I saw the strangest thing yesterday.
Late afternoon, I was waiting for the bus on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem when suddenly, I heard gasps from a few teenage boys.
“Whoa! I don’t believe it!” said one.
They were all staring at something in the middle of the street.
I looked and there, as if in a daze, was a cat, its head hung low between its front paws, its whole figure dejected.
Now Jerusalem is chock full of cats. Cats on (and often in) the garbage bins, cats under the cars and in the bushes and, if you don’t close your windows properly, in your apartment, as well.
But I’ve never seen a cat like this before. A suicidal cat. A cat who seemed in shock and ready to say goodbye to life. Because somehow the fact that he had made his way to the middle of the street seemed intentional. The plan of the last resort.
It was enough to make me start tearing up. Not that it takes much.
First a woman went to him and tried to shoo him out of the street with her foot. No dice.
People started to buzz about it.
“It’s the heat,” said one woman to me. “The cat’s in a heat daze.”
Then something miraculous happened.
The truck that came barreling towards the cat with a bus and a line of cars on its tail, came to a sudden stop. The cat still refused to move. He was just sitting there, his head hung low, looking very small. The bus started to honk, but even that was half-hearted. I’ve heard louder honks in this country for lesser crimes.
And then the next miracle. For some reason, there was no traffic from the other direction so the tender-hearted truck driver swerved around the cat and the bus and cars behind followed suit. In this way, the cat’s life was spared.
When there was a break in traffic a man went into the street, scooped up the cat who submitted passively, its whole body curved like a banana, with its legs sticking straight out. Soon they disappeared into the park.
Was the cat merely dehydrated from the intense heat and like the woman said, in a heat daze? Or rather, was he heartsick? Had something devastating happened and he’d lost the will to go on?
I know how you feel, little cat. I really do.
Life is sometimes too hard to bear.
It reminds me of a few lines that really stuck with me from a David Bezmozgis story: “…it occurred to him that life, which he’d treated as a pastime, and which he’d thought he could yet outdistance, had finally caught up with him. And he discovered, much as he’d suspected, that once life caught up with you, you could never quite shake it again. It endeavored to hobble you with greater and greater frequency. How you managed to remain upright became your style, who you were.”