On the morning of my third birthday, I found my cat asleep under my parents’ bed. I poked her, but she wouldn’t wake up. I frowned. This was not something I was used to. I called my dad over.
“Daddy, Sadie”-for that was the cat’s name- ”won’t wake up.”
My dad got a funny look on his face. He explained to me in a quiet voice that Sadie had died in her sleep that night. He didn’t cry, not in front of me, even though he’d had Sadie since his college days. I wasn’t sad either. I was detached in the way only toddlers who have not yet been taught to see the world a certain way can be.
Lulu & Indonesia
A few years later, my sister and I convinced our mom to let us foster cats. We went to an animal shelter to pick them up, and promptly fell in love. We adopted the very first kittens we fostered.
“Ivy and Imogen. What boring names,” said we. My sister and I frowned upon the names the shelter had alphabetically assigned the cats. So, once we adopted the two American shorthairs, we named them Lulu, and, after much deliberation, Indy (short for Indonesia. Don’t ask), and we consistently hugged them too hard. Actually, hugged might be the wrong word- strangled might be more appropriate. This is when I learned the word torture.
Indonesia (part II)
My family’s cat, Indonesia, was known to run into our basement and refuse to come out until later, when she’d meow and meow and meow until I let her out, and then do the same thing the very day. So when she didn’t come in one night, it didn’t concern me. But the next night, my family started to worry. She still hadn’t come back. We put up posters, emailed the neighborhood group. We even got a few calls from people who thought they’d found her. It turns out that there are a lot of cats who look almost exactly like ours. But they weren’t Indy, so we kept searching.
On the night of the eighteenth day Indy was missing, my mom and one of her friends were sitting in the kitchen (I was asleep; I was told this story later) when they heard a faint but distinct meow at the back door. They went to find out what is was, and when they opened the door, Indy walked in, skinny from hunger, but her usual aloof self. The next morning my parents told me the news.
“She’s back?” I said.
My first reaction was relief. My parents had been preparing me for the fact that she might not have survived. One extremely unhelpful classmate had told me that cats sometimes ran away to die.
My second reaction, less expected, was a twinge of annoyance. She’d been gone for eighteen days and worried us sick. She expected us just to just let her back in as though nothing had happened? But, as she couldn’t talk, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and forgave her.
Until I started fourth grade and got an instrument from the district, I took piano lessons from a wonderfully sweet woman that everyone just called Becky. She gave lessons at her house, which was only a block away from school and therefore my house, so once a week I walked over to her house after school. On the sidewalk near her house there was an enormously fluffy cat who laid there and garnered the love of passersby like me. His name was Duncan, and he was the darling of the neighborhood. He’d rub his furry side against your legs, just begging to be pet. And you’d do it. I sometimes saw people just sitting there on the sidewalk, petting the cat that everyone loved.
But after a time, he started being gone for long periods of time. One time, he just never came back.