For years I’d jerk awake, hearing her morning cry and think it was one of my babies. Even with my boys aged 13, 10 and 7, the sound instinctually propelled me from bed in a state of semi consciousness ready for nursing, throw up, a bad dream or whatever. About a ¼ a second later however, too exhausted to even roll my eyes, I’d mutter, “Be quiet, Buzz!” at the feline padding around my room, a small stuffed animal hanging from her mouth and immediately fall back to sleep.
Back when she was a kitten, the truth is, I didn’t like her much. Even though I cupped her six week old body in my palms, feeding her through a tiny bottle in my New York City apartment, she never really left the bodega where we found her and remained stray and wild at heart. If she saw skin, she would go for blood. Early on, I recognized the merits of heavy socks and learned to tread lightly, especially if I needed the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Buzz relished the surprise attack, actually causing two of my cleaning women to quit screaming the words ‘gato loco’ as they rushed past. It was true. My gato was loco. But she was also frisky and sharp, and occasionally allowed me the privilege of stroking her smooth charcoal coat.
When I had my son, we immediately purchased a netted crib covered. Either Buzz realized she was on thin ice or instinctually knew that babies were babies and allowed them a free pass to roll around without fear or occasionally rip at her fur with no recourse.
I should have known since all her adult life she carried little Beanie Baby stuffed animals around, often moaning as she did. I am forever guilty of denying her motherhood, so I accepted her stalking attacks as payback.
Nineteen years is a long time to love a cat that I wasn’t even sure I liked. And I know she lived a good, long life, but it’s so odd now to be woken by silence.
A week ago, I found her always agile body unable to eat, drink or hold herself upright. She lay limp, surrounded by the stuffed animals she loved to carry. But I refuse to think of her that way. Instead I will remember the screaming cleaning women, her sleek, royal demeanor, her sleeping in my hair and laying all over my keyboard and know that my dangerous, beautiful wildcat is now stalking loftier pastures ready to pounce.