June 7, 2007

Curiosity Will Kill My Cat

Oscar is a loud cat. His meows can be heard as I reach the first stairwell landing in my apartment building. And on nice days when my windows are open, I can hear him as I walk up to the courtyard. So it was no surprise to me, that he was quite vocal when I got back from my week stay in Michigan. He meowed Sunday night all the way until Monday morning. A week without attention makes for a needy, loud Oscar.

As I was packing my work bag that morning, I felt more guilt than I usually do leaving him alone in my apartment all day long. It worsened with each step down my stairwell - that is until I reached the bottom.

There, in the foyer to my building, lay a doorknob, more importantly the doorknob to my front door - the door I was planning to exit and begin my work day. However, with the doorknob on the ground and an automatically locking door, I wasn’t really sure how I would get out. For all intents and purposes, I was locked in my building.

I ascended my stairs and was greeted by Oscar, whom I know was glad to have me back after only minutes, not days. I lay down on my bed, with Oscar circling around me, and debated whether I could take another day off work. I was sleep-deprived and Oscar was one attention-deprived cat. I proceeded to make two phone calls: one, a very angry call to my landlord, and the other, to my supervisor. I told him I was calling with the weirdest excuse ever to be late to work: I was locked in my building.

Not wanting to use a half day or full day off for such a ridiculous reason, I took the only option I had. There is the front door to my apartment, and there also is a door in my kitchen. I have opened it approximately one time. The day I moved in, I discovered on the other side of it was a stairwell covered in garbage and bird poop. I cleared out the garbage and threw my Christmas tree out there, never to open it again - until Monday that is.

I moved Oscar’s litter box of out the way, as well as the two random chairs I have stacked in front of it. I immediately was as grossed and freaked out by my back stairs as I was the day I moved in. I stepped uneasily and made my way down the unlit, smelly and dirty staircase.

By the time I got to work it was quite late, I was still quite tired but I managed to make it through the day, just barely. On the bus ride home all I could think about was food and napping on this dreary, rainy day. I bought some groceries and walked home, hoping that I would not have to make my way up the scary back stairs. Thankfully, my building once again had a working doorknob.

I got upstairs and noticed my apartment was eerily quiet. I walked into my kitchen and dropped my groceries as soon as I saw my kitchen door open. Everything in my apartment was intact, but I was missing an Oscar.

The kitchen door has no outside lock so there was no way for me to secure it when I left that morning. And to make matters worse, it opens in, so I couldn’t lean anything against it to keep my too-curious-for-his-own-good cat from pawing it open. And that’s just what he had done sometime during the seven hours I was at work.

I walked out onto my back stairs and began calling his name. Nothing. So I made my way down them. Still calling his name, I heard nothing. I got to the bottom and saw the door at the bottom of the stairs wide open. I stepped through it and my worst fears were confirmed. To my left, was a shut door, and to my right was the alley with nothing but an open passageway at its end.

Immediately images of Oscar running through it and out into the Chicago streets hit me. And then the tears did. I walked back up the stairs and by the time I reached my apartment, I was a wreck. I felt like the worst cat mom in the world. What kind of person leaves their cat alone for a week only to lose it the day she gets back? I should have known he’d paw that door open in seconds. I should have left it and found a way out the front door. He could be anywhere by now! He doesn’t have claws! What if he runs into a city rat the size of him? He’ll still try to fight it. God, I’m going to be traveling down Lakeshore Drive weeks from now and see him lying dead on the side of the road!

These thoughts left me barely able to breath and sobbing uncontrollably. I had no idea what to do. I called a friend of mine who has two cats. He assured me right away that Oscar wouldn’t have gone too far. He said they think they’re brave but once they’re outside they get scared. He convinced me that he couldn’t be any farther than under a car on an adjacent street. He said to keep looking. I grabbed my umbrella and headed down the back stairs with as much composure as I could muster. I kept calling his name and when I got to the bottom of the stairs about to head outside, I heard it - a tiny, scared meow coming from the stairwell. I called his name again, he answered back. And in the shadows I could see the white of his head on the bottom landing.

I rushed over and felt him to see if he seemed hurt. He did not, and I scooped him up in my arms, with tears once again streaming down my face. I held him tightly and as he squirmed in my arms when we got to my apartment door, I threw him inside. I locked my door and shoved everything back in front of it. Then I turned to Oscar and yelled at him like any angry mother would. And I struck him - something I almost never do, but felt the need to at that moment. I was a wreck with emotion. I was so happy he was alive but a part of me wanted to kill him for scaring me.

Oscar spent that night in the apartment very quiet. He did not come near me for a while. A few hours later after we’d both calmed down, he made him way to me on the couch and plopped his exhausted self in my lap. As mad as I had been before, I was glad I hadn’t lost him. I didn’t really realize how much I like having the little guy around. In the six months we’ve lived together, he’s become pretty important to me. Say what you will about crazy ladies and their cats, but I hope to have him around for a long time, loud meows and all. At least they let me know he’s home.

1 comment:

bcj. said...

Aw, da po widdle pitty pat! Glad everything turned out safe & sound!