During university, I squatted in the attic of a vast Victorian house. One summer, raccoons moved in, clambering up three stories and sneaking in through a crawlspace. In the mornings, I'd find pawprints on the toilet seat, and one evening I saw eyes shimmering in the dark.
Those eyes did not belong to Beast, the ginger cat I lived with, whose human had gone to Spain for several months. Her friend Greg was supposed to come in and feed Beast in Kat's bedroom, which the cat accessed through a hole she had sawn in her door. Anyways he gave up after awhile, leaving a big, OPEN bag of cat food in the room. This probably attracted the raccoons.
Needless to say, I started househunting and I saw less of Beast. I was in no position to take care of any animal, let alone myself: broke, recently out of school, unsure of the future.
Beast was alright anyways. Once a man showed up at the door, wanting to know if the orange cat was mine; he had been feeding him, and others were, too. Although he didn't like petting or lap-sitting, Beast was sound and laid back; we'd hang out for hours, him lying on his back thinking cat thoughts while I read or studied.
One night, I waited for a lift downstairs, popping into the shop in the adjacent petrol station. While contemplating magazines, I heard a soft "meow". Beast. He had followed me into the shop. This was unusual. As I perused, he shadowed me, at times letting out a low meow. But he looked ok, well-fed and glossy.
When I left the shop, he trailed after me, to stand at my feet as I sat on a low wall to wait. Staring into my eyes with his big green ones, he placed his paw on my knee. I petted him; he meowed. There he lingered, paw on knee, until my lift pulled up. Getting into the car, I said goodbye, and he just stared. He meowed one more time, and I felt a pang as I shut the door. I never saw him again.
Once in awhile, I think about Beast. When I look at other cats, I think of this one: easygoing & independent, a purring island of calm amidst the chaos of life. Despite the fact that I couldn't take care of him, let alone me, this cat must have liked me enough to say goodbye in his own way. I hope he shacked up with a rich little widow who spoiled him rotten until the end of his days.