Relief washes over me as I brush my teeth and think of how I’ll be going to sleep significantly earlier than I usually do. A hearty seven hours for me tonight! My inner monologue cheers and pats me on the back. Way to be 24, Nicole, you goddamn adult you. Then I hear it — the soft, frantic meowing of a cat in trouble. Or so my crazy mind convinces me anyway.
I rush to the doorway and look through the peephole to see absolutely nothing. So I crack my door and stare into the hallway. The meowing seems louder and more urgent, but I see no cat. I hear a deep, Russian voice talking (to another person? to the cat?) and can only make the rational assumption that this cat is being abused and needs my help. Clearly this is a situation where I need to leave my apartment and become involved. I close the door behind me to put a bra on and prepare to possibly take in a new pet.
I tiptoe into the hallway like a total creep as every other resident of the building ignores the shouting/meowing mixture coming from the first floor. Cold air hits me in the face and it feels like every window near the stairwell is open. I wonder briefly if that cat somehow found its way into the elevator shaft and got trapped.
After trying to peek over the staircase to the first floor and not seeing anything, I finally decide to return to my apartment. Ava is hiding somewhere and I reluctantly lock my door as the cat continues to meow. As I walk away from the door, however, I notice the meowing has become louder. Is that cat on my floor now?
I open the door to see a small grey and white cat curled up in front of my neighbor’s door. It’s eyes are dilated and it seems to be staring at some far-off image, meowing without a pause. It’s like a broken toy. An adorable, broken, possibly rabid or crazy or in heat or — what the hell is going on and why won’t it stop staring at me!?
This cat will not break eye contact with me. It’s as if it’s trying to intimidate me by meowing. I’m scared of it and for it because it also looks terrified. I go into the apartment and grab a handful of Ava’s food and toss it on the ground. The cat doesn’t even flinch and instead keeps its eyes locked on me. Meowing. Meowing. Meowing.
“You cat?” my neighbor from across the hall is peeking out of her apartment now.
“No, no.” I shake my head and shrug. Both of my neighbors are adorable old Russian women who speak maybe ten words of English. I’ve bonded with this one before over the fact that we both own cats.
She laughs and closes the door. The woman whose door the cat is sitting in front of finally sticks her head out to see what the hell is going on at 11:30 P.M. The cat keeps meowing in the same place as she looks at it. “Oh!” she exclaims as the little fucker runs into her apartment. I hear it meowing from somewhere inside and give her an ‘oh shit’ look.
“You cat?” she asks me.
“She cat?” she asks pointing to the neighbor across the hall.
“No! I don’t know whose cat!” I shrug and shake my head trying to alert her to the weirdness of this whole situation.
She props her door open with a basket cart, which of course doesn’t stay, so I hold the door open for her as she tries to get the cat out. After a few minutes, she returns to tell me it’s under the bed. I run inside my apartment again and grab one of Ava’s toys — a pink stick with a long, fuzzy, sparkly pink stuff hanging off it — and wave it around for her to see. “Cat toy?”
I imagine how insane I must appear right now: I’m wearing a baggy shirt and the ugliest sweatpants I own with my makeup half on and my hair a disaster zone. And now add a bright pink, sparkling cat toy to my hand. Wow, I’ve really solidified the crazy cat lady stereotype in this moment. Thank god I put that bra on.
The woman across the hall opens her door again, and the two go off in Russian. Occasionally they’ll look at me nodding and smiling as if I understand any of what is happening. Then the woman across the hall closes her door.
“Want help?” I ask, once again feebly waving my cat toy in the air like a peace offering.
“No, no. Thank you,” she says as she closes her door.
I go back into my apartment and put Ava’s toy away, noticing that she’s staring at me from the doorway of my bedroom as if to say ‘Annnndd what the hell were you just doing?’
I’m not sure what I witnessed. My neighbor took in a cat which seemed as if it were equal parts traumatized and insane, maybe with a little bit of rabies sprinkled on top. Who knows. I sure as hell have never seen a cat with rabies, but I’ve also never seen a cat act as fucked up as that little creep did.
The story I made for it is that it came from outside to get out of the cold, got trapped in our elevator, saw/experienced some shit, was chased out of the elevator shaft by the super, and now took refuge in my nice little neighbor’s apartment. Hopefully it has a happier life than before and they live happily ever after. I want to believe this is what is reality.