A Special Cat and Our Shared Wanderlust
A Special Cat and Our Shared Wanderlust
I don’t remember the exact date and time of my newly-found desire for wanderlust, that is, the extreme urge to get away, to travel, to break new ground in means unlike those I’ve utilized for the entirety of my life thus far. What I do recall is that its emergence coincided with the death of my beloved 16 year old cat Simba. It seems odd to make such a connection, but to be honest, in hindsight, it makes the most sense. After all, Simba was one of my best friends growing up, albeit a furry, cuddly one that didn’t answer back.
I was three years old when my mom picked Simba up from a garage sale, and luckily for us, he didn’t bear a price tag. My mom purchased a table from them, and in exchange, was given a kitten fresh from the litter for naught but a smile on her face. During my beloved cat’s life, I was always intent on sticking close by to him. In a sense, I was an omnipresent figure in his life, and vice versa. Being a cat and not a dog, Simba had the keen ability to hide, not wanting to make his presence known to those around him. Thus, whenever I returned home, I would have to look all over the house for him, and until I knew he was safe and sound could I settle into my daily business. This hide and seek game lasted right up until his death, and because of it, I couldn’t even stand to leave the house for more than a few days. Whenever I went on extended vacations, all I ever wanted to do was return back to my humble abode so that I could assure Simba was safe and sound. After all, he was known to escape the house and scare the living shit out of my mom and I. My dad and brother didn’t care much—their attachment was nowhere near the magnitude of mine and my mom’s. And in his old age, his escapes became more frequent and eventful, largely due to the fact that he would turn into a wild, primal beast, hissing at and biting and scratching anything that got in his way. It was as if in his old age, he wanted to be free, to roam the verdant forests on the outskirts of the house he called home for 15 years. Being an indoor cat, he was unaccustomed to this lifestyle, and maybe the cardiomyopathy that eventually killed him was making a plea to him to get out of his sheltered house and break free into a life of liberation and endless opportunity, like that of his lion and jaguar and cheetah cousins and his great-great-great grandparents before him who were as far from domesticated as possible.
Maybe it’s a grand speculation, maybe it’s perennial bullshit, but regardless of what it is, Simba was deeply frightened to be confronted outside by the people who loved him in the latter years of his life. Both my mom and I have a scar on our arms to represent this. She got a pretty nasty bite, and I have a scratch that has, to this day, persisted. We may never know why he acted in such a manner, but that perpetual reminder that resides on my arm reminds me every morning upon waking of what it is I need to do with my life. That deep gash has become a vestige of my corporeality. Of Simba’s continued presence on this earth. And of our interchangeable lifestyles. His death signified an emancipation from his trapped existence and confinement to an unvarying household. From the day we brought him home, Simba developed a strong affinity for sitting in the windows around the house. It was as if they were his only chance to escape the brutality of monotony. Cats just aren’t designed to stay in one place, well, unless they are in their languid state, which is, frankly, a lot of the time. But that fact aside, Simba’s death allowed me to reach a realization that took me nearly 20 years to come by. For all of my life up to that point, I was looking out those very same windows, thinking that the world would come to me and not the other way around. Simba never had an opportunity to break through the somewhat flimsy and perfectly transient screens out of those windows. But I, I on the other hand, convinced myself that those very same screens were unbreachable for myself. If I had only stopped to ponder for just a second, I would have realized the sheer beauty that lied beyond those evanescent barriers. With his ultimate passing, Simba’s adventurous spirit transferred from his own mortal form, into my conscience. I no longer was compelled to hover over him like an oppressive, ubiquitous deity, and deny him of that right to remove himself from the onerousness of his figurative shackles. And because of this, the yearning for adventure that I disallowed to blossom from both myself and my cat, was now at my command. Two years of hiking in the rolling hills of the Berkshires in Western Mass, the sweeping vistas of the Green Mountains in Vermont, and the bucolic panoramas of the 4000 footers in the White Mountains in New Hampshires, and I think I have begun to finally revel in what both Simba and I were denied: a real life worth relishing. Simba and I have become one in the same, evident not only in my new appreciation for escaping the run on the mill lifestyle that unhesitatingly transpires around me, but also in the enigmatic claw marks that still protrude from my left arm, a memento that will always remind me of what my life was before Simba knocked some sense into me both in life and in death. I miss you buddy.