The Cat in Winter …

Posted By Peter Vilbig on Jan 29, 2011 in Domestic Life | 0 comments

I’ve been worried about the little gray cat. He’s been living on the sidewalk in front of our apartment for the past year or more—the exact date of his arrival is something nobody can quite pinpoint. He’s a small but beautiful cat (someone walking past said he’s a Russian Blue—this passerby seemed to know what he was talking about). He sits on the stoops in front of our building and the building next door, gazing imperiously at all who walk by. He is reminiscent of a cat Borges mentions in his story, “The South.” As the narrator leaves on his journey he passes through a neighborhood where he notices “un enorme gato que se dejaba acariciar por la gente, como una divinidad desdeñosa.” “An enormous cat that permitted itself to be caressed by the passerby, like a disdainful divinity.” Except for its size, this is the little gray cat to a T.

People in our building and the building next door feed the little gray cat, and for all of last year he seemed to prosper, his coat gleaming. He is beautiful and therefore receives a lot of attention, though he will permit himself to be petted only when the mood strikes him. And woe be unto those who have tried to pick him up, or even, in a few cases, to lure him into a cat container to domesticate him. The little gray cat is too wary and too fast for them. We’ve see him hunting in an abandoned lot down the street from time to time, and in those moments we know the futility of trying to tame him.

But this winter, with its endless snowstorms and fierce cold, has not been kind to the little gray cat. We have found him from time to time in front of the building meowing—yes, meowing just like any other hungry cat. (We’ve joined the neighbors in feeding him.) Since the last snowstorm on Thursday, we’ve not seen him at all. So I think quite a few of us are worried about him, though not too worried: the little gray cat is a survivor. I expect to see him soon with his disdain intact—I prefer him that way—but in extremis, he is like any of us who inhabit a body, cat or human—vulnerable and given to revealing his weaknesses before the cruelties of nature.

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