On November 12th, the first snow fell, covering every inch of ground in a cold glistering blanket. On most days, I wore that coat of snow happily. It illuminated my red hair, my dark eyes, in contrast to the striking white surrounding. I liked to imagine that the world was reborn every time snow fell. I took joy in following the fragile journey as the snowflakes drifted down, ultimately merging with the ground. It had been two weeks since that day in November, and it hadn’t stopped snowing since, in fact, the weather had become a constant blizzard.
However, on this day, the weather was not on my side. The distance between our houses had never felt as long as it did today. Again and again, the wind tried to tackle me, but stubbornly, I stood my ground. As the storm intensified, I pressed my hands further into my pockets, clinging to my body temperature. In retrospect, it was the stupidest idea I've ever had to walk out in this raging blizzard. If it wasn’t for Lola's fluttering eyelashes as she begged me to come over, I never would've dared to step outside today. School was canceled for a reason, and it was recommended to avoid traffic, as well as go outside in general. But not for me, because if Lola Gates asked me to jump off a building, I did it. If she told me to run around the globe, I asked how many laps. Her wish was my command. Even though we broke up months ago, even though she thrust a knife into my heart and watched me bleed to death, I still had this nagging guilt that I owed her everything. How could I say no, it was Lola after all, she was gravity itself, attracting everything around her. Unfortunately, that included me. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my previously exposed neck and thrust myself forward. Stupid snow. After a few freezing minutes, I reluctantly stopped to look around. Snowflakes swirled in every direction, making it impossible to distinguish much at all. The thought to pick up my phone, and use a GPS never occurred. I knew this road, or at least I thought I did. During all of last year, I took this route so many times I could wander it in my sleep. On this day, of all days, it was important to get there on time. So why did I find myself so hesitant about where to turn next? To get a better look at my surroundings, I squinted my eyes. To my surprise, I didn’t recognize all that much. I feared it was the blizzard messing with my perception. I was grateful for the footprints left in the snow behind me, at least I didn’t walk in circles.
The further I went, the more uncertain of my location I became. Had there always been a forest this close to this intersection? , I considered. No, I didn’t believe so. Encircling the whole area, I suddenly distinguished a 10-foot steel fence. It was difficult to make out due to the thick flakes of snow constantly blocking my vision. To be entirely sure, I stepped closer, exiting my only area of certain direction. The fresh snow crunched beneath my feet; Snowflakes clumped together in my hair and drenched my jacket. The snow was now so high, only the upper part of my boot shaft could be seen. Once again, the frigid wind made me wince, my frail body fought to keep the temperature up. I don’t have time for this, I thought, violently shaking off the built-up snow covering my boots. My blood-flushed hands trembled as I reached for my phone; cold fingers wrapped around it. I pressed start; it didn’t react. Before me, a fence rose. It had a deteriorated, eerie look about it. Along its sturdier parts, rust had begun to spread, forming a pattern of copper blotches and ice crystals. I found it oddly pretty. The closer I got, the more anxious I became. Perhaps it was time to turn back. After all, I had never in my life seen this area before. The barbered wire didn’t seem to end. It stretched miles further than my sigh was able to follow. An unnerving sensation went through my body as I looked out between the grating. Dark trees towered atop each other, their gloomy shadows tainting the fair snow.
At the far end of the fence, someone, or something seemed to have torn a part of the grating open. After closer inspection, the ground beneath had been hollowed out, indicating something had crawled back and forth between the two sides. The blizzard got so intense; the obvious choice was to go back to the main road. But where the hell was the main road? A coat of white spread in every direction. Except for the fence, I was unable to make sense of anything at all. My heart beat faster, I felt trapped, cornered. I took a raspy breath; the icy air ripped my throat to shreds. In the spur of the moment, I remembered. Of course, my footprints, I must follow my footprints. Eagerly I turned around, relief washed over me. My eyes darted in every direction. It was a short-lived joy, for the prints had been utterly swept away. Except, they weren't. On closer inspection, there were footprints. Not my own, but someone else's. Not someone, something. They were small, almost indistinguishable. But they were there. They spread out in a circle around me, freshly made. The one exception was the small track leading to the sunken ground in the fence. My train of thought was interrupted by the sound of crumbling snow. Small, delicate, precise footsteps. As I turned around, I found myself face-to-face with a cat. Its grey coat of fur was extraordinarily thick, covering the animal in a blanket of warmth I envied. Its coloration differed from pale white to small dashes of black traveling up its tail and back. This was in combination with various streaks of grey. However, those eyes. I had seen those eyes before. As I met its dark gaze, I noticed a distinct mark on its forehead, a scar. Where did you come from? I thought as I slowly stretched my fingers out toward the cat.
I had never been a dog person. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was afraid of dogs, I just didn't find that impeccable dog charm everyone was crazed about. Yes, dogs were mellow and sweet; but they craved all of your attention and bent for your every need. Your dog would die for you in a heartbeat. Most people would've found that adorable. But I just didn't. I didn't want anyone to trail my every move, constantly begging for my attention and love, a love I probably didn't deserve. However, I found cats majestic, elegant creatures. Poor thing, I thought, gently stroking the cat's back, out here all alone in the cold. With every touch, it leaned in, circulating my legs. I knew that a cat's love was to be earned through constant affection and respect. Those who claimed that cats were aggressive and malicious, didn't respect boundaries or consent. If you won the affection of your cat today, you might not have it again tomorrow. Cats taught us to be consistent with our love, and the reward always made it worth it. If treated right, cats were just as loving and supportive as dogs. I thought everyone could learn a thing or two from cats.
Once again, I met those eyes, where have I seen you before? The fur felt warm and soft against my cold hands, and I wondered where it lived, it didn’t seem to have a collar. Almost bored, the cat started walking along the fence. As it walked, its fuzzy tail confidently swept back and forth. By the time it had reached the opening, so many snowflakes had settled on its back, I found my eyes straining harder to tell it apart from the environment. I felt disorientated, almost guilty. Lola was waiting for me, and here I stood, wasting time with some stray cat. Frustrated, I turned around. The main road must be here somewhere. After a few steps in various directions, I realized that the only thing that seemed to lead somewhere was the fence. the cat couldn’t have survived this long alone in the woods, especially not in this numbing weather. Therefore, the only rational thing to do was to let the cat lead the way. I almost opened my mouth to call on it, but quickly realized that it was stupid. It had probably already disappeared for good. While I dragged myself forward, my whole body hurt from exhaustion. I traced the fence for about a minute until I saw a familiar silhouette laying in the snow a few feet ahead, clearly not bothered by the extensive weather circumstances. Immediately, the cat rose, observing as I struggled toward it. As if it knew I would trace after it, the cat casually stretched its back and continued to walk beside the fence. Together we walked, bizarre as it was, I was not the one leading the way. Now and then, the cat stopped for a while. It almost seemed like it waited for me, took pauses for me to catch up. Maybe it was foolish to look for meaning, in what just could have been coincidental. Cats were in fact very independent, and often didn't seek validation from others. As we carried on, I didn’t fail to notice how the winds had calmed. I no longer felt as if my body might turn to ice at any moment. The thousands of snowflakes that previously swallowed me whole, were nowhere to be seen. Without me noticing, we had parted with the fence. We must have walked extremely fast, and in the wrong direction. Because what I saw in front of me, made me stop dead in my tracks. Before me, I saw a set of purple swings, with white corners in combination with a familiar green frontage. It was my house. Confused, my eyes searched for the grey cat as if it had a lot to explain. It mysteriously seemed to have vanished along with the snowstorm. I desperately dug in my pocket for my phone, expecting the screen to light up, telling me it was not too late to get to Lola. I prayed to God, she would take me back. Instead, I was met by a black screen, mirroring my grim expression. Then it hit. Those eyes, I have seen those eyes before. I put the phone closer to my face, using it as a mirror. How the hell did that cat share my eyes? No, it didn’t, I told myself, it was just a trick of the light. Only I could be egoistic and self-centered enough to see myself reflected in every single thing. It's not about me. A mantra I got burned into my scalp all during last year, it's all about you. “I'm sorry, of course, you’re the most important person in my life” I would plead, “then start acting like it”, Lola would respond.“You know I love you, but you have to deserve it.”
As the memories crossed my mind it hit me. In terms of cats and dogs, I’m the dog. I was and still am today. There I was, showering Lola with affection she didn’t deserve. During our relationship, she told me to sit, stay, and roll around on her command. I never questioned it. Nonetheless, I did it with joy, longing for those moments she told me she loved me, that all I did was utterly necessary to contain that love from slipping away. Standing there in front of my house, I realized it wasn’t worth the chase. She wasn’t worth it. That cat had led me home, and that meant something. Snow had begun to fall again, but I didn’t move. I was afraid, that if I moved, I would find myself back by the fence, blindly crawling my way into Lola's arms. Tears started running down my cheeks. The cold had numbed my cheeks so bad I didn’t even notice. I let them fall. Cold, confused, and angry I opened the front door. The heat melted me instantly, and I felt the warmth in my fingertips slowly returning. It was a burning sensation, but God did it feel good. A quote that could summon up the previous year, it was a burning sensation, but God did it feel good. Except, the good was not proportional to the burning. She burned me alive with every sentence, every word was a sword in my stomach. The fire ate me up, beat me again and again until I expected it to, wanted it to. Then she would trace my back with her hand, innocently smiling while shaking her head, “what would I do without you?” She would say. At that moment, I never could have let go.
Outside, the trees swayed. The blizzard had grown stronger the minute I stepped inside. I imagined my house to be in a children's snow globe, those that are meant to be shaken again and again just to keep the constant flow of white confetti drizzling. My legs hurt, I put them under a blanket, and curled up on the couch beside the window. One after the other, snowflakes gravitated down the window. My eyes traced each one until they finally united with the ground. After a while, a new snowflake caught my attention. As I followed this one down, something else interrupted my line of vision. On the other side of the glass, dark eyes met my own. The cat sat down, it once again tilted its head as to say, you know I led you right. At that moment, I truly saw myself in that cat, in what I could be. It was probably delusional, but I honestly felt that we had a mutual understanding. From there on, I decided to never again bend to people who didn’t deserve it. The days of patiently waiting by the door for hours, all for a pet on the back, were over. Lola Gates was not gravity itself; I gave her momentum; I gave her all my power. Tomorrow and all the days after that, I would be independent, I would be kind and loving to those who truly cared about me, those who gave me the patience and time of day. The cat gave me that piercing look once more, and I decided to never again love blindly; from there on, would be the cat.