, never letting something crass taint her. Absently, he reaches down and slinks a hand along her sleak, trim side and opens the refrigerator. Empty except for a half can of tuna, a three week old half bottle of white wine, a carton of eggs, and a door full of condiments, he pulls out the tuna and gets a half cup of dry food from the cupboard to mix for her. He sets it down, and she saunters over to eat. He fries an egg, gets out the last of the saltines, mixes up a concoction of mustard, ketchup, mayonaise, and the fried egg, then uses the saltines to scoop it up and eat it.
When he was a child, the smells of perogies, cabbage, and bacon wafted into his bedroom. His mother was always cooking or baking something for them. Now, she lives in a bedroom at an assisted living facility and hasn't baked in years.
Ivan's not quite sure whether he's more embarassed about putting his mother in a home, or that he is more attached to Anne Bancroft, a cat than his own mother. But his own mother has never touched his cheek, kissed him sweetly, and helped him fall asleep. Not that he'd want her to now. But he would want the real Anne Bancroft in his bed. He'd want to hold her and spoon against her smooth back, run his finger along her satin covered hip and make her laugh. What he wouldn't give to make a classy woman laugh with him on a Saturday night.
This is what he thinks of as he flips through the channels, waiting for Great Expectations to come on. Tomorrow he can visit his mother, but today he kicks back in his recliner with Anne in his lap, and Anne on his TV. He looks at his feet ahead of him, and thinks "they're perfectly good feet." They have no caluses, his nails are well cared for, there are no blisters, they have a slight arch, his toes have no hair. He's modeled the after picture for a nail fungus remedy. His feet have been in photos with loafers and slippers, but never atheletic wear. Those jobs are reserved for models whose bodies are less, sinewy, faces more chiseled. He's more of the gaunt, scientist looking type. Just with smooth, slender feet. Sometimes he has nightmares that his toes are hairy and when he tries to shave the hair off, he peels back layers upon layers of skin instead of hair and underneath each layer is more hair and more skin. He shivers awake, and goes back to snuggling Anne, watching Anne.