Today it’s grey and drizzling outside and my head aches from the fender bender with a Jeep Wrangler up my backside on my way to take Peyton to school. But it’s nothing compared to the ache in my chest.
At 4 am Sunday morning I awoke to ghoulish, choked noises from outside. I ran to my window and peered towards the dark wood line. I saw a cat-sized grey animal walking calmly in the shadows, but the noises had stopped.
I raced outside and began to call for Faisal, my sweet, fat cat who loved to be outside and whom I’d let out at midnight when the dog needed to pee. I called and called and listened for more noises, a rustle in the brush, but nothing.
My sad iPhone light illuminated only the density of the undergrowth. It was cold and I gave up. There was nothing more I could do at 4 am.
When the sun was fully up I put on long sleeves and a hood and trudged up into the woods looking for his remains, but calling his name all the same. Branches and leaves crunched beneath my boots and the hood kept my hair from being dragged by the web of branches I ducked between while calling and calling. Still no baby cat.
A couple of hours later I brought the dog and Peyton with me. We hiked over the territory I’d covered earlier and farther in the opposite direction until it seemed we’d gone far enough. This time I’d left the hood at home and my hair caught in the jagged net of branches and I almost welcomed the petty cruelty. I deserved it.
Back next to our building we scoured the boulders Faisal patrolled and as each minute passed my heart sank further. “Pey,” I said with a quivering voice, “I don’t think he’s ok. I think a coyote got him.”
Peyton didn’t want to help me look at first, but I insisted. “He’s our baby, we have to look,” I explained. All geared up in rescue attire my human baby struck out with me wondering aloud if the noises I had heard the night before were Faisal crying for help. I agreed that it probably was and hid a sob.
It’s been almost 36 hours and he hasn’t returned and I have lost all hope.
I cried all day yesterday and couldn’t sleep last night. I’ve researched if cats are coyote prey, how they hunt, where they eat their kills. I know to look for vultures circling.
At 3 am last night I poured over my Instagram account – my other one – and clicked on the hashtag I used for him and my other cat. You see, “Faisal” is two cats; my strict No Personal Details Policy made them into one, but there’s literally no Faisal now, not figuratively or literally. The “Faisal” I lost this weekend was the animal that made my little menagerie a family, the only creature everyone agreed they loved. The dog, Peyton, the other cat, me. We adored him; he was the glue.
If only I hadn’t let him out, I keep thinking. If only.
But I know I can’t blame myself. Peyton said I should blame the animal that took him, that I was only doing what Faisal wanted, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed. I cried harder at the pureness of empathy coming from that little body and held my baby close. We cried together.
My feline baby loved to be outside, but he rarely was out at night. The night I opened the door never to see him again I was deliriously tired, painfully discombobulated. Had I been in my right mind I might not have let him go out when the dog did. But I did and here we are. Perhaps it was inevitable.
After I looked at all the beautiful pictures of my lost kitty — the ones of him buried in my neck or loosely draped across the couch arm or stretched out in a sunbeam or being licked by the dog — I wondered about my surviving fur baby. They were so bonded and the other half of “Faisal” lived in the sunshine of the other.
And so I found myself researching if cats grieve, how soon is too soon to get a new cat, should I get a new cat? Next, I was on a local shelter website looking and wondering what the fuck I was doing.
My entire life my cats have gone outside and survived; this has never happened before and I am gutted. Yet at the same time I think, But he loved it out there, and I step back a bit from the recriminations. It’d be like never allowing Peyton outside of the house for fear of death, never letting my child fly on a plane without me or ride in a car with someone else. Life is death, isn’t it?
We can plan for everything and still have what we love taken away, it’s the way of things. We’ve gotten so used to never losing anything we’ve forgotten how commonplace and natural it is, how much a part of living grief is.
As the mother of an only child I have to choke down my stark raving fear almost daily – What if something happens to my baby?! I wouldn’t be a mother anymore. I don’t even notice that I do it anymore, it’s just a part of my DNA now.
Living a full, wide life, though, is what I do, it’s how I’ve always done it and I guess I extended that philosophy even to my cat. You wanna go outside, lil’ buddy? Ok, you go roll in that dirt with your bad self. It’s not unlike how I give myself permission to do as I please, to suck all the cocks, to fuck all the men, to fall for a man who isn’t mine, to expose myself online over and over again, to laugh loudly and wrap myself in hedonism.
I never shirk the responsibility of my choices; I own them. In theory, I’d much rather live in a bigger world like my little Faisal did — on his feline terms — than in paralyzing fear in a shrunken world. Losing him, though, is quite a price to pay for such freedom and frankly it seems like too big a toll at the moment.
I’m filled with doubt about everything now; maybe I’m doing it all wrong. Life, love, career. Maybe I should play it safer, slower, so I don’t end up with hair tangled in greedy branches on Sunday mornings with tears in my eyes or with random condom wrappers under my bed.
Despite being utterly hopeless, I will make signs and put them up around my building and at the mailbox on the off chance someone snagged him and decided to ignore his giant black dog tag with return instructions.
My only thought left on this is that he heard me calling for him and knew I was there for him, even if I couldn’t save him.
And that hopefully I also won’t need saving someday.