It’s a splinter in my mind, a throbbing fixation that locks my focus unwaveringly on one specific thought: Where is the cat? Where is she, hmm? Other concerns — work deadlines, regular meals, classes — fade away, for what else matters when my cat is out wandering the godless dystopian hellscape? She can’t possibly cope with its dangers (cat murderers, speeding vehicles, coyotes, abductors, fire, large bodies of water, bees, sadistic children, birds of prey, feline AIDS, vets operating secret animal murdering factories ├á la Beethoven, toxic substances that resemble cat food, heavy objects falling from great heights) when she’s only accustomed to sleeping and staring out windows. Neither activity instills the viciousness required to survive these existential threats, unless the threat is sleep deprivation or something that requires long unblinking contemplation, e.g. Weeping Angels.
As I wander the streets, shaking a baggie of fish treats and peering under cars, the neighbors stare with concern, clearly wondering, “Doesn’t he know cats are fine outside?” and “Does he not comprehend the social contract regarding this sort of obsessive behavior?” But I’m not crazy. Is it crazy to fear for the safety of the affection receptacle; this creature into which I’ve deposited total aggregate love, leaving nothing for any other living being because THEY ARE UNFIT VESSELS IMPURE DECAYING INFECTED SADNESS MACHINES ANATHEMA ANATHEMA ANATHEMA? They can judge me all they want, these “people.”
How do other cat owners and companions allow their cats to roam the Earth without supervision, knowing they could dive under a lawnmower after a cricket? Despite popular depiction, cats are not the most intelligent species; their cerebral cortex surface area is 83 cm2 compared to a human’s 2500 cm2. If you give a cat an IQ test, it swats the pencil onto the floor and goes to sleep in a patch of sunlight. And while their memory retention can last up to ten years, they have no object permanence, meaning if you are not in sight, you might as well be dead, vanished, nonexistent. Possibly, these other cat owners have more faith in a benign universe than I do, or maybe they’re willing to accept the possible death of their kitty in exchange for its freedom. Personally, if my cat dies alone under a bush, thinking I don’t exist, surrounded by unfamiliar sights and sounds, I would not consider it a worthwhile venture. I would consider it a tragedy of incalculable proportions.
I can feel my brain’s amygdala vibrating with terror. Normally, the amygdala’s size is correlated with the number of emotional connections in a person’s life — in other words, there’s a specific capacity to the size of your social network. But if I were to analyze the percentage of my amygdala devoted solely to my cat, it would be at least 70 percent; as in, her disappearance is the equivalent of my entire extended family hanging by a thin wire over volcano. Rationally, I know examining people’s backyards and scrutinizing their hedges is unreasonable behavior, but what if my cat’s stuck up a tree, unable to get down, crying, starving, laughed at by cruel birds as she wastes away?
This is my roommate’s fault for walking out the front door. The fool. Reckless, thoughtless to the potential consequences, he exited without checking if my cat was nearby, hiding behind a speaker, poised to dart through his legs. What was he thinking, leaving the house? This is why I stay inside all day, every day, hugging my cat tightly to my chest so as to prevent escape, but he evidently has no regard for organic life of any kind, the goddamn animal. I should chloroform him, put him on a plane, deposit him in a foreign country without food, water, or phone — see how he likes it. And his response to the escape, “Whoops!” as if he’d sprayed ketchup on his shirt? You put a creature’s life in mortal danger and your only reaction is “Whoops”? People like him should be sterilized and forced to live out their days toiling on isolated farms.
As I shine a flashlight into a storm drain, I wonder where the cat is now, imagine metempsychotically transitioning into her body to know her location, see through her eyes. What would I see? Maybe some birds perched far out of reach, or more likely the bottom of a dumpster: a puddle of miscellaneous juices, gum, a penny, a dead mouse. I watch myself lick the dead mouse, testing it for palatability. Then a car passes by, my head jerks toward it, and I shrink further into the shadows. When I returned to my body, maybe I wouldn’t know her exact whereabouts, but at least I’d be reassured by the knowledge of her safety, and this would be enough to quiet the shrieking panic that threatens to dissolve my brain matter.
If I don’t find her today, how will I sleep at night? I’ll close my eyes and see my cat stuck in a muddy pit like Shadow in Homeward Bound. I’ll have to sit in the bath in the fetal position and apply great force to my forehead. If I never find her, I’ll have to go through the rest of my life wondering where she is, haunted by the void, dead inside forever and —
Oh, there she is. She’s waiting at the front door.
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