Selina had driven to her private preserve, The Catitat, in upstate Gotham and sat on a makeshift log bench, stroking her pet ocelot, Nirvana.
There’s the kind of thinking you can do in the shower or at the gym—deciding to take a vacation or buy a new car… there’s the kind of thinking you can do in your living room over a cup of tea—like balancing the checkbook, or learning conversational Japanese… and then there’s the kind of thinking that requires a cat.
Today’s thought absolutely required a warm mass of fur curled in her lap, a mass of fur that understood how things were.
Of all the cats, domestic and feral, she’d hooked up with over the years, ‘Vana was Selina’s favorite. She didn’t know if any ocelots purred, but ‘Vana did not. She growled. Selina would never forget the first time she heard that soft, low Grr-Rrr-Rrr-Rrr, like a small engine trying to turn over. She looked in the direction of the sound to see two amber eyes -and nothing else- peering at her from the black of a small cave.
Never one to fear cats, Selina had remained still, and a creature with the most exquisite markings she’d ever seen emerged slowly from the cave, sniffed her foot and her hand, then hopped into her lap and rubbed her head into Selina’s arm to mark this new acquaintance with her scent.
And all the time this obviously friendly feline intoned: Grr-Rrr-Rrr-Rrr.
The quandary that demanded a trip to Catitat to commune with the wisest feline of her acquaintance was set off by a blurb in the morning paper, announcing a special collection of secular icons to be auctioned in Gotham City the following week: icons that pre-dated Christianity in eastern Europe, including a very rare series of cats made by an obscure cult called CatWomen.
Clearly, there never had been nor ever would be a prize so tailor-made for the Catwoman’s acquisitive claws.
And yet, rather than salivating as she read this news item, Selina felt uncomfortable -and somehow annoyed. It forced her to acknowledge a reality she’d been avoiding for weeks: since she and Batman reached this new understanding, she hadn’t been stealing. Oh Catwoman still went out at night, still prowled the neighborhoods she considered her territory, but she hadn’t actually broken into anything or absconded with a single object that didn’t belong to her.
Worse still, she couldn’t justly blame Batman for this disturbing development. He hadn’t said anything, hadn’t done anything. On the contrary, he said “Let’s accept our relationship for what it is.”
She stroked the ocelot’s silky fur.
Selina very much wanted to push the whole issue from her mind, but she forced herself to consciously and deliberately think through what had kept her from entering …she picked a target at random… the Excelsior Towers two nights before: it was the eve of the Regatta Gala in the Grand Ballroom. Those attending would have taken their jewels from their safe deposit boxes and had them stored in those hopeless courtesy safes. Easy money, quick and quiet. So why didn’t she take it?
It certainly wasn’t that she was afraid of a confrontation with Batman. She’d handled him before; she was confident she could handle him again.
What exactly would a faceoff be like now that they’d become friendlier with each other when they weren’t fighting?
No, she wasn’t afraid of a confrontation, but she was, perhaps, just that much afraid of the unknown thing that might happen in place of the confrontation.
Selina jerked her arm reflexively. Nirvana had found a small scar on her forearm that, to a wild cat’s sensibility, must have seemed like matted fur. She was patiently trying to groom it by licking the small area repeatedly with her rough tongue. It may have tickled at first, but Selina had been too deep in thought to notice. Now it was becoming sore. She slowly rotated her arm so Nirvana would lick a different spot… Nirvana had mothered many cubs more stubborn than Selina; she knew that trick. She took the arm gently between her teeth, turned it back where it had been, and continued licking the offending scar.
Then again, thought Selina, maybe I’m over-thinking this. Maybe it’s just… it took us so long to get past the adversarial stuff. What if the first confrontation brought us right back to square one…
DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMNIT! DAMN
There comes a point where the stress and emotions tied up in a thought become a physical force. As she swore, Selina’s body stood of its own accord -causing Nirvana to jump from her lap and run a few feet into the clearing- while Selina turned and kicked the makeshift bench (which was a lot harder than her foot). She landed on the ground (which was a lot harder than her ass) and examined her throbbing ankle. She looked up through tears of frustration and pain to see Nirvana, staring at her predicament with confused pity.
Selina was rationalizing and she knew it. She hadn’t driven all the way up here to think up plausible excuses. She had vowed to be honest with herself….
It was fine to say “accept the relationship for what it is”—accept each other for what we are. But the truth is, if you care about someone you want them to be happy. And you want to please them. You don’t want them to be miserable—and you especially don’t want to be the cause of that misery.
If Batman found her breaking into some condo, however they might go through the motions of crimefighter and catburgler, he would be disappointed in her.
That’s what she was avoiding.
Not the confrontation—the look of disappointment, maybe even hurt, that his mask would half-conceal but that she would know was there.
For the first time in their long, strange relationship, Selina dared to think about it from Batman’s point of view. It wasn’t easy for him either. He wanted… Oh who knew what Batman wanted… to stop crime, she supposed… but he wanted her too. The difference was that she had some control—his conflict depended on what she did. She was going to be conflicted no matter what, but if she decided not to steal, then he at least didn’t have a problem…
She had always tried to make Batman the source of the conflict: SHE wanted to be a free independent thief and HE wanted to tame her. How simple. How right. How PC. She was a woman refusing to compromise her job for a man.
She saw now it wasn’t simple at all: Yes, she wanted to be free and independent but she also wanted to need and be needed. Yes, she wanted to steal if she felt like it, but she wanted to make someone happy too, she wanted to be the kind of person he would respect and be proud of.
It wasn’t simple.
It wasn’t about cats and their independence, or jewels & icons, or law & order or even Justice. It had more to do with… with… ? … ? … ? …
Well it had to do with something—either something too complicated, or too basic to be put into words.
Nirvana seemed satisfied with this conclusion and trotted into the brush.
“Hey!” Selina called after her, “Wait a minute, I haven’t figured anything out yet!—I don’t know what to do next!”
But Nirvana was busy chasing a hare. The two-footed cats always made simple things so complicated.
To be continued…