let into a new home, in someone's heart and their apartment, seeing the show they choose to play in the background and the music they soundtrack their life with. given food and drinks and being held by new hands. i sit in their old wooden chairs eating off the cheap formica tables, bowls of rice and curry or trays of cake and scones. i lay in their beds, being stepped on by their dogs and leaving before they awaken only to return with cut fruit just as their dream ends. i sit on their floors, looking into their eyes as one or the other of us cries or we play board games while high as their friends laugh around us.

they find me on the street, or in a bookstore or a bar, or through photographs, in my usual haunts that eventually i will return to. in the interim, though, they take my hand and tie a bell around my neck and lead me through the doors to what they think of as home. they close the door behind me, keeping me in with them, and i feel trapped. i wonder why they want me here with them when I am so obviously covered in fleas and cuts from fights and my fur is matted from when the rain comes down through the branches of the bush i sheltered under, mixing with the dirt to create crusts of mud under my stomach I can never fully get out even when i use their showers and steal their soaps.

although it is cold and lonely out there i miss being able to see the stars from exactly where I am. i miss being able to come and go as i please without any guilt being imputed to me. even though i don't feel it naturally i try it on and i feel their sadness and it affects me. it keeps me in those homes, stuck even though i know i'd be happier out alone in the cold. even though i know this, i still mentally add my name to their addresses, wondering if they will ever feel as good as the home i found for myself before and still cling to even though it is long gone.

these people show me endless kindness and patience, but living on scraps in the shadows means every new situation is a potential threat, an opportunity to practice assessing the risks of my surroundings. usually, the greatest risks i find are the people themselves. yes, it would be painful if they decided I wasn't entertaining them well enough and hit me, or that I was too ungrateful and shook me until i forgot my name, or wanted more than I did and took it when they wanted. i imagine the pain playing out across my nerves, practice coping with it long enough to leave after they hurt me instead of trying to appease them even more. i let the mere thought of these risks carry me out the door long before the people can root themselves into my being making their excavation so difficult that it would destroy me. i claw away any burrs that stick to me, no matter the pain and no matter how beautiful I think the flower they hold could be.

no matter how long I wait to run before the imagined physical harm gets too bad, i can never really be close to someone else. i know the emotional pain of really loving them and having them cast me away, making me a stray again, would be worse than any blow. they aren't worth the risk. they aren't worth the feeling of giving them the majority of my soul and then watching them walk away with it, getting less than nothing in return. i have so little left.