I’m not so good at loss and so when our gray cat went missing my reaction was composed, which was infuriating for my wife. She immediately started canvassing the neighborhood in search of Rainy, our one-and-a-half-year-old cat. It was one rainy night – yes, rainy – that she decided to hop onto the courtyard wall, jump down and take a stroll down the street. It wasn’t uncommon for her. But for a rainy night, this was stormy. And in the morning she wasn’t at the door as usual, hungry and tired.
She wasn’t there.
I said, “She’ll be back.”
My wife started to fret. She called out her name, “Rainy!” A day later she printed out sheets of paper with her photo under MISSING and passed them out and taped them to poles. She started to search.
I started to work.
I’m not good at loss. I’ve had too much of it. I once lost a big black cat who made me laugh, and an orange cat who annoyed me to no end but in his way made me happy. I once lost a Cocker Spaniel who would lick my feet and toes just right to relieve the stress of work and deadlines. Yes, disgusting. But she was my dog. And then she was gone. I once lost a surfboard that rode me on big surf in Chile and Peru, and I once lost a daughter.
I have lost too much, so maybe I’m callous now.
I didn’t race to write Rainy’s obituary. I didn’t give her food away or even clean out her stinky litter tray. I left it all as it was. She’d be back.
But she didn’t come.
My youngest daughter kept looking for her out the front window and in the courtyard. She was the fondest of Rainy. It was her cat, and my wife’s. So I kept up hope but it seemed hopeless. My thoughts were of a dreaded fate: death. Or taken and now surviving off of scraps under the table. Or inversely, fattening up on salmon and cream and maybe thinking this is wizard. Why go home? But, hopefully, she was thinking that life was better back in that home with three adoring children and two kind grownups and a four-ton doting dog.
Six weeks went by and no news came in. A few neighbors kept asking about our lost cat. A few said, “She’ll show up.” One called and told us there’s a cat using her flower pot as a toilet. My hopes rose. But she didn’t call back. “It’s a pity,” another neighbor said. “Maybe she’s gone to your old home.” I looked, but nothing. The inquiries abated and then died down altogether and my wife started talking of getting another cat, for our littlest daughter. The two-year-old was devastated. “Let’s get her a cat,” my wife said. She arranged to go to the pet store and it was Saturday afternoon and we were about to go, but the fire was burning for the barbeque. We’d go a bit later. My wife went to check her emails, and suddenly she called out for me. “They’ve found her!” Sure enough, on a website for lost pets – RedMascotera – there was a photo of a cat that looked just like Rainy. We called. They told us to come by. She’s in their round-the-clock kiosk in Almagro, a neighborhood a fair distance from our Colegiales – and across major avenues like Cordoba, Corrientes and Juan B. Justo. Forty-three blocks away. The owner said the cat had shown up two weeks earlier and taken shelter in the kiosk, hiding out in dark places and coming out for petting on occasion. She’d arrived two weeks earlier! So what happened the other four weeks of her disappearance? We’ll never know. But we weren’t asking the little cat. She sat on my wife’s lap the whole drive home, the kids in the back smiling at their cat, now gaunt as a beanpole.
“This restores my faith in humankind,” my wife said.
“Yup,” I said.
Rain came home.