In the summer of 1998 or thereabouts -- dates are difficult to differentiate in the whorl of undergradute years -- I found an orange kitten huddled underneath my back porch.
It was winter and the kitten seemed starving, so I did what I could to introduce it into my household, which at the time consisted of one very angry and possessive woman who was having none of this interloper, so when my neighbors mentioned having lost their kitten the next day, it was better for everyone involved that he return home.
Two years and two kittens later -- the latter having been semi-almost-successfully integrated into the household -- my wife and I were returning from an ill-timed trip to the grocery store. The Louisiana rain did as Louisiana rain does, soaking everything beyond the telling of it and as my wife and I shuffled our groceries out of the car and into the house, a wet orange ball followed us in.
Without even bothering to introduce himself, the cat who would be Finnegan walked over to a food bowl and began eating.
His silence -- as we would soon learn -- was unusual. He had, it seemed, been hungry for some time, so we took him in for the night. I checked with the neighbor the next day to see if she had misplaced her orange cat again, only to discover that my neighbor had moved.
Finnegan had not been welcome there anymore for reasons anyone who ever knew him would be incapable of understanding.
Granted, he did enjoy chewing through wires -- and the more expensive the equipment they were attached the better. But the attention being paid to the noises in the headphones was better spent on him and he needed you to know that.
But he wasn't sure you did -- so he asked you questions. Finnegan always asked everybody questions, his voice rising into an interrogative with every subsequent mew. Because he was never satisfied with any answer and would engage you in an endless interrogation into matters only he understood fully.
I mention this because the house is so quiet and unquestioned since his passing. I walk around wondering why the world's allowed to just exist and am reminded of the absence of its inquisitor.
Most of the time I think he was asking whether this or that inedible substance was edible. We sometimes referred to him -- with love -- as "the Finnegoat" because he would eat anything and did so with evident relish. It was his waning appetite that clued us in to the fact that something was wrong, and that something, as is often the case with elderly cats, fell to his kidneys.
We managed his condition with medication for almost five months -- five months in which I should have spent more time with him -- but in the end he let us know his time had come with his silence.
The bright boy who once questioned the world quieted his investigative assault and we knew what we had to do.
Not that that made it any easier because nothing makes losing someone who had been a part of your daily life for fifteen years any easier.
Some mornings I swear I hear him demanding of the staircase knowledge of its steepness or inquiring of a cabinet a reckoning of its contents.
And so as I write this a few months after his passing, I can only ask myself -- exactly as he would have asked me -- what took you so long and why are your eyes leaking and I saw a thing and is it time to eat?