I park behind the biology building, my home away from home. The dorm closed for Christmas break catching me unaware I would be homeless for three weeks. Was that in the fine print? The biology building is where I got a work-study job that never goes to freshmen. Hard to believe, I got it. The work is interesting and the Professor I work for is nice. I park here to relax. I pull out my latest book, Lord Foul’s Bane, I found in a classroom dog-eared and worn.
One of the senior students pulls up next to my car and gets out. I can see him eyeing my sleeping bag beside me on the front seat and fast food bag on the dash. My clothes are in paper bags since I don’t own a suitcase.
“What’s up? You living in your car?” He walks over to my car while I roll down my window. The chill in the air hits my face.
“The dorm closed for Christmas break.” I don’t want a conversation about my accommodations. Or any conversation. People ask a lot of questions.
“Why didn’t you ask around if you could crash on someone’s couch? It’ll be more comfortable or at least warmer.” He looks at me as I have no common sense.
“I don’t bother people with my problems.” His nosiness is irksome. I thumb through my book hoping he would get the hint. But he didn’t.
“Would you like to come in the building while I get my stuff? You can warm yourself up a little.” His brown eyes were pleading with me. He turned toward the building entrance.
“Sure. I can get the paperwork I should have grabbed from my desk.” I roll up my window and get out of my clunker car. The door won’t shut without butt action against it. Quirky car. I give a quick grin to my escort.
“I have an idea. Do you like cats?” He asks as he opens the door for me. Chivalry is not dead with this one.
“Sure, I love cats. And dogs. Better companions than people.” I reply.
“I half agree with you on that but people are not that bad. Just give a few a chance. My cat would like company while I’m home with the folks. Care to stay with him for the rest of the break?”
“I guess I could help you out.” I smile.
I follow him to his garage apartment after we finished at the biology building. It’s a tight fit, but I park my big jalopy next to his antique Jeep.
As soon as I stepped through the door, I saw a shadow flash across the floor and disappear under the metal framed bed. I squat to look under the bed and notice the cat had unusual markings for an ordinary house cat.
“That’s Rocky. He doesn’t like people much either. You two will get along fine. So anyway, the bathroom is through the door over in the corner, and everything else.” He spreads his arms out and turns around. The apartment is furnished with the bare necessities.
“I have to go. I told my mother I would be back in time for dinner. Enjoy yourself. No loud parties, Mouse.” He heads to the door.
“Mouse? Who are you calling Mouse?” I glare. Lectures and now names. And the cat is huge and no ordinary house cat. “Is Rocky just a cat?”
“Just a nickname we call you since you are so quiet and don’t talk to anyone. Rocky is a bobcat. I got him when he was a kitten. He is missing an eye from being shot. He doesn’t know he is a bobcat so don’t tell him. Oh, if you want to visit with my aunt and practice talking to a nice person, please do. She’ll feed you and talk your ear off.”
“Don’t worry about Rocky. I’ll take good care of him. Thanks for letting me stay here.” I watch him go through the door and hear him pound down the stairs.
Relief floods me and the tears come easily. It is a gratifying release of emotion. The past few days caused me to feel like a cast-off person, like Thomas Covenant in my book. And I don’t even have leprosy. I’m emotionally distant from years of disappointment piled on disappointment. Trusting others is difficult but trust led me here.
Rocky comes out in the middle of the night, curls up beside me and purrs.
The next morning, I venture down the stairs, head to the back door, and knock. Time to knock down the barriers that are holding me back in life.