It’s just a cat I tell myself, but something deeper lurks beyond.
I look at the clock. It’s 4 a.m. A migraine shreds the vision in my right eye and the pain arcs in unison with a mewling screech of a stray tom cat from outside my window.
Fifty acres of trees and grass and that mother chooses to piss and scream outside my bedroom window.
I grab a hunting jacket from the peg near the back door and step outside into the frigid wind. A low fog hangs near the horizon, a side effect of the Texas weather swinging between extremes on the daily. The tom cat howl is sorrowful and echoes in the early morning cold. The arctic air brings its sorrowful mewl shockingly close to my ears, close enough to make me wince.
It’s just a stray cat, I tell myself. It’s not my problem today, it can’t be.
The burning starts behind my eyes and blazes a trail through my nasal passages.
Not my problem. Not today.
A tear slips out and my nose trickles from the burning.
I rub my forehead and consider taking food to the lost soul when a noisy shuffling at the edge of the woods erases the puff of white from between winter brown stalks. Something else shares our woods, something the cat has called out of the shadows. I stare into the trees willing the annoying cat to safety and keep on staring, despite my discomfort, until there are no longer puffs of white or shades of brown, only the inky blue-black of leftover night.
I wrap myself tighter in the thick coat and sit on the peeling green rocker. Everyone behind me in the house is still sleeping. I give in and let the tears flow… for the cat, for the chaos, for the sorrow, for the losses. No one can see me and no one stirs from the small sniffles that escape my throat.
This is my release. When it all gets to be too much — the isolation, the crises, the last straws of sadness that break the dam and send the floodwaters forth — this is all I have.
In the last month, I’ve watched both my parents begin anew to fail due to age and ailment. I’ve been further isolated beyond my own chronic illness and the pandemic by a freak snow storm that took our heat and water and distraction. My own words, my purpose and escape, took the last bus to Silencetown, so even the page is a blank stark white like last week’s white out storm. But a stray tom cat, alone in the world, hungry, scared, crying out — that is what breaks me.