Tuesday, September 1, 2015
School started, the tomatoes are heavy on the vine and for too many days and nights, you didn't come home.
Intraspecies affection is forever unrequited-it's like the agony of the first crush, yet also like the love of a child, that vicious devotion that makes people fight off mountain lions and alligators, bare-handed, to save their dogs.
This is a burning heartache, but despite conventions I remain devoted to your wildness and your happiness. I watched you perched atop the eight foot wooden fence-the one you scaled with liquid ease, a mere speed bump between you and where you wanted to be-tall and magnificent and proud as any king of beasts, surveying your domain. I watched you stalking prey in the garden and the fields, free as you were meant to be, living the purest realization of your creaturehood, the truth of your feline nature, and realized that keeping you from it was a far crueler thing than keeping you safe from it.
The moments I had with you at night, laid out across my chest and belly with your cheek jammed against mine, your whiskers twitching in my nostrils, your purr making my teeth rattle, your little heart pumping an inch from mine, were infused with magic and a half-giggling, half-weeping thrill. I worshiped you like a groupie does a lead singer, lost in fruitless devotion and shadowed with the knowledge that you might not come back ever again. I lavished you with the priciest and tastiest food, dragged you to the vet, kept your various perches and sleeping nests the way you liked them. I always asked you to come to sleep with me and we did well, snuggling but not crowding each other. We had agreements, and we kept them.
If the vet hadn't told me about your breed, that Maine Coon cats sometimes show up in his office with patches of their own coats torn out from the sheer frustration of indoor life, I would be punishing myself even more now. After our own busted-out window screens, endless attempts to keep the sliding glass door secured and the application of earplugs and blasting sound machines to drown out hours of yowling, I gave in. I would again.
I won't do this again; any cat I have from now on will be strictly an indoor cat. And of course I have a searing regret that I will carry to the end of my days. But I will not regret that I gave you as much of your freedom as you asked me for. I won't regret that I respected your need to be who you really were. It felt right then, and despite suffering on both our parts, it feels right still.
You and I understood each other, and you and I were able, for a time, to love each other. Part of that love was allowing you to make dangerous choices. I will live with that.