This happened nearly a decade ago: I had just shut down my desktop for the evening, having finished with some now forgotten project, when I heard the cat.
“!” the cat demanded.
There are no cats in my apartment though once, elsewhere, I had had two. They had been lovely creatures and lovely friends, a family. By that evening they had been dead for about two decades. Their absence has left yet another gaping hole in my life, one that I’ve never attempted to patch or to fill.
“!!” the cat insisted.
Where in tarnation was the sound coming from? I turned away from my work table to face the hallway. It surely couldn’t be coming from the dining room or kitchen. It must be the stairwell.
“?” the cat asked. I could almost hear the implied “please.”
I opened the door. A sable cat, just past adolescence, looked up in momentary astonishment. Then she strode into my apartment, her tail erect in a confident, friendly exclamation. I followed her into the living room where she began an investigation of the boxes beneath the work table.
“Come out, kitten,” I said. “There’s nothing of interest under there.”
She agreed and emerged from the table.
“Come on, let’s find your human,” I said.
The cat accompanied me back to the hallway, a few steps ahead, but diverted to the doorway of the darkened dining room. The air was still fragrant of chicken stewed with rosemary and fennel. She stood for a moment, drinking in the smell. Now this was interesting!
“Let’s go,” I reminded her.
The cat turned and left the apartment.
Without direction from me, she began to climb the stairs. Just before the first landing, she paused to look back (“Are you coming?”). I reached out and she stropped herself against my hand, hard, and purred loudly. She was clearly pleased and confident that I’d open the right door for her.
In fact, I had no opportunity to do so. At that moment one of the apartment doors off the floor above opened. A slightly plump yet comely young woman emerged, a neighbor I had never met.
“Have you misplaced a cat?” I asked.
“Oh yes!” she said and ran down the stairs to the landing. “Oh kitty!” she cried as she scooped up the cat. “Where did you go? How did you get out?” She ran back up the stairs with the cat. “I was looking all over for you and I couldn’t find…”
The door closed: thump. Click, click, snick, said the locks.
And there I was, left behind in the middle of the stairs, thinking, “Bye bye, kitty. Bye bye.”
The cat and I never met again.
(Photo / graphic by Roman.)