When our neighbors went away on an extended trip, they left Chester in my care. He was a big, gentle tomcat, and we bonded almost instantly. You know how it is. Once in a while you meet an animal with whom you develop a deep connection. Chester was one of those. By the time our neighbors returned, I didn’t want to give him back.
I remember walking Chester back to his home at the end of the street and telling him that I didn’t want him to go and that if he felt the same way, he could always come back. I may have even left a few pieces of food along the way to guide him, just in case. (I know. That definitely crossed a line in pet ethics.)
Chester did come back often, and I may have continued to feed him. (Yeah. That line again.) I was convinced that he preferred me to his original family, that we were actually meant to be together, so… I asked our neighbors if I could have him. Can you imagine? “Excuse me, but, um, can I have your cat?” I’m still embarrassed by the sheer audacity of it. This pretty much cancels out the tricycle story, don’t you think?
Amazingly though, out of the goodness of their hearts, our neighbors agreed to let me have him. I fashioned a warm bed for Chester in the garage, and when my parents let me, I brought him into the laundry room to sleep. I made him special meals of shaved bonito flakes and milk mixed into a bowl of hot rice. We went on walks together, and like a faithful dog, he came running whenever I called him. I told Chester my secrets, and he always listened intently. When he dragged himself to our doorstep after a long absence, his hind legs immobile with pain, I nursed him back to health. Our fondness for each other surpassed the span of time we had together.
One evening, Chester asked to be let out, and as he vanished into the evening, he paused and looked back at me. Something in his look made a foreboding feeling flutter in my heart, but I let him go.
That was the last I ever saw of Chester. I looked for him for months, going door to door and checking roadside ditches and all of his favorite hideouts. At night, before going to bed, I always called for him from the back door, just in case. I refused to believe that Chester was gone for good. As time passed though, my searching spiraled into months of mourning. Concerned family friends offered me a kitten, but I was adamant that no pet would ever replace Chester, that I could never love another cat. For a long time, it was true.
Sometimes what is precious to us simply vanishes. This painting is in remembrance of Chester. He was only a cat–and not even mine, originally–but “he was also my friend.”
See the next painting in the series.
“He was also my friend” is part of a series titled “Lost Along the Way.”
4″ x 4″ acrylic and ink on canvas
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