It begins with only me. Me, the I of me, the me which once was all words, all logos, the leftover part of me after the whispering of death, that part of me which remained, all of that me, in the space between the words. There is only me in the space to begin with. The counsellor smiles and says that this is ok. I have experienced a trauma. It is normal to not feel like myself.

It begins with me in the space. In waiting rooms and train stations, on street corners and in offices, in theatres, and in family gatherings (my family, still?), in those places that are everywhere and always and inconsequential but now suddenly not, now suddenly no, I am with threat, with risk. All assessment and evaluation gone I settle myself in observation points. I wear black, lower my voice to the indiscernible, sit with my knees pressed to my chest, finding small and unnoticed. I hear a clock snicking in the upstairs room, the ache of a floorboard, faint shrill of silence in my left ear, the steam-training of a boiler or the soft drumming of a keyboard. I twitch at traffic, and loud noises, and quite noises. At vacuum cleaners, and blenders, and the ring of a telephone, and the rap at a door. At the acceleration of a car and the change in volume of a television. I watch out of the corners of my eyes, keeping the shadows in vision. I put my back to the wall, close down the space out of sight. I smell the ignited gas in the lit oven, the bonfire smoke of yesterday’s fire on a woollen coat, the metal of blood on a cut finger, the soup boiling on the stove.

When they ask me I try once to speak it to them. I say in molecules immediate riveted reflex firing presentist amnesiac thermogenetic impulses corporeal sentience hyper-bestirred insensible animation is the discovery of alive.

Into the space, there is you. One afternoon you abandon your usual spot underneath the desk, and come up to sleep by my side. You wake me, padding your claws into my arms (are they still arms? Are they legs? What would you call them?). We talk in timbre. In our noses pressed to each other, warm on cold. In the nestling of ear against lips, and your sandpaper tongue against my cheek.

I do not know if you do this for me, or because I have returned.

A return is not a becoming.

I think it is like when you were a baby, reminding me of how I mothered you. And I think of my grandmother, and her sister, and their most beloved collections. Creeping up from sleeping five to a bed into the insecure performances of class, of Royal Doulton china and the wonder of sideboards and glass cabinets. In my grandmother’s council flat, beautiful ladies, women in watercoloured taffeta and pearls, dance her into dresses and ballrooms. And in her sister’s house the sitting room is enraptured with ceramic canines, a porcelain Crufts with each dog displayed best in show. Above the mantel piece sits the only family portrait, a handsome fellow to be sure with his black curls and his bright coal eyes. It is only much later that I hear the silence upon which each inanimate dog rests. Of a London telephone box ringing in the rain, my mother seven years old outside the door, my grandmother crying into the receiver. And on the other end of the line, so far away (never so far away as this, never so far from each other as in this one moment) her little sister, my great-aunt, unbeknownst to her seventeen year old self as she lies on the aluminium table and feels the cut of the scalpel, feels the shame and the embarrassment and the unanaesthetised agony, and the huge love pouring hot from her, mapping out a future of an ebony-poodle-child. Her one and only.

But we are not this thing. My precious, much-loved baby sleeps in the next door room, an alien child of mine, my interspecies offspring. And while we listen, you and I, to her fluttered breathing, you bring up your paws to fit yourself on to the length of my arm, soft velvet sound brushed against my quivering. As you scratch I roll up my sleeve so you can make a better mark. A kitten comforting her dam, her queen.

I want to ask John, the Professor, if this is what he meant that day in the lecture, all of us listening intently, when he quoted de Castro.In the world of the jaguar the jaguar is human for itself.

For somewhere a resonance is ceasing. In the words, on the edges, we can see the people. The familiar ones, the family ones, the human animal ones, are a little further in towards the middle, their words smaller.

Human touchinG

Animal spacE

In earnestness they have read all of the shiny books and burned the old ones. The difference between animal rights and animal ethics, the problems of representation, the barriers of language, the value of companion species. But all of them are afraid. They are afraid that if Descartes is wrong – and surely, they agree, he is so very wrong – then the new-born science philosophers may be right. Afraid most of all what Dennett, with his purple cows and his multiple drafts, and his human-computer brains, might know. Afraid that it is not the animal who must be made human but rather something far more beautifully terrifying. To look out of the window at the rain and begin to sing ‘Stormy Weather’. To frustrate a loved one with the answer to an unfinished sentence. To sit late at night with a child and read without listening. To put out an arm and pocket a star before you’ve decided to catch it from its fall.

And somewhere a resonance is ceasing. It is no longer a question of how to represent the other but a question of how to represent ourselves. Making a plan, quietly but not yet silently, writing the words we still remember how to use before they disappear. Teaching each other the marks and the sounds that are to come. We seek out our unpredicted allies. Not the role-players. Not the activists. Not Haraway or Derrida or Butler or Deleuze or Barad. But Conrad. Golding. These old white dead men with their novels full of non-human and human animals, all human animals now, all animals now. We wallow in their disgust, delight in the decomposition of the veneer. And somewhere, one of us asks Mr Achebe, with all his glorious imagination, to break it all apart. To realise that if it were only words that turned the love into darkness, and only the veneer in which the violence resided, and only the human that was the horror, and the white man who was most human of everything, then the question was not how to be human at all.

And now Laing, who writes it raw, makes Kathy Akker saying it aloud:

could we just fucking abolish not even gender but people

In the new world the human is cat for itself.