Walking to work this morning, I came upon the body of a little black cat who’d been hit by a car and left to die in the street. He wasn’t a tiny baby anymore, but he was still small, likely no more than 10 weeks old. I immediately teared up, and not just because I have a black cat of my own, now living with my mother. I love all kitties, especially the neighborhood strays I always make friends with, and he just looked so small and alone.
After I finished store opening duties, I called the pet shop just around the corner from my shop, and they offered a kitten box and some towels to me gratis, which was very kind. I walked back over with them, knelt down, gently picked him up, wrapped him in the towels, and placed him in the box. All the while, more people just continued to drive and walk by, just as before, clearly not giving a shit. I was crying while I did it, but I couldn’t help it. Fortunately, a dear friend was messaging with me a bit during all this, which helped me do what I knew I needed and wanted to do.
I tried calling Animal Control, but their line just constantly redirects you to nowhere (not an exaggeration; it’s an endless loop), and the more I thought about it, the more sure I was I didn’t want to deal with them, anyway. He wasn’t a diseased bird, or a big possum or raccoon, he was just a little kitten. They wouldn’t be able to pick him up for 24 hours anyway, and that was not okay with me. I kept a watchful eye on his box in the back room at work until I left for the night; I came home, my roommates and I grabbed some water to soften the ground and a gardening spade, and by the light of one of their cell phones, spent a half hour digging a little grave for him out behind our building, just under my bedroom windows. It’s a rarely trafficked space, and though I can’t have cats in our building, I liked the idea of him coming home to rest with me, in some way. He was left out alone in the street for hours, but here, he would be tenderly bundled and safe.
When I turned him over to place him in the ground, there was a little bloom of blood where his head had been resting before, the site of his only (sadly fatal) injury. When I saw his tiny little paws just barely peeking out from the towels, I started to cry quite hard, some tears spilling down onto him, though in the quiet way I always try to, in my knee-jerk attempts to always hide it. We filled in the hole, and packed it down carefully so it would dry nicely tomorrow, I laid out some red sunflowers I’d gotten earlier, and said a few words. I said I was sorry I couldn’t do more for him, and that even if nobody else had, I loved him. (And then cried a lot more, salting the damp, newly turned earth a little. But I couldn’t help that, either.) He deserved better, but I did what I could.
Rest easy, little one.
A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:
just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.
She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
— “Black Cat” (Rainer Maria Rilke)