I have a new friend in the neighborhood, and despite a dodgy reputation, she hasn’t brought me any bad luck.
We were introduced when she darted out from my grocery bags as I lugged them down the sidewalk one night. In the dark she was just an indistinct black blur atop four shadowy, trotting legs. She didn’t even look up at me, just fell right in with my step, like an English Pointer on a hunt.
When we got to my door, I set my stuff down and reached to pet her. Thick and silky jet black fur and a strong wiry tail that waved back and forth. I lifted her into my arms. Her whole body vibrated with the rumbling purr that filled my ears.
Thereafter we became friends. In the summer and fall I would occasionally work from my front porch, and she would circle the legs of my reclined camp chair. She might hop in my lap briefly, but mostly kept on the move, weaving around the abundant nearby spindles and crannies.
“Ah. Hello, Acadia!” the postman said one day as he came up the stairs. There was more than a greeting in his smile.
“Bit of a troublemaker, that one,” he winked.
He told me she was named for the great National Park along the seacoast on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Her family either found her or bought her up there, he couldn’t remember which. And they field regular calls inquiring whether she’s lost.
Apparently, I gathered, the cat got around, and many mistook her adventurousness for a poor sense of direction.
A few weeks later I was walking to work when I came upon a stoic Acadia bundled awkwardly in the arms of a sixtyish woman.
“Is that Acadia?” I asked brightly as they were rushing past.
The woman stopped abruptly. Her shoulders sagged.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I’m cat-sitting. Everyone thinks she’s lost! I keep having to retrieve her from all these Good Samaritans’ living rooms. She was three blocks past the Square!” She looked huffily down at her charge and shook her head.
Walking away, I turned and made a what’s-with-her face shrug at Acadia over the woman’s shoulder. Come visit soon, I mouthed.
Acadia has indeed, I confess, spent some time in my living room. She snuck in one day, and she slowly inspected the place while purring like a sleek little lawn mower. Since then I sometimes let her in for a few minutes when she turns up meowing in the vestibule.
I like to think of the secrets she carries, the spoils of her shadowy reconnaissance. I’ve glimpsed her from my kitchen window politely looking over the neighborhood’s trash and recyclables. I wonder about all the things she has filed away about these surroundings and their city-living inhabitants who often don’t know much about each other.
For I am one to look, and listen, myself. And I’ve been known to get lost across the Square—or the ocean—driven by some primordial, deep-seated drive to tune everything out by wandering aimlessly.
I too have been pointed “home” when I knew my way just fine.
Two nights ago, Acadia pops out from under my shopping bags as I tiredly scale the steps to the porch. She is full of energy, and suddenly she’s into a routine I’ve never seen before. She winds up and executes this amazing maneuver, catapulting herself onto the narrow railing, risking a steep fall into the yard if she overshoots. She struts down one railing, then leaps down and repeats the acrobatics on the next.
Passing the porch swing, she goes back on her hind legs and nonchalantly gives the seat a gentle push. It sways back and forth over her head.
Watching her make her rounds, meowing chattily, I realize she’s treating my house like a jungle gym. And she’s showing off her command of this corner of her vast playground.
I pet her and I praise her and we sit, the bags at my feet, on the swaying porch swing.
“You tell ’em, Acadia,” I say, and she leans and nuzzles her head hard against my scratching fingers. Her tail beats against my knee.
“You tell them, ‘I’m not lost, thank you very much. I’m just quite…curious.’”
Meow, says Acadia.
“I know!” I reply. “Sometimes this world can’t tell the damn difference.”