“Don’t look at me like that.”
The cat stares back, gives a slow blink, and takes a step closer before resettling itself.
“I don’t have anymore,” I say, showing it my empty hands.
The cat blinks again and walks along the ledge until it’s about a foot from my hand. I glare at it. It gives me a half-interested sniff, not getting any closer, but looking like it might. It near starved, tiny, and from the size of its round yellow eyes, maybe two or three months old. It’s inching toward me letting out small sad mewling sounds. I don’t move from where I am and it sits in a sort of resigned way and starts scratching its ear while pointedly not looking at me, the way only a cat can not look at you. Great, it has ear mites, too. And probably fleas. I can hear its hungry little tummy rumbling. It doesn’t sound good. So worms, too. Poor little shit.
I dig in the pocket of my hoodie for the plastic bag that had held the jerky I just fed it. I peel it open so it can at least lick the salt and crumbs. I put it next to me and hold it down. The wind up here is really whipping, making both me and the cat narrow our eyes a little. At least we both have short hair so it isn’t making it harder to see that way. The little bag of fluffy bones gets close enough to lick the bag and I can hear its contented little purrs. When it finishes I wad up the plastic and stick it back in my pocket. No point in leaving more than one mess out here tonight, I think. The cat nudges my hand and I pet it for a minute, feeling that even though it’s almost imaginary it’s so thin, it’s warm. And it’s still purring. My eyes water something awful and I drag the back of my hand over them.
“Sorry, little guy, but I can’t stay.” I shove it off the ledge and onto the roof a few feet behind us and stand up, preparing to do what I’d come out here to do in the first place.
Standing on the ledge, the cold wind in my face, I make up my mind. Better this way. For everybody. Then I hear it. I look down and the little thing has gotten back up next to my feet meowing piteously. It looks even skinnier, rattier, from above. It’s getting really cold. If someone doesn’t do something with it, it’s going to die out here, too. Maybe tonight. And unlike me, it doesn’t want to. It just wants someone to take care of it, love it, to go on living. I have people to look out for me and I know they love me, just I can’t figure out what the fucking point is if it’s all gonna end the same no matter what. The wind gusts and almost shoves the kitten off the ledge. I instinctively bend down to catch it, almost going over myself and I have this second of total white hot panic where I actually don’t want that to happen. It wouldn’t be fair to this little dude looking up at me like I’m God. Maybe I am. To this little matted tuxedo cat, maybe I’m enough to explain the whole damned universe.
I climb down carefully and pick it up off the ledge. It starts clawing its way up my front, onto my shoulder and is nuzzling under my ear. It’s purring again. I unzip my hoodie and put it inside, against the cold of the wind. I walk back across our roof. It’s starting to snow. I open the door and head back into the building. Dad is gonna kill me. He’ll be so pissed I’m bringing this cat home…Then again, maybe not. Maybe he’ll be happy I came back. I think he knew where I was going tonight; he just didn’t know how to stop me. The kitten climbs up my t-shirt inside my hoodie and sticks its head up under my chin, purring even louder and making these contented hiccoughing noises.
Maybe there’s always a reason, always somebody who needs you. Maybe that’s the point, even if there isn’t another one.
I’m gonna name it Leap.
I went up there ready to take one, and got a reason not to instead.