I work in New York, at the south end of Manhattan, and have to be in early, so I leave for the train at around 5:30 AM. It’s ghastly, yes. But we can get used to almost anything except the weight of our own consciences, bad acts, or sufferings.
So I was driving down Ocean Avenue in the dark and as I passed under some street lamps and a restaurant parking lot, I saw it: the quick darting motion of something on the passenger side of the car, in the foot well. I knew what it was.
It was yesterday’s cat.
You may laugh but I am not the only person who is subject to visitations from deceased humans and animals. My little black cat Miles, who was put down in 2002, was a frequent visitor for awhile, and I actually never saw him: other people did. I’ve had sightings of my last cat, Pushkin, here and there. And now there was this poor animal whose life was gone when I met it.
How do you express forgiveness? How do you feel the need to be forgiven? Maybe by summoning the spirit of what was gone, what had died terribly, and what we had to leave for a trip to the landfill. I had walked out of the house in the dark and looked at the garbage can awaiting pickup. "I’m sorry," I whispered. "I couldn’t think of another way."
Now the cat was in the car. He or she? I didn’t feel surprised or afraid. There was something in that second of visibility that seemed to be generous and healing. "Thank you for not leaving me in the front yard. You did right. And I don’t hurt anymore." For if the cat was a feral, its life was nasty, brutish, and short: a life spent fighting for food, for survival, for mating rights. And the cat had lost its last battle. And if I heard the voice inside me aright, the creature was relieved.
Of course, I am anthropomorphizing, cats and dogs don’t think that way.
Until you meet the one you carry inside you.