A few weeks ago, we acquired, briefly, a cat. I thought cats had long ago lost their ability to charm me (nasty creatures, I thought—an impression reinforced by almost every cat I have come into contact with in the last fifteen years), but I was wrong. This one, just barely old enough to no longer be called a kitten, was soft and gentle, with a white body and ash-grey marks all over. He, or she, developed a liking for our front garden, and could often be seen lounging on the low brick wall outside the house, flicking the tail, grooming a paw, watching the happenings on Hurst Street with passive grace. When one of us would come outside, our new friend would leap happily from its perch to weave between our legs, purring busily, nuzzling up against us as if the pure human contact was enough to keep it happy. Sometimes it slept just outside the front door. We didn’t know whether or not to feed it or not—it seemed well-adjusted enough to possibly belong to someone, and never acted particularly hungry, and didn’t look at all lanky—but resolved that if, within a week, the little ball of fur and fluff and friendliness was still favoring our garden, we would extend a tenuous offer of a more permanent kind of home to it, and see what happened.
I secretly hoped for the chance to find out, but I also had a feeling that such a creature had not been spawned from some seedy world of pub-dumpsters and late-night catfights. Sure enough, the visits became more infrequent; then stopped altogether, though a few blocks down the street, I can now every so often spot the flick of an ashy tail, the lick of a kind paw. I wonder if it’s because we didn’t, after all, set out milk on our front door; but I know the cat wasn’t ours to appropriate, and then I wonder how it is that such a tiny creature can evoke desires I never knew I had.