Cal-ifornia Love

I think Cal has decided his time with us is over.

About three weeks ago, I came home late and watched The Sopranos on the couch with stee. Afterwards, as I was falling asleep, stee asked, “Where’s Cal?” It wasn’t like him not to be on stee’s legs, or in front of the television, or standing on my neck. I realized I hadn’t seen him the entire time I’d been home, which was more than an hour.

It was one in the morning, and it was time to go to sleep, but there would be no sleeping until we knew where Cal was. Our house is rather small, and it only took about three minutes of searching to determine he wasn’t in the house.

But Cal is always in the house. Open doors aren’t interesting to him. He thinks of outside as “where people come from.” The only time he used to try to escape was at my old house off Sunset, where he played a “fun” game of running from one side of the house as quickly as he could until he’d burst through the back screen doors, out to the back porch. He did it so you’d chase him, and he did it so he’d be caught, always giving a holler and a screech on his way out as if to say, “So long, suckers!”

Cal wasn’t in the house. This means he learned how to play this game with our screen door. Which means at some point in the night, back before stee met me for dinner, back when it was still light out, Cal ran full-speed out of the front of the house, wanting to be chased. But stee didn’t hear him, or if he did, assumed Cal was screeching for the six-thousand other reasons he makes those noises in a day (plant out of reach, someone left the house, wall was staring at him funny). So Cal had been outside, in the night, front clawless, for about five or so hours.

I quickly went into a panic, and learned that the only two words I was capable of saying when under extreme sadness and stress were “Oh” and “No.” Over and over again. “Oh, no. Oh, no.” Sometimes I’d repeat an unanswerable question: “Where is he? Where is he?”

We went out into the street, in the dark, in separate directions, looking for our dumb, dumb cat. He would not make it out there. It’s like putting an eight-month old at the top of a staircase, waiting to see what would happen.

A heard cats screeching, growling and yelling at each other in fight mode, and I started running toward… nothing. The dark. A tangle of trees.

This is when I learned that at night, our neighborhood looks like I’m playing Silent Hill. Random cats staring from under cars. Giant dogs who leap at me with huge, white teeth gleaming in the moonlight. There was no way Cal was going to survive this night. We’d let him down. We let him out.

I walked back to the house, where stee had locked the door. I sat on the porch and waited, listening, weakly calling out my cat’s name, knowing that’s never made him come to me before.

stee came back and went out again. I thought to myself, “I’ll sit on the steps, and that’s where Cal will find me.” I don’t know why I thought that, but as I walked down the steps, there was Cal, suddenly, sitting in the middle of the flowers, looking up at me in the glow of the security light like he’d just been teleported back by the aliens.

I walked towards him with that happy anger that mothers feel when their kid runs out into traffic but doesn’t get hit by a car. Cal bolted, and hid behind the shed, where stee and I spent a few minutes calling to him from either side of the shed. Eventually he slunk into my arms.

He was filthy, he was trembling, he smelled like dirt, but he was home.

And since then he’s tried to repeat his adventure. He runs toward the screen door even when the front door is closed. He stares out the window all day. He’s dreaming of another place, wherever it was that he went all night. Maybe he found a group of cats who truly understand him. Maybe he fell in love with a woman cat who truly understands him. Maybe he found a pile of rocks who truly understand him. Whatever it is, it’s calling to him.

It might simply be the fact that it’s hot now, and we don’t have central air, and the only place that doesn’t make us feel like we’re melting is sitting outside.

I don’t want to be one of those people who takes her cat out on a leash. I hope Cal finds whatever he’s looking for within our four walls, because the hour he was gone from my life was way too sad to handle.

[And for those of you rooting for Taylor, at his last glucose scan his numbers are way down. He’s doing much better, now that we’re giving him the maximum amount of Insulin you can give a cat before he turns into some kind of superhero.]

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