Some years ago I was living with my girlfriend, Keren, in a tiny apartment in Tel Aviv – if we had a friend over for coffee the place felt crowded but it was cheap and… we were in love so it felt like a palace.
I took a photo of the creature from a safe distance using my phone and then took my laptop out onto the balcony to run a google image search. I spent a couple of hours scanning through photos of wolverines, bob cats and Tasmanian Devils – without asking myself how one of those could have ended up in Israel – but couldn’t species that really looked like Bubsy. As a last resort I posted Bubsy’s photo on a Question and Answer site and then ended up dozing off in the afternoon sun.
I came back later that morning when I was sure Keren would have gone to work and opened the door to the pungent stink with which Bubsy had filled the entire place. Black hairs like bits of old rope lay scattered over the rug in the hallway and my first thought on entering the kitchen was that we had been burgled – the cupboards had been forced open; packets of rice, sugar and cereals were torn open and swimming on the floor in a puddle of milk from the carton Keren must have left on the counter. But then I saw the teethmarks in the refrigerator door and guessed at once who must be responsible.
DO NOT LET THIS CREATURE INTO YOUR HOME!
Took over our home and our lives…
Don’t feel sorry for it for a moment! It knows exactly what it’s doing!…
We should never have taken it in…
When Keren came home that evening she found me waiting outside with some sandwiches and a bottle of wine. Reluctantly, she let me drag her to the beach to talk things through. Cautiously, I told her about my discovery on the forum. I reassured her of my love and begged her to see that everything had been fine until Bubsy had come into our lives. Keren listened behind distant eyes that grew colder and colder as I spoke. When I ran out of words there was a long, empty silence until she replied:
“I used to think you loved me for who I am. Now I see that you loved me only for who you wanted me to be. Bubsy needs love just like anyone else – without us she would have died out in the cold and the rain. I never imagined you could be so cold-hearted.”
There was nothing more to say and we walked sadly back to the apartment without exchanging another word. Keren went straight to bed and I laid out my blanket on the kitchen floor, more miserable that i’d ever been, convinced that i’d lost her forever.
But I was wrong.
Halfway through the night I heard a sharp scream followed by a loud thud on the floor. Before I could get up to investigate, Keren came crawling through and climbed into my arms, her whole body trembling as she wept. I stroked her hair and made comforting noises until she was ready to speak.
“I woke up and I couldn’t breathe!” she sobbed, “Bubsy was smothering me! She fills up the whole bed – she fills up our whole lives! What are we going to do?”
I told her not to worry, that we’d think of something and Keren fell asleep in my arms for the first time in many nights. We awoke the next morning and walked hand in hand through to the living room where Bubsy lolled about on the mattress, quite enormous by now and her coarse black hairs scraped the ceiling. Her dark, gleaming eyes fixed upon us and, despite herself, I could feel Keren start to move forwards.
“Don’t,” I said, “She feeds on that.”
Keren nodded and with an obvious effort she gathered some clothes, got changed and headed out to work.
We ate out each of the following nights and when we returned home we made our bed on the kitchen floor and did our best to ignore the whining, whimpering sounds coming from the room next door. I don’t think Keren slept much those nights, her heart struggling to comprehend the choice she was making. More than once I caught her getting up in the early hours and tiptoeing out of the kitchen but when I turned on the light she claimed to only be going to the bathroom.
The change took some time to come but finally, we observed that Bubsy had begun to shrink. Though her foul smell still dominated the apartment, she no longer took up the whole of the bed that she had claimed for her own and, day by day, she could be seen to grow smaller and smaller.
At last, Keren returned home one evening and I took her through to the living room where Bubsy shivered on top of a pile of blankets, once again the pitiful little creature that we had found outside our doorway on that fateful night. I picked up a shoe box to scoop her up but Keren’s hand stopped me and I saw from the expression on her face that it was something she had to do for herself. She carried the wretch out of our apartment, down the stairs and was gone a long time. I had just begun to worry that she might have capitulated when I heard her key in the lock again and she entered quietly, the expression on her face suggesting that for all the world she was a little lost stray herself.
Our lives slowly returned to normal after that for the rest of the time that we were in love. Only the occasional thick, black hair found under the carpet reminded us that there were some things that should never be fed.