The pet I never wanted nor expected is named Bourgos, after the part of Spain where they rescued it on the side of the road. But we call it Bourbon with a Spanish accent.
My roommate and I jumped off the bus, ran into our host mother’s arms, unlocked the front door, and the question was asked: “Do you like cats?”
I answered my host mom telling her, sure, I don't mind them.
Before I knew it, the front door swung open and a super speedy cat flies into the hallway. This was the start of a 4 month relationship with my first pet.
There were many times I thought I could not handle the cat. I learned to keep my door shut after the cat snuck in and bit my brand new headphones in half. I'd walk into the kitchen to see it eating my food. When I was running late to class somehow it would run out with me and not return until I tempted it with my already broken headphones. It bit my ankles every day. For the first month my hands were red and swollen from its claws. The list goes on and on.
This continued for 3 and a half months. When the weather finally became warm, we kept the windows open for the cat to go out on our terrace. Some days it came close to the railing, and I would worry and pull the cat away from the edge, but my host mom always reassured me with a “no pasa nada,” clearly confident that it would not fall.
The second to last week of the program I heard a knock on my door. My host mom came in and asked if I had seen the cat. I laughed at the thought of the cat being in my room, ha. She looked perplexed. “I don’t know where it is… I've checked everywhere.” So together we checked the whole house, terrace, and apartment building without luck. I went to bed hoping to wake up to better news.
Sure enough it came back the next day. I felt relieved. Until the next week.
With just days left before I move out, my host mom stopped me in the hallway. I was on my way to a final exam. She looked concerned, so I asked how she was. In broken Spanish she explained that Bourbon jumped from the terrace of our 7th floor apartment and landed on the pavement. She continued to speak but I could not understand. Did it die? She said it was a mess... Does this mean it exploded? Before I could translate this thought into Spanish, I saw the cat laying on a towel. Its paw was bent. Its eyes were closed. But it was breathing.
No words can explain what I felt in that moment. The pressure drained from my body with every “meow” the cat whispered. The nightmare image of my host brother mourning his beloved cat faded away.
Let’s get this clear: I didn’t love the cat. But I would never wish it dead, either. My host mom and host brother did love the cat. And for their sake, I was happy it survived.
Over the last days of my semester in Granada, the cat spent most of its time recovering in the kitchen. I would bring it tiny morsels of food and move its water bowl closer so the poor thing wouldn’t have to move. Sometimes I would even sing to it. In the end, I believe there was a truce in the war between me and the cat. And I think the cat might even miss me more than I miss my broken headphones.