Hazel was a cat, and for some reason the fur around her eyes had sort of been rubbed, or perhaps scratched, away, and her personality was the classic shrinking violet. Still, I was able to coax a moment or two of her time. Mostly, she spent it the way she spent all her time, expecting Smokie to appear at any moment. Smokie was another cat, and in another life they were part of the same human household, for a time. It was decided at some point that it was more convenient to keep the one and lose the other. Hazel was the other.
Her life had been dominated by Smokie, though, and she never seemed to forget that. We say that animals don’t have memories, but I believe they have better memories than any human in history. They remember only what’s important, is all. It causes them the same kind of pain that it does us, but probably worse. They have fewer distractions. It’s probably why they spend their lives being distracted by what we might consider to be trivial things. It’s the only way to survive.
Hazel was a sweetie, a darling, but it’s unlikely that she was appreciated for this when she was still with Smokie, because Smokie stole all the attention, was known to lick a face voraciously, which may be normal for some cats, but is more usually considered unusual. That’s the kind of cat Smokie was. Hazel was much more like the cats I knew, a lot more like Boo, but I’ll get to her shortly.
Because of Hazel, because I knew her better, Smokie became another bogeyman, like Barky, slightly less abstract, because he had a tether, one he didn’t deserve, because he was doted on to the exact degree that Hazel deserved, but couldn’t bring herself to accept, and in a weird way, it was all because of her devotion to him. That’s what love can sometimes do.
Truth is, Hazel took some effort to find, which is probably exactly what she’d always been like. She hid in one of the darkest corners of the place, but I tell you she was worth the effort. Usually, but not always, when something takes an effort, it’s worth it. Something that’s easy can be easy to take for granted, and may not even be worth that.
What I could never get over was that even in Smokie’s absence he dominated her, and apart from the heartache she didn’t seem to mind. I think that made Hazel special. The way her eyes lit up just at the thought of him, that didn’t need any considering of the missing fur. Nothing else mattered. They say cats can tell you a lot just from their eyes. Hazel made it an artform. She was the Cheshire cat of eyes. She disappeared behind them, and the only thing she was looking at wasn’t even there.