The earliest inspiration for the shape-shifting cats I write about was this girl named Julia that I dated in college. She was wild and intoxicating. She was also kind of creepy.
That was 1984, a long time ago.
Julia kind of reminded me of Black Cat in the Spider-Man comics. No, she didn’t look like Black Cat, but she carried herself with a sort of feline grace, fully aware of the effect it had on men.
The first time I kissed her goodnight, she hugged my neck and purred like a kitten.
I guess I did something right there.
Around the same time, there was this black cat that started hanging the house I was renting. I didn’t like cats back then (or so I thought), so I used to chase it away.
Maybe it was my sleep deprivation, but something about the cat made me wonder if it was Julia in disguise. Crazy thing is, for years after, every time I saw a black cat, or just a cat with too much black in its coat, I wondered if it was Julia keeping an eye on me.
But that is another delusion for later in the story.
Julia was a horror geek, so in November 1984 I took her to see a movie called A Nightmare On Elm Street. It was about this supernatural serial killer named Freddy Krueger who entered people's dreams and sliced them into cubed beef, thus making them die rather violently in their sleep.
That film stayed with Julia and me like a bad case of plantars warts. When we walked out of the theater, She asked if she could stay the night at my place. It wasn’t a come-on. We were both too terrified to sleep alone.
But we didn’t do much sleeping.
That may sound like a boast of sexual conquest; it is not. The fact is, we spent the entire night watching MTV (back when the M stood for Music, not Malarky) and mainlining Coca-Cola Classic.
We certainly didn’t want to see Freddy Krueger.
The next morning was a Saturday, and Julia hung around, even though I kind of wanted her to leave. In the light of the day, the fear had passed for me.
Julia drank a lot of coffee and tea and Coke, and she popped No-Doz and tried to study. She talked at a relentless fever pitch, and I got my first inkling of what it would be like to be married to her.
Finally, I could take no more.
“You know,” I said. “It’s only a movie.”
“What if it’s partly real?” Julia asked.
“To avoid fainting, keep repeating, ‘It’s only a movie, only a movie, only a movie.” This was from advertising campaign for Last House On the Left, which was released in 1972 and directed by the same guy who directed A Nightmare On Elm Street.
“What if this movie is based on a true story?” Julia asked. “What if this kind of thing really can happen? What if we can go in each other’s dreams? I wouldn’t put it past the government to come up with something like that, especially with Reagan in charge of things.”
It was the 1980s, remember, and pretty much all college kids were afraid of the government. Thank God we all got over that one!
“It’s only a movie,” I said.
“I don’t want to be alone,” said Julie. “Please don’t make me be alone.”
“Tell you what,” I said. “Let me write a screenplay for you. You know, another movie to counterbalance the one we just saw.”
“What kind of screenplay?”
I sat down at my Corona electric typewriter, slid in a piece of paper, and started writing.
It was a screenplay about a crack team of psychics called REM Warriors who use top secret technology to enter the dreams of others. They do this to track and detain terrorists who have stolen the technology and are using it to appear in dreams as serials killers like Freddy Krueger.
In hindsight, it had elements of Dreamscape (which came out three months before) starring Dennis Quaid as a dream-spelunking psychic, and it even bore a resemblance to the third Elm Street film (which came out three years later) about a group of kids called Dream Warriors.
Not surprising. I believe ideas hover out there in the ether like figs on a tree. It all depends on who plucks them first.
Kind of like the script I was writing. The big difference is, my script wound up in the document shredder.
Chris Nolan’s script, on the other hand, languished for 26 years until he built up enough cachet making Batman movies to produce Inception, a “mind-bending” thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
In the summer of 2010, all one had to do was go to YouTube and search “inception review” to see any number of amateur critics screaming like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. It was redundant and it was cliché, but I admit it piqued my interest.
I went to see the movie, of course.
When it comes to the cinema, my wife (who is not Julia) is like the canary in the coal mine. If she falls asleep, the movie is not that interesting. If she wakes up and still knows what’s going on, the movie is not that profound.
My wife fell asleep during Inception. She was still able to follow it when she woke up half an hour later. She found Inception was neither interesting nor profound.
Sadly, I agree with her.
I said as much in this, the first video review essay I ever did. Caveat inspectoris, people. I’m not very nice to Inception. This is more of a hipster rant:
It is fitting that my wife did not like the movie. The movie is about dreams, and dreams make me think of Julia, an old girlfriend, not because Julia haunts my dreams (thank God she still hasn’t mastered that trick) but because I have still not forgotten that stupid weekend I shared with her after viewing A Nightmare On Elm Street.
Creepy, as I say. At least to me.
Sometimes late at night, I would wonder if Basia was really Julia in her feline form.
She was sensitive and sweet, but there were times when my mind would wander to places it shouldn’t go, and there would be Basia, watching me like I was up to something.
It was creepy, and I wondered if Julia was keeping tabs on me.
Creepy or not, when Basia died, I cried almost solid for two days. So did my wife. It was the kind of inexorable grief reserved for those who love animals.
Two years later, around the time Inception came out, I found Julia on Facebook. She had changed, not in a bad way, but she was neither mysterious nor creepy, just another contrary soul, abiding and enduring.
Like me. Like all of us.
I like my wife better. I like my beloved cat Basia better.
And I don’t dream about Julia at all.