Ganith was a witty cat. He always kept his silvery tabby coat groomed. A mottling of black around his eyes gave him the impression of a Parisian cat burglar. Every morning he followed the same routine; He would emerge from under the dumpster where he slept, and find his favorite patch of sunshine to groom himself. Without a backward glance he would turn and walk down the alley, and strut down the street, giving the early commuters not even a sideways glance.
I know all of this because sometimes, I would walk down to a coffee shop across the street and watch his morning ritual. My breath would stop every time a car careened to a stop, angry honks splitting the air. Ganith would walk on, flicking his ear with annoyance. When he reached the near sidewalk, he would stretch, then hop the fence to avoid the curious glances of passerby. Every morning at 7:08 he came to drink the milk we set out for him. Winding himself between my legs, he would sojourn with us briefly while we ate our breakfast. And then he would be gone for the day.
We first met Ganith when he was an adolescent, and even then he had a tendency for wanderlust. Despite our best attempts to domesticate him, he remained willful and independent. When we tried to put a collar on him, he punished us by not returning for several days. Once, we even tried to lock him in the apartment, but his caterwauling and screams quickly dissuaded us.
We knew him for six years. Through before when Ben and I got married, and the births of Sophia and Mat. He was always wary of their toddler hands, and disgruntled by their loud nature. One day, we were surprised and concerned when he didn’t show up. The next day, however, he returned. Chest puffed up, purring, he seemed extremely proud of this little venture. And from then on, he would disappear for sometimes days at a time.
So we weren’t very concerned when one morning he didn’t show up. His disappearances had grown increasingly more common and drawn out in the past few months. It was only after a week that we became concerned, but we figured he would be back soon. When he still hadn’t returned a week later, I grew worried. We drove down to the pound, but he wasn’t there. We called animal control, asking after our silver tabby, but no luck. There was nothing we could do. Over the years we would wonder about that cat, what happened to him in the end.
So that is why I am astonished to find him at my doorstep once more. Even though his fur is greyer, and he is bowed over, I know it is him. I am alarmed to see that he is covered with scars. His fur is disheveled and has lost the luster of its youth. He is skinny. We watch each other for several moments. He does not seem startled to see my care-weathered face staring down at him. I self-consciously brush a gray hair back from my forehead.
I let him in. He purrs as I stroke him behind his nicked ears. Getting a bowl of milk, I watch as he settles down on a pile of blankets in the corner(the aftermath of a pillow-fort). Gratefully he laps at the offered milk, watching me as I do the dishes. After I finish I sit with him, and he falls asleep as I stroke his back.
He came back here to die. I find him later, curled up, nose buried under a blanket. I’m glad he came back, after all of his travels. That even through all of his wanderlust, he still called this place home. We bury him in the afternoon, under the shade of the Mulberry bush.