I was struggling to open the door with one hand when he appeared out of the darkness. It was late as usual. I had keys in one hand and a laundry basket full of clean, neatly folded clothes that I sure as hell wasn't going to set down on the dirty floor or steps. As soon as I got the keys in the keyhole, I braced the laundry basket between one thigh and the doorway and used my other hand to turn the door knob to open the door.
He didn't follow me in as I dropped the laundry basket on the sofa. He never came inside, even with the door left wide open. Rather, he stood out on the porch in the darkness, greeting me just once and waiting for my acknowledgment. I hadn't seen him in a while, but that was normal, as it happens quite frequently.
Some days, it's as if he'd never leave, always entertaining a crowd, the life of the party. He can be quite loud, but charming if the size of the group that surrounded him was any indication. Late at night, I'd hear him and his friends making a lot of noise, sometimes singing, a few times fighting. He's a popular one, that's for sure. I'd often find him perched comfortably on the hood of my car, as if it were his own. It irritated me sometimes, watching him sitting on my car, without a care in the world, like I had bought that car just for him. Sometimes, his company would join him. But they always moved away from my car when I needed to use it. They'd hop off, he'd give me a quick glance and off they went to hang out somewhere else.
Then there were days when he'd be gone for a while, often disappearing for long stretches. It'd be silent then, without his familiar voice or the sight of him chilling in the shade if he happened to be alone. I'd enjoy the peace and quiet for a few days, but then I'd wonder where he could be, what he was doing. Where he goes, I don't know. I never ask. At times, I'd think he was gone for good. And just when I've forgotten about him, he appears out of nowhere, just like tonight.
We weren't really friends but we weren't exactly strangers either. We shared a sense of familiarity with each other. It comes from sharing a living space. And while I didn't actually encourage him to stay around, I didn't exactly object to his presence either. Sure he was annoying sometimes, but I just accepted him for who he was, just as nature intended. I'd laugh at his antics. I'd see him frolicking with his friends. I'd catch him making out with the ladies--a few times with the fellas. I suspect he's actually fathered a few young ones I'd seen around here. The authorities have come looking for him a few times. They've asked for help once to catch him, but he's a clever one, always managing to escape. I'd hate to think of what they'd do to him if they took him into custody. He needs to be free, to roam about.
There's a sense of independence and adventure in him that I recognize. And as much as I complain about his presence sometimes, the truth is, I see a lot myself in him--that zest for life, that restless spirit, that love for long naps on lazy days or taking chances, excited to explore new things and having fun. He's a little selfish and lazy sometimes, and maybe that's what irks me about him, because he reminds me that I'm a little selfish and lazy, too. And while I didn't seek out his friendship, I didn't wish him any harm either. I wasn't looking for any new friends, and I doubt he was looking for new ones either. But that didn't mean I couldn't be kind to him. Kindness is what makes us human.
So I fixed him a bowl of food and some water. I offered it to him, and he ate it, grateful for a simple meal. I wasn't sure how long he'd be around. Not that I'd ask him. We didn't really talk all that much. But we had an understanding. We sat on the front porch, lost in our thoughts, content in each other's company for now. He may stay the night and be around for a while. Or he just might take off again. It's all a mystery. But that's okay. I wouldn't want it any other way.
He is a cat after all.