It seems so petty to stand at the door looking out at an untouched bowl of food feeling tears in my eyes. Thousands of people died this week in an act of senseless violence and I shed no tears. I felt anger and shock, and spend two days fearing for my parents' lives, but I didn't shed tears. Yet, the sight of a bowl full of cat food on the porch reduces me to emotional Jell-o.
Max was enormously overweight when I got him from the pound. He was one of those cats that the vet kindly called 'stocky' or 'big.' He loved his food, and it was a constant point of strife between us that I didn't give him enough. He was probably part Siamese, judging by his lung power, but he didn't look it. He was a black, short-haired domestic, almost chocolate when he sat in the sun. I slimmed him down over the three years that I had him, and this summer he was sleek and handsome and healthy. He liked to get in fights, despite his lack of front claws, and, though he kept his fur in immaculate condition, he always seemed to sport a few scabs and furless places where one of the neighbor cats drew blood.
He was an excellent hunter, though he wasn't great about killing his prey. (Particularly if he didn't like the taste of it, like frogs) His idea of a gift was a pile of feathers on the front mat, or a vole frozen into a stiff little package.
He adored me, and it was mutual. He would follow me around the house when I was working, and more than once I stepped backwards onto him, much to his vocal discomfort. He would follow me up to the outhouse, even, and sit outside and chew on grass, or jump up on the seat beside me and inspect the spiders. He would trail after me in the woods, even, or up the driveway. He loved my lap in the evenings, and would crawl over my sketchpad or notebook with determination. He usually won.
He would greet me whenever I came home in the evening, apparently (loudly) describing the events of his day and demanding his dinner and wondering why I hadn't come home earlier. He'd stalk to the top of the stairs to the house, and rub against my legs and arch up to be petted. He'd meow for food until Jake chased him out of the house, or I fed him, whichever happened first.
He never missed more than two meals in a row. We could leave him for a three-day weekend (though we were quite certain he scarfed down all of the food we left him within the first three minutes we were gone, passed out in the sun and was hungry the rest of the weekend) and he would still be there to greet us as soon as we got home. Which is why it's so heart-breaking for me to look out at the bowl of undisturbed food on the porch. If he could have come home by now, he would have.
When I sit down in the evening, I still expect him to jump into my lap and rearrange me to his comfort. I still let my hand trail off the side of the chair, waiting for him to come rub against it. I imagine I hear him sometimes, and still, by habit, go to the door in the morning to let him in. He's not there, of course, but the bowl of food is; still miraculously untouched by the squirrels or stray dogs.
The news still plays touching stories about heroism and loss in NYC and Washington DC, but it's Max's untouched food bowl that reduces me to tears.