I e-mailed the psychic again. He's still fine, she responded. He'll return with the waning moon. Again I clung to her optimism, the wisdom of her third eye, her good haircut. But the waning moon came and went, and still no Tibby.
And slowly, I knew: A cat like Tibby couldn't survive in the urban jungle. He was too shy, too skittish, with no street smarts, and zero capacity to kick ass. I had to face it; if he hadn't come home, there could be only one reason. Something terrible had happened.
Then, five weeks after he'd disappeared, Tibby returned.
*** Tibby waltzed into the bedroom late one night. He greeted us with his Pavarotti meow. We sat bolt upright, awakened from sleep. He crawled under a chair.
"Tibby!" I said.
"Tibby!" Wendy said.
Fibby just stared, unsurprised. "Meow," said Tibby.
I spent the next few days cuddling Tibby and feeling, well, a little indignant. Where had he gone, I won- dered, and why had he left? And what was wrong with him now? He was approaching his food bowl with indifference, exhaling a kitty sigh, then walking away.
"He's not eating!" I wailed to Wendy. "He's sick! From being away from home! For so long!"
But when I took him to the vet, he was declared a half pound heavier. He had a silky coat, said the vet, and a youthful spring in his step.
"That's great," I responded, piqued.
When the relief that my cat was safe began to fade, and the joy of his prone, snoring form-sprawled like an athlete after a celebratory night of boozing- started to wear thin, I was left with darker emotions. Confusion. Jealousy. Betrayal. I thought I'd known my cat of thirteen years. But that cat had been anxious and shy. This cat was a swashbuckling adventurer back from the high seas. What siren call could have lured him away? Was he still going to this gilded place, with its overflowing food bowls and endless treats?
As I spoke (read: ranted), Wendy considered the perfect storm in front of her, of medication, of depression, and of cabin fever, all making landfall on the couch, and nodded with what she hoped registered as sympathy and shared indignation. But the thought bubble that hovered above her head was clear. What's the Big Deal? the neon letters shouted. He's a CAT.
He was home, she was thinking. Wasn't that good enough?
Well, actually, no.
Wendy abandoned sympathy and tried advice. Perhaps I should lock the cat door for a while so Tibby couldn't wander. I told her I had tried that once, years before. I'd shut him in for a night, and then had lain awake for hours, listening to a loud insistent thudding, which I couldn't identify at first but then realized was Tibby throwing himself against the door like a poltergeist. I wasn't going to untrain an old cat, I said. Not now. Besides, I told her, that wasn't the point.