Chitika

I miss my cat

on Thursday, 23 February 2012
A short introspective writ about my dear departed kitty.

I’ve always felt alone, never really felt like I fit in, even in a crowd of friends or surrounded by family I’ve felt somewhat isolated. I’ve never really understood why, perhaps I never will, but that’s just the way I am. I know I’m different to most people, I think differently, I act differently; perhaps too different to ever really belong with anyone. Growing up, I had friends, not many but a good group of close friends. However, I never really felt that strong a connection to any of them; sure, we got along, shared common interests, had good times together, but that integral, human, bond was never there, at least not for me. I never really knew that at the time, I just figured that’s how everyone felt; everyone feels alone because they can never truly share their existence with someone.

Then one day when I was about eleven or twelve years old, this angry, frightened and feral creature comes flying through the door to my living room as I go to get my breakfast. At first I cry out a little, we never had pets and suddenly there’s a strange animal running through my legs first thing in the morning. When I realised it was just a cat I felt silly for being so startled. I was told by my mother that a stray cat had climbed into the house through a cracked window in the back room. I was excited; I had always wanted a pet, but we had always had enough problems not to have to worry about looking after a dog or a cat.

It was days before I saw the cat again; our house was a hoarder’s dream, boxes of treasures untouched for years, decades even, stacked in every room, too much second hand furniture clogging up every bit of space in the house. She had hidden somewhere, scared of the strangers that she now felt trapped with. We put out a bowl of sardines for her, a bowl of water. Eventually she came out of hiding just long enough to eat and would find a new hiding place afterwards. She especially loved crawling in through a hole into the back of the sofa in the living room, if you peeked in you could see the glow of her good eye staring back out at you in apprehension. She had obviously been in some fight or accident, because she had a cataract over one of her lenses.

Eventually, she came to accept our house as her home, and we accepted her as part of the family. I often suspected that my mother and brother shared my feelings about never quite fitting in, not really belonging, and having this stray cat with no home join our family seemed right, like taking in a kindred soul. I have to admit, at first, she was a total nightmare. Although she had obviously lived with some people at some point in her life (she had a scar on her belly from being spayed) she was almost completely feral, she literally crapped herself if you turned the light on, and she would scratch and bite and hiss if you touched her. It did amuse me a little though, having such a wild thing living in our house: she would come and meow at us until we put food in a little bowl for her to eat, crap in the litter tray we got her, and yet she would stalk us, hunt us, stand under the table behind the table cloth until you walked past, then little paws would come flying out at your ankles. She was adorable, a cute fuzzy little lion that had graced us with the duty of providing food and accommodation for her.

I wanted so badly for her to become more trusting, to allow herself to be petted, held. I would wait until she had settled herself on some random pile of things that she so loved to sleep on, and I would tickle her chin or stroke her back. For a long time, the usual wound inflicting would occur, scratching, biting, pressing with the teeth only hard enough to hurt, not to draw blood. She didn’t want to harm me I think, she had been hurt, had to learn to defend herself, show everyone that she isn’t to be fucked with. I persisted, and eventually I could stroke her without being covered in little pink scratch marks.

I came to adore my cat; what’s not to love about cats? She was quite small for an adult, medium length fur, black white and ginger, a real cutie. She would do stupid things like cats do, chase bits of string, pounce on innocent plastic bags and get in fights with Christmas trees. I especially loved it when she would stretch out and fall off her perch in her sleep, and right herself with that indignant look on her face as if to say: I meant to do that, what are you looking at? Or when she’d be washing herself, and she would forget half way through and sit with a blank look on her face, tongue sticking out and one of her back legs stuck up in the air. She was smart too, she could open doors for herself and always knew how to manipulate me with the right look, the right purr, the right nuzzling on the cheek against my leg until I would give her some food or wave a piece of string around for her to chase. A mean hunter as well; she killed several mice (an act that horrified me, poor cute little mice, but I couldn’t help but feel proud of my little one eyed lion). She made me smile on a daily basis.

Eventually, she came to trust me implicitly. She was my cat: she always came to me, never to anyone else. Over the years a bond grew between us, she spent every minute she could with me, slept on the pillow next to my head when I slept. It was a wonderfully comforting thing, to have this wonderful creature sat next to you purring her little heart out as you drifted off to sleep. Over the years I think she really grew to love me, not as a master and pet, but as a friend, and I have to admit I felt the same. It sounds silly, I mean dogs are always described as “man’s best friend” but people still realise they are just pets, just dumb animals. It’s ridiculous to think that a dumb animal could really be anyone’s friend, but she was. I felt a connection to her that I felt with no one else, I would talk with her after a hard day, and she would listen, obviously oblivious to whatever I was prattling on about, but she would listen all the same. I came to see her as the only person, yes person, in the world I could confide in.

When I was 18, it came time for me to leave home to go to university. I knew I would miss my cat the most out of all my friends and family; friends and family can use phones, write me letters and emails, my cat could not. I would not see her for months at a time, not hear her little meow or feel her purr under my fingers as I scratched her chin. I was sad, but I was busy making new friends and getting on with building an adult life for myself. I saw my cat at holidays, even after months away she would immediately recognise me and come running onto my lap as soon as she realised I was home, purring away as if she had not seen me for years. If she was around when I went back to my student digs, the look on her face as she watched me walk out the door with suitcases in hand was heartbreaking; it was almost as if she knew I was going away for a long time again. If only she understood my words, if I only I could say I was coming back.

About 5 years passed, I dropped out of university, worked a few shitty jobs, went back to university; I got on with my life, occasionally coming home to visit my family. Then one day I come home and there’s a lump on my cat’s chin, I ask my mother what it is and she tells me its cancer. I feel like someone just yanked the carpet out from under me, like a piece of my world has just been shattered. She tells me that the lump has been removed once, but that it came back and will keep coming back and that the only thing to do is wait until it gets bad, but not too bad, and then take her to be put down, so she doesn’t have to suffer. I said I understood, that it’s the best thing, but I didn’t really think that, I didn’t want my cat to die. She was my truest, closest, oldest friend and I didn’t want her to die. I couldn’t stay; I had to go back to university, back to my classes and friends, back to my life. I received a letter from my mother, in it she said that it had been done. It was quick, she didn’t feel any pain. But I felt pain, my cat, my cat, my friend had died and I would never see her again. I mourned, I wept truth be told. I thought about all the time we had spent together, all the dumb things she used to do while we were playing, and I laughed and smiled through my tears, but I was really in mourning. I have never really lost anyone in my life, maybe a distant relative or two, but no one really close to me so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it honestly felt like a part of me was gone and that I wouldn’t get it back. I told a few of my close friends about my cat, they offered me their sympathies, but I could see in their eyes that they didn’t understand, they didn’t realise what a loss this was to me. I didn’t try to explain, how could I? How can you explain to rational, intelligent people, how you can have a close relationship with something that uses its tongue for toilet paper? No, better they think I’ve just lost a pet than to think I’m more of a lunatic they already think I am.

So, I grieve, and I grieve alone. I miss my cat, I miss her every day. I keep half-expecting her to jump out from under the table cloth to devour my ankles, but she never will, never again.

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