I want you to untame me, the bat said.
it was not a demand. he seemed calm, matter-of-fact, even a little apologetic.
you know how I feel about you, I said. I’d do it if I could, even if it means no more late night popcorn and vincent price movies. even if it means I’d never be able to tell anyone our story, because of course no one would believe me- they don’t believe me now- which is why I just tell everyone that you are a very antisocial cat that hides in the closet when they come over.
the bat had listened to this politely. a flea emerged briefly out of the thick fur on his face and scrambled across his nose, disappearing again beneath his eye.
I could get that for you, I offered. I’ve got the comb… or I could run water in the sink and you could wade in and drown them…
I’m supposed to have fleas, the bat said, scratching the place where the flea had been with one of his thumb claws. I’m also supposed to be antisocial, even rabid. I’m supposed to be…. of the night.
you’ve been watching the national geographic channel, haven’t you? already, I could feel myself turning into that person- the one who, instead of having a little dignity when it’s over, seals the rejection by becoming abject and snivelling.
it’s me, the bat said, not you.
we stared at each other.
I need a drink, I said.
the bat sidled toward me across the back of the couch, then climbed onto my sleeve. I was wearing a baggy sweater and the bat’s weight made it sag. he hung awkwardly upside-down from beneath my arm, but of course he did not look awkward… he was a bat. I was the one who looked awkward, trying to hold my arm up in in uncomfortable position to keep everything from unraveling.
I never asked to be tamed, the bat said.
I know. I hadn’t fully realized until then what I had done. it should have been enough that I was human and could not help ruining things by coming close to them. I had learned things from the nature shows too…
I can’t untame you.
you mean you won’t.
I mean I don’t know how. there’s no such word. it only goes one direction. it can’t be undone.
he stared at me upside down. this used to unnerve me but now I understood it was just his way of thinking.
like innocence, the bat said. the bat was so smart, smarter than me. maybe that was the problem.
just because you’re not like the bats on tv… but I knew this argument was useless. the bat was gazing toward the half-open window. it was getting dark outside. I guessed he could sense the other bats, the ultrasonic sounds I could not hear, but that he listened to with his bones. he had tried to describe it to me, but gave up. he’d said it was like trying to explain water to someone who wasn’t a fish.
there’s no going back then, the bat said.