I’ve known many Cathys over the years—Catherine, Katherine, Kathryn, and Kathleen, among others—but I’ve only addressed one of them by name in a song. Oddly, she’s probably the Cathy I’ve known the least well.
I was a graduate student, and I had taken an evening job as a security guard at a local business. My assigned duty was to sit in a guard shack at the entrance to a parking lot, checking vehicles in and out. How I spent my time in that shack when no vehicle needed my attention was up to me. I did most of my schoolwork in that shack: reading and research, writing rough drafts of papers I would then type back on campus, even some writing of fiction. The day I accepted the job, I signed a paper saying that anything I produced on company time belonged to the company. Fortunately, they never asked for copies of my school papers or my short stories. They remain in my private collection to this day.
Even though the job was not stressful, the company was required to give me a break every evening. I spent my break in the main building, often buying a snack at the company canteen. I spent time visiting other workers also taking a break at the canteen. One of them was a young petite blonde named Cathy. I only met her three or four times. I don’t know her last name, her position with the company, or anything else about her. All I learned from her was that she had an abusive boyfriend who didn’t deserve her love or her attention. She’d given him one last chance more than once, and she knew he shouldn’t get any more chances. Yet, for some reason she couldn’t identify, she was still with him.
Back on campus, I wrote a song about her situation. I wrote it from her boyfriend’s point of view. From what she had said, I believed that he was a jerk and a loser, yet somehow I was able to put myself in his shoes. Somehow, that song has become a signature song in my repertoire. When I entertain myself in the evenings by strumming my guitar and caterwauling, “Cathy” is usually my closing number. It requires a bit more energy than my other songs, and the melody challenges my range. For years, though, the song about a man I never met based on the little his girlfriend said about him has become one of my favorite songs. At one time, I even changed the words of the chorus to make it a Pepsi commercial.
Here are the lyrics: the chorus first, and then both of the verses. The chorus repeats between the verses and at the end of the song, and there is also a long instrumental interlude.
Cathy, don’t be afraid;
Don’t give up quite so soon.
Cathy, stay one more day
Before you leave on your own.
We still have a chance;
Please don’t throw it away.
Cathy, stay one more day
Before we go it alone.
I know that I’ve been a fool.
I’ve made it hard on us both.
When you needed me, I was cruel.
Why that was, I still don’t know.
All I know is I’m sorry now
If you’ll give me a chance to prove it;
And if you want to know how,
Just give me a chance, and I’ll do it.
The first time you went away
I thought it was a joke.
I barely lived ‘til the day
You came back to renew my hope.
I swore it wouldn’t happen again;
Time has made me a liar.
Give me one more chance and then
I’ll set your heart on fire.