by Esther Forbin
The first time I met Shadow I was tripping. It was the first week of college and I had a bad case of mushroom poisoning. He curled up in my lap for hours on end, sitting on the bench on our front lawn. He was thin, and as dark and elusive as a shadow.
In the coming weeks, he would appear on top of the bench and perch on my shoulders while I smoked a cigarette, brushing my cold cheek with his tail. He became the house pet, forever appearing at opportune moments for a head scratch or a back rub. He had one white paw, like a single sock being trailed behind him. We bought treats, and kept them on the window sill just inside the door. We used them once to lure him up the stairs, but he didn’t trust the territory. Our RA said it looked like the kitten another dorm had raised in secret the previous year. We worried when he disappeared for a few days during and after the hurricane. Shadow was a part of our family, and we really started to worry when he disappeared for a month over Halloween.
Then, one gray morning, Daisy sat pudgily on our doorstep, demanding a treat as if nothing had changed. A sparkling pink, heart-shaped collar hung from her pudgy shadowy neck declaring her name. She rolled over like Shadow used to, but awkwardly and lazily. From that paw though, I knew they were the same.
My mind pieced it together in an instant. I felt cheated on. I didn’t need to confirm anything. “Fuck you Shadow, I thought we were friends!” I shouted as I trudged to my smoking spot on the bench. I guess it felt a like when I was a little kid and I’d throw my favorite stuffed animal against a wall in rage, only to instantly feel a horrible sense of remorse and run over to pick it up and apologize. This cat, whoever it may be, jumped up again to its perch on my shoulders, where I scratched its head for one last time. I haven’t seen it since that day.