Sixteen years ago, I moved to a new city from out-of-state, trying to forget an unhappy break-up with a boyfriend and to make a new start. I was unemployed and didn't know anyone in the new city. I felt very isolated and very depressed. To make matters worse, I had moved to an apartment complex that was predominantly college students (I didn't know that at the time I moved there). Since I was far older than college age, this only added to my sense of isolation. In order to explore other parts of the city, I started to look at other apartment complexes, with the idea of having one lined up to move to when my current lease expired.
On July 4, 1988, I was returning from apartment hunting when I stopped at a gas station/convenience store to buy gas. There, in front of the store, was an adorable cat curled up sleeping. Everyone who walked by stopped to pet her. So did I. After I paid for my gas, I drove down the road, thinking about the cat. Then I made a u-turn, went back to the store and asked the cashier if the cat was his. He said no, that she was a stray. So I picked her up and took her back to the apartment. At first I kept her as an outdoor cat. However, after one cat fight, one bout with fleas, and one day when she didn't show up, I decided to keep her as an indoor cat. I named her Erica.
Erica was a dilute calico with huge eyes and the sweetest disposition I have ever seen. After I adopted her, my life gradually turned around. I started making friends, I got a job, and I moved to a part of town that I really liked, where I am currently living. Gradually, over the years I became involved in cat rescue, and have rescued and adopted out many stray cats and kittens. But Erica, my original cat, remained my favorite.
Almost two years ago, she started to have kidney failure, and I began treating her with subcutaneous fluids and special food. Eventually, she started going downhill as the kidney damage became worse. She passed away on June 8, 2004, at my vet's office. She was physically comfortable since my veterinarian had her on a heating pad, receiving fluids. Previously, another vet had thought she was about 20 years old, because she was estimated to be 3-4 years old when I found her 16 years ago.
My other cats always like to get in my kitchen drawers and scatter miscellaneous papers on my kitchen floor. These papers include vet records, letters, cards, etc. The morning after Erica died, I came downstairs in my house to fix coffee.
There, on the kitchen floor, was only one piece of paper. It was a handwritten note that I had written years ago and that I had forgotten about. It was the famous quotation about cats by the French writer Theophile Gautier:
"Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes?"
Erica was sending me a message.