I was working after midnight when I heard the sound of a crying cat...
Did you ever have a strange encounter you couldn’t quite explain, only to realize much later what it really meant? I had one of those experiences last night, and only this morning did I find out why. And it moved me to the core.
It was well after midnight, but I was still awake, finishing up some work. I was sitting on the couch in the living room, my eyelids feeling heavy as I stared at my laptop screen.
Just then, I heard a sound. A high-pitched squeal or cry. I stopped typing and listened. I heard it again, this time much clearer. It sounded like a cat’s mew.
Someone moving furniture around, I thought. But I heard the mew again. And again. It had to be a cat, but where? Was the sound coming from my neighbors’ apartment? I was pretty sure they only had a dog.
I opened my apartment door. Directly at my feet was a big black and white cat, staring up at me quizzically. I glanced to the right and left. No neighbors were in the hallway; all their doors were shut.
“Hello,” I said to the cat. “Who do you belong to?” The cat cocked her head to the side, then rolled onto her back. I reached out to pet her, but she rolled back to her feet and made me follow her down the long hallway. Finally, she lay down by the elevators and let me rub her belly. She purred loudly with satisfaction.
I suddenly felt a twinge in my heart. For 17 years, growing up in New Jersey, I had a cat named Locket. She was a cantankerous grouch at times, afraid of any pest bigger than a spider, and she liked to hide under my sister’s bed whenever my dad came upstairs (we thought she was afraid of his beard), but despite these quirks of character, we loved her. My sister and I even created a Facebook page for her, with photos and stories. We listed her favorite quotes as “Meow!” and “Purrrr.”
Locket and I had a special bond. She was a night owl, and I was too. After the rest of the family had gone to sleep, I’d tiptoe out into the hallway between my room and my sister’s, and Locket and I would play a game. She’d try to jump and catch my hand in her paws as I ran my fingers up the wall. Eventually she’d tire, and I’d rub her belly until I was tired enough for bed.
After Locket died, my sister and I left heartfelt messages on her Facebook wall. A way to say goodbye.
Now I played with this strange cat, and for the first time in years, I could picture Locket clearly in my mind. The way she was back when she was still as spry and playful as this cat.
I heard people talking in the apartment to my left. Standing up, I timidly knocked on the door. A woman answered. “Can I help you?”
“I’m sorry to bother you,” I said. “But do you know whose cat this is?”
“Caroline!” she exclaimed, picking up the feline and cradling it in her arms. “We didn’t even realize she was gone. She must have darted out when I came home. Thank you!”
“No problem,” I said. It was nearly 2 a.m. I headed back to my apartment and went to bed.
This morning, I groggily headed to work with the evening’s strange visitor still on my mind. Before buckling down, I logged onto Facebook to clear my head a bit. On the right-hand side, a box listed today’s birthdays. Two of my friends ...
... and Locket.
Suddenly it all made sense. Why a cat would venture out to cry by my door, over all the others. On Locket’s birthday, at the time of night we’d always shared together.
It was the reminder I needed of the friend I’d lost and never wanted to forget. A reminder to give thanks and honor the special pet that gave me so much joy over the years.