Where were you?

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I hear a piercing cry from somewhere in the house. It’s a small house, but sound carries and bounces and hides. I do a full circuit, glancing in all of the usual places, and get halfway around again before I hear another cry, this time from upstairs.

“Zen? Zen?” She can’t have gone far; she’s almost twenty-one years old, and “running” isn’t in her repertoire anymore.

I reach the top of the stairs but she is not in sight, so I walk down the hall into the bedroom. No, nothing in here. I walk back out and she is standing at the top of the stairs, gazing down.

For a moment, I watch her contemplating her own existence, or staring into the middle distance — it’s not always clear which is which, with cats or humans. But it’s not long before I can help myself from saying, softly, “Hey.”

She looks at me and makes the different sound, the purr-trill that I’ve come to know as, “Where were you?”

I scoop her up and carefully descend. She’ll settle again for a little while, until a chill or the wind or a bad dream or existential dread will rouse her from twitch-ridden sleep. Like she is mourning an old friend, Zen’s cries will rise and slide up the wooden bannister until I, bleary with my own bad dreams, will go and find her again.

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the low hum of the space-heater. Welcome to Holidailies, a free community writing project that promotes sharing your writing and other online creative endeavors during the winter holiday season.