Alain got up and stretched like he usually did, long legs out behind him, mouth agape as if trying to bite the sun. Uuuuugggh. He made his way to the front room where he always sat to greet the day in the big front window. Today as he sat watching the passing traffic, delighting as the new spring birds began to perch atop the roof line in front of him, he could feel the warmth of the rising sun’s rays on his face. He closed his eyes and let it wash over and into him. Soon he was again asleep.
His stomach grumbled and he opened his eyes. Food. He glanced behind him toward the silence of the second floor of the house. She should have been up by now. He jumped from his warm spot and ran softly down the hall to check the bed. Peering in he could see rumpled blankets, discarded pajamas and that nasty teddy bear – but no her. His stomach grumbled again and his heart sank. He couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d last seen her. He promised himself that one way or another, today he would eat.
He turned and made his way down the stairs toward the living room, the faint hope growing in his mind that perhaps she’d just not slept in her bed, perhaps she’d come home late last night and he hadn’t noticed and just perhaps she’d fallen asleep on the couch like she’d done on those rare nights. His heart began to feel just slightly happy and he allowed it. As he took the last stair, he imagined himself running across the living room, leaping onto the couch on top of her and startling her awake as he’d done in the past. His heart beat with excitement at the prospect but as he turned to gaze toward the couch, he was greeted by an empty room. The TV was on, but then again, it had been on for days, ever since that last day when she’d kissed him goodbye saying she was running late.
He believed her last words to him were, “Don’t wait up, I’ve got a mid-term so I’m gonna stay to study late with the gang! I left food for you.” He’d waited up. He’d sat in the front window waiting and waiting, glancing at every movement on the darkened street, hoping to see her form materialize but it never did and he’d fallen asleep in that window waiting. He remembered how she’d left the television on for him, not wanting him to get bored – bored? Really? Around this place? He had a basement to go to, the garage could be an exciting place to spend time…..he’d think of something to do, he always did. He’d never understood how people could waste their time staring blankly at the television.
His stomach rumbled again. He thought how, if he’d known she wasn’t going to be back, he would have saved that last bit of food she’d made him, you know, make it last over a few days at least, something to soothe his stomach and his heart. He couldn’t help it, as he stood there at the bottom of the stairs staring at that empty couch, his heart felt so heavy. Somehow he just knew he would never see her again.
He made his way to the kitchen and stared at the dirty bowl from his last meal. He wondered if he could manage to open the cupboard doors on his own because that is where the food was. He knew trying to get into the refrigerator would be an impossible task, the door was way too heavy for him. He sipped the last of the water she’d put out for him to calm his stomach enough and he set out on the tough task of reaching the food. He struggled trying to get enough of a purchase on the handle to pull it open but just when he thought he had it, boxes of cereal visible inside, it slipped from his grip and slammed shut again. He wanted to cry out in frustration but instead, he steeled himself and set out again, determined to get that cupboard open on his own. He could prove he didn’t need her. He reached up and began again.
After the fourth frustrating and failed attempt at opening the cupboard, he resolved to remaining hungry. How dare she leave him like this? No explanation, no phone call, nothing, just leave for school and never come back!? Why had no one come looking for him? Why had no one thought that perhaps he’d need some consoling?….or be damned hungry….
He angrily made his way back to the living room where he situated himself on the floor in front of the television – yes, it was against his nature, but today, he just didn’t have the energy left to do much more. There was a news program on, they were showing a woman dressed in an expensive looking dress, her hair looked professionally styled but she had on these ridiculous looking ears that he assumed were supposed to be cat ears. He couldn’t make out what she was saying so he went to the couch and pressed a button on the remote control, the volume went up. The news reporter told how some heckler was interrupting this woman talking about raising money for cats and the heckler wanted her to speak of missing and murdered aboriginal women. He yawned. Seriously? What could be more important than a ridiculous looking woman wanting to raise money for cats???
The news report switched to another story, they showed the creek near the university, there were police cars and men dressed in uniforms, people gathered around crying, a man holding a feather who looked strangely like her brother – he’d met him once when they’d gone to visit her mother. He wasn’t sure and as the scene on the television changed to two men carrying a stretcher with a form covered completely under a white plastic sheet, he was struck with the sudden thought, “Is that my Loraina!?”
His body was filled with panic. How many days had it been? How many mornings had he woken and waited for her to get up? How many days had he already run through this same charade, hoping she was in her bed, hoping she was on the couch, hoping, hoping, hoping and every day denying that maybe she was truly gone! He didn’t know what to do. What do you do? He jumped off the couch and ran to the television wanting a closer look at this weeping crowd of mourners. Cecilia. Thomas. Rachel. There they were on the television, hugging one another weeping by the side of the creek. He knew those faces, he knew those people! They’d been here, here in this house, visiting Loraina, studying with her. She hadn’t come home. They were crying. His stomach rumbled.
He turned and looked toward the coffee table where she kept her smudge….and wondered if he could eat it. He yawned again and licked his paws trying to calm himself. Someone will come to feed him, someone will come. He stood, then ran upstairs to his warm comforting window in the sun, “Someone will come eventually.” He thought. “…maybe the handsome woman with the ridiculous cat ears.” He curled into a ball, settling is tail under his chin and closed his eyes. Back to waiting.
***The feelings of Alain the cat in this story, I’m sure resound with many of the forgotten cats when their aboriginal women never returned home. This is not a political statement, just an illustration of what must be a harsh reality.***