I've hung up posters (which some bastard keeps taking down) I've done the rounds of the neighberhood like a Jehovah's Witness, knocking on any door that opened, (I have even considering telling the Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door that I will happily go to their meetings if they give me my cat) and I have wondered around with increasing desolation calling calling calling.
The absence of Zelda is palpable. It seeps into everything, erodes happiness and peace. It undermines my pleasure of the other two cats (because of the one who is missing, the third who is not there and who was secretly my favourite) every discarded black sock startles me, the emptiness of the doorway digs at me and over and over and over her life with me plays itself out in my head. Her brief kittenhood with her tiny self that used to dust the house regularly by crawling underneath the furniture, and that phase where she would only eat if Z was holding her in his arms, or the one where she would regularly go up trees she didn't know how to come down from, and her love of small spaces and her quest to fit into the tiniest of them (and the way I'd several times be startled when I opened the sock drawer and found Zelda sleeping there). I've had her since June 2006 and my heart aches with the loss of her because it is not enough. She was a healthy splendid cat, she could have been with us for years. Z says "at least we haven't had to have her put down, that would be much worse" except that for me it wouldn't. It would be terribly sad and awful in its own way but at least there would be closure. It wouldn't eat at me the way her dissapearance does. I wouldn't be constantly torn between my awful sadness and the terrible hope that won't let me rest
Physically I ache for her. For the sleekness of her body, for the splendidness of her tail, for the small wetness of her nose, for the company of her, for the way she used to gallop towards me when she saw me coming in the street, for her urgent mewling in front of the door. I miss the way she used to sit on the garden wall and preen to be admired, or the way she'd hold herself still to be stroked, the dainty way she'd sit on the edge of the tub whenever I had a bath. I miss the way she would accompany me on walks with the baby, running alongside the pram chirping until we crossed some invisible line that marked the frontier of her territory and she would turn back.
Some fools suggest: "Get a new cat." which - no. Firstly even the two remaining ones are quite enough to maintain, and secondly I don't want just any cat. I want her. Zelda was special. Not only was she the most gloriously beautiful animal I've ever shared my life with, but also the most endearingly stupid. Her determination not to learn from past mistakes, her fearlessness, her airheadedness, her sweetness, her passionate curiosity and seeming utter lack of instinct for self-preservation - all those were a tragedy waiting to happen much as they also meant I couldn't help BUT adore her. Zelda with her goldfish memory and flighty butterfly tendencies, whose daintiness permeated her whole being and whose sweetness oozed from every pore - my heart was forfeit from the beginning.
And each time I said goobye to anything I loved (from husband to cat) - each time they left my presence it was like pieces of my heart going away into the world to have their own adventures and each evening when they returned it was like being reassembled. Except now that there is a piece missing. Its loss shadows me and with each extra day that she is gone I have less hope of her return.
Z has a theory about happiness, that happiness is a jinx of its own kind. That if you become too happy, too gleeful, too full of your own joy this displeases the universe and it gets taken away. This is why he is quiet in the expressions of his happiness. He doesn't shout it out the way I do, to shelter it. But I'm not built that way. I can no more lie low with my joy than I can with love. Whatever emotion I feel is cast out, proclaimed into the world. And even though there is a part of me that fears that what I love will get removed from me simply because I love it so much, there's the other part that finds it impossible not to love to my full extent no matter how much I am tortured by the loss.