We first met Mister Pink three houses ago. It was our first rental house, located on the same street as my mother, and I knew the landlord because he had known my mom and my piano teacher for years. We moved in– Luke and me and our one and a half year old baby girl– and we tried to avoid the scrawny, mangy cat that liked to crawl under our cars.
Then our neighbors told us the cat’s story. He had belonged to the previous tenants, who had taken their dogs but had left him behind. “He’s Mister Pink,” said our across-the-street-neighbors, “And he’s a badass! One time, I saw him carrying TWO dead rats across the street.”
The across-the-street-neighbors wanted him and tried to feed him, lure him to their house. But Mister Pink ran away from them. He preferred to meow pitifully at us from under our cars. I didn’t want him. One of his ears was half missing, maybe docked, and he had half a tail that he thumped angrily on the ground as he sat. He was a brownish orangey pink, and looked like that weird adobe color all the cheapest landlords paint their properties. Also, he was kind of mean, and we had a baby.
The next door neighbors wanted him, too. They had two dogs and a cat, but they wanted him. One of the ladies would come regularly into our yard to serenade him with, “Here kittykittykittykittykittykittykitty,” but he wasn’t interested.
He was interested in us, our yard, and he would run into the house like he owned the place. In a way, I suppose he did. After all, he had lived there longer than us. I started feeding him, because he wasn’t eating the kibble the neighbors left out, and he wasn’t going away. He chose us, or the house, and shortly after he got into a fight with a squirrel– I think he was trying to eat the squirrel headfirst while it was still alive– he got an abscess in his cheek. We took him to the vet, and because he was a stray and we had no idea what sort of shots he had ever had, the whole ordeal cost us about $400.
We had to drain his wound and keep him in the garage, and in the process of nursing him and paying that astronomical vet bill, he became our cat.
When we moved across the street, he followed us, not confused anymore about which house or people he belonged to. In fact, he did not seem attached at all to the house he had seemed so fond of just a year before. He got fatter and pinker and stayed inside more. He was a curmudgeonly thing and did not seem to know how to receive love, though he wanted it constantly. There was a trick to petting him, which involved petting him at an angle that made it difficult for him to bite you when he got ecstatic. He was affectionate in his own way, mainly shown by sitting on you. He was also possessive and was known to swat at my husband, who perhaps only wanted to put his hand on my knee while we were sitting on the couch. “Mine!” Mister Pink seemed to say with a well placed swat or claw.
We moved again and Mister Pink was, for a while, an indoor cat. He got fatter than ever. But he would go outside, to explore, and because he was such a solid boy, you could not keep him out of the doorway. He would push obstacles aside to get outside, see what he could see, and explore the nightlife.
Neighborhoods are a different place at night– kind of like how the night shift at a hospital is always a little scarier than the day shift– and a few nights ago, Mister Pink met his match. He went out the way he came in– fighting tooth and claw. Sure, I would have rather he had an even longer life, and would have wished him an elderly death at home or in a vet’s office– but that stubborn cat decided otherwise. He made his choice, our fighter, and I have to respect that.
So, buenas noches, Señor Rosa. We miss you, especially me, I think. I was the one you scratched the most while you asked for food or attention, and so I’m the one who still sees you as a cat-boat on the lawn, stalking squirrels. I still see you in the hallway near the upstairs bathroom. And at night, I still feel the heavy stone-like weight of you on my legs.
Who would have ever thought that I would miss getting harassed for food every morning at 5:30 sharp?