When I rented my apartment here in Cuenca, the owner told me there was a cat living somewhere in the holes of the balcony walls. He asked me to not let her starve; he believed that there might be kittens somewhere in there too. For the first couple of weeks I would hear rustling about in my unfamiliar space, but no feline would accompany the sound. I bought the $1 cat food in the market, conscious of my obligation, sufficient for mysterious balcony cat, and would feed her from a washed out tub of margarine. It became a duet almost, my shuffling sandaled feet and the sound of her almost imperceptible scurrying every morning. We lived like this for about a month until mutual curiosity and maybe boredom allowed us to gaze at each other from a safe distance.
A raggedy, dirty little face before an equally dirty skinny little body greeted me with a meow that originated deep in her throat a reminder of the jungle and her jaguar ancestors. I kept looking for the bigger, healthier cat behind her that was making those sounds. But it was just balcony cat telling me that since I had gotten her accostomed to am and pm feedings, I better not disappoint, she was hungry.
I have not named her, she is not my cat, just an inherited responsibility. Something to think about when I´m busy buying pasta, eggs or milk at the bodega. She would not remain my silent duet partner for long, she found an ally and food, and she was intent on keeping both close. I´ve come to share my balcony with her, or she with me, we sit in the quiet, at respectful distances (although she is a bit of an encroacher) and contemplate the same changing sky.
Balcony cat gets me thinking a lot. I have two beautiful cats I left behind in NYC while I find my place and space. It would be traumatic to my little babies to haul them around on planes and buses when I don´t know where I´ll be staying. But yet, I miss them so much. Bro is a big galumph of a boy who is the sweetest ball of fur and chub, with an attitude only I really appreciate. He is not afraid to look you in the face and bite you capriciously. He is a hugger, a 16 lb cuddler who purrs in your ear as he wipes drool on your face. And while it is so gross, it is also so sweet to think about this animal, so different from me, who trusts me so much with his comfort and happiness. Olive, his sister through shared habitation, is different. She´s a vocal little girl who loves pets but will never ever let you pick her up. She decides who and when she loves. She is ritualistic. 4 little feet, circling about on my tummy, tells me it is time to go to sleep and don´t move too much.
I constantly try to recreate home here. There are no more little feet that run towards the door when I slip my key into the lock, there are no friends here that have known me since I was an awkward pre-teen, there is no more security of being part of a household, a family, a base. It´s me and balcony cat, trying to make sure we don´t get fucked over. She runs once the invisible line of her defense is crossed, she´s good at it too, you can never sneak up on her. I´m learning the technique. Danger, run, assess, return. Isn´t that what we do all the time, anyway? We get close to those things that make us anxious or scared just because we can.