The Neighbour’s Perspective
I stepped out that morning and embraced the day. It was sunny and the heat beat down upon my face like water from a shower head. I had always liked days like this as I usually felt more relaxed and calm which is something of a rarity for me. I’ve never understood people who dislike the summer; it’s a beautiful time of year: children playing and laughing; women in beautiful, floating dresses; and lush, green trees encased in healthy, lustrous leaves and bright flowers. Even the greyest of concrete structures seems to sparkle in the sunlight and I find it impossible to be down.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something moving out of the bush by my front door. The cat and I seemed to notice one another simultaneously and we both froze as we adjusted to the renewed social situation. I relaxed as I realised that there was no threat and the cat did likewise. I sat down on my front stop and began to stroke the cat and he nuzzled his head into my hand. He was a pretty little grey cat which belonged to the elderly woman at the end of the road. She had grown too old to really look after herself, much less the cat and I had semi-adopted the little fellow as I’d always had a soft spot for cats.
He was fluffy and I was now, routinely, finding patches of grey fur everywhere. Like all cats, he was quite a cantankerous little thing and frequently, he stubbornly enforced his decisions without regard for anyone else. He was very sweet though and incredibly gentle and I had grown fond of having his company in the evenings, cuddled up on the sofa whilst watching the television. Despite his behaviour, he seemed quite grateful for the attention and I recognised that he must have begun to feel quite lonely once his owner had stopped fussing over him. In truth, she was a sweet old woman too and had always been kind to me. I remember one time when I was a lot younger, my parents had locked me out of the house and each gone off to work. She had noticed me waiting outside the front door and when it began to rain, she had invited me in and given me a mug of tea to warm me up. I remembered that she’d given me these beautiful chocolate biscuits too and let me put my feet up on the chair. She had asked me about school and said that if I needed any help then I should just ask her.
On reflection now, I suspect she was lonely. My father had often said she was a nice old lady but that she had grown sad after her husband had died when I was just a boy. He had been a strong, likeable sort of man and they had been together since they were young. When he died, my father says that he saw a change in her: she became less confident and went out less too. I suppose she had grown accustomed to having another person around and when I really thought about it, I felt quite sorry for her. Although, I’ve never had a relationship which lasted longer than five minutes so actually, I’m entirely independent. I sometimes wonder how I’d cope if I did meet someone who wanted to spend their life with me.
I stroked the cat and he meowed at me. He does this funny little thing where he flicks his tail and it took me back to another childhood memory. I think he must have been quite young at this point as it was about fifteen years ago and I had been playing in the back garden. The cat (then a kitten) had jumped over the fence and frozen as soon as he saw me. Being very young myself, I immediately moved towards it as all I saw was a fun, new, fluffy toy to play with. Surprisingly, he didn’t run away and instead he allowed me to fuss over him. I picked him up and carried him indoors where my father immediately recognised him as belonging to the old lady up the road. He and I took the cat back to her and she invited us in. My resounding memory of her house was the smell of baking – it always smelt of fresh cake there.
Back in the modern day, I was jolted out of my reminiscing as the cat jumped away from me and perched on the edge of the wall, watching something. When I looked, I realised it was his owner, the old lady. I called out to her but she didn’t hear me or, rather, she did not comprehend what I was saying as she looked at me with a vacant, unrecognising stare. It was then that I realised that she was only wearing her woollen dressing gown and her slippers. I made sure the cat was safe and decided to help her.
When I began talking to her, she, initially, seemed quite unsure of whom I was and her eyes had a strange, glazed appearance. To begin with, I thought it was the bright sunlight causing this but when I looked more closely, I realised that her eyes were entirely unfocused. I greeted her and introduced myself and when she seemed to recall me, I put my arm out for her to get hold of. She was very cold and she was shaking. I told her I’d take her back home and as we turned and began to walk, I noticed that her front door had been left wide open. As we drew closer, the cat came bounding across to us and ran in the door just ahead of us.
When I walked in, the house no longer smelt of freshly baked cake, but rather it had a strange, damp smell as if things had been left un-cleaned for days. I looked down at the cat, who returned my stare with doleful eyes. It was as if he knew that she was not well. I tried to ask her if she had any family I could ring and she said that she had a son. His number was by the phone, so I rang and he said he’d be there in a short while. I decided to stay with her until he arrived. The cat and I sat together, waiting and watching her as she fussed around amongst the mess and the photos of her old life.
The Cat’s Perspective
I stepped out of the window and stretched in the midday sun. Yawning broadly, I glanced up and down the street to see what was happening. I noticed the young man from up the road and as I went to make my way towards him, I heard a loud bang from inside the house, behind me and realised that she was having a bad day again. She stumbled towards me and frightened, I shot out and hid in the bush a few houses along. As soon as my heart had slowed down, I walked out of the bush, freezing momentarily as I saw the young man again. He had seen me too.
Since my owner had grown older and started to behave strangely, I had decided to go elsewhere more often and the young man seemed to have taken a shine to me too. I remember him as a young boy, when his parents lived there too. I don’t know where they’ve gone now but he struck me as being quite a lonely individual and since my owner had begun to stop caring for me as much, it seemed as though the young man and I were well suited. He was enjoying the sunshine and I too felt the sun on my fur and basked in its warmth.
He stroked my head and scratched behind my ears: my favourite place to be touched. I purred contentedly and was enjoying sharing this moment with him when I noticed my owner out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked at her, flicking my tail to get the young man’s attention. She had never done this before; usually, her unusual behaviour was reserved for being indoors only but here she was, walking in the street with very little on and people were staring. I was worried. I looked up the young man and he seemed concerned too and as he got up to walk towards her, I stayed and watched, pleased that someone was kind enough to help her. It had always saddened me that there is only so much that I can do and her son never visited any more. He had never been a particularly kind boy and now, he was far too busy and important to be bothered.
I watched as the young man quietly and carefully guided her back to the front door, which she had left wide open. I headed over and joined them as they walked into the house. I meowed at the young man and he looked at me, telling me that she was okay now. I took comfort in this. Looking at her, I was suddenly struck with how old she had become. She looked frail and lost as she stared around the room, bewildered and tired, he skin loose and her eyes wide and scared. The young man got her settled in the armchair and began asking if there was someone he could ring for her. I thought about the last time her son had been here and the mayhem he had caused. In my opinion, it’s as much his fault as anyone else because he never takes the time to look after her and see if she’s okay. In truth, he hadn’t been round in months and her condition had worsened because of the loneliness.
I watched the young man search for and find her son’s phone number. I listened as he tried to convince him that he really needed to come and visit her. I watched as she sat in her chair, slowly beginning to cry. It was quite a horrid scene, in truth. The young man returned to the room and immediately set about tidying up a bit and he put the kettle on, only to find that she hadn’t paid her electricity bill and so instead, he dug out an old blanket for her and sat with her whilst we waited for her son. I jumped up and sat on his lap, purring as he, once again, stroked behind my ears. She smiled at us and for a moment, it was just like old times – before her decline, I mean. She always had such a lovely smile and it’s far too easy to forget that when it’s veiled by her confusion and frustrations.
When her son arrived, the young man left and I elected to stay so that I could make sure that he was nice to her. There wasn’t a lot I could do if he wasn’t but still, I didn’t want her to feel alone. I perched on the arm of the sofa and watched them all together. The young man seemed uneasy about leaving her alone with her son; I suppose he could sense that he was not a very nice person. However, he did leave and he promised to pop in again later on. Her son told him not to but I know that he will. It just goes to show how important it is to be neighbourly because ultimately, none of us know when we’ll need someone around.