He was a good kitty and he put up with a lot. When we were living in the apartment on the sketchy south side he used to like to play with Miss Yarn before getting a good grooming from Mr. Brush. And he always did his best to trip us when it came time to sing a dumb little dinnertime ditty: T is for Tuna, and Tuna is for Tiger.
After Miss Yarn went away and it was just the two of us rattling around the suddenly-too-big apartment, Tiger would sometimes hop onto my chest and rub his face against mine. If I believed cats had souls I would have said he was trying to comfort me, and on especially difficult nights I let myself believe that. Sometimes he would wander from room to room, looking for the bed he used to jump on, and when he meowed it came with a note of longing. I would tell him I was sorry and that I understood. Trust me, I understood.
Last summer I accidentally poisoned him. He survived my idiocy, only to be moved again. This time Tiger became a basement cat, and when I would see him he would put his face close to mine, only now he simply looked at me with dull eyes. He still enjoyed being brushed and petted — he's a cat, for chrissakes, and they know how to manipulate the Towers of Nom around them — but he wasn't getting any younger, and like all oldsters he got grumpy. After years of being in a static place he found himself in a mid-life crisis not of his own making. I would say I felt guilty, but that's like saying da Vinci did some halfway decent art. There isn't a word in the language to describe how I felt about putting my cat through this sort of tumult.
When we said goodbye tonight I held him close and thanked him for being such a good friend. He looked at me, reached up and patted my face. When we meet again in the clearing I expect he'll want Miss Yarn and Mr. Brush, and if there's tuna there he'll do his best to trip me while I sing the T-is-for-tuna song. And I won't mind. I won't mind at all.