It was a hot day. The sun shone down on them brightly as they waited their turn to purchase the tickets for the boat to Capri. She was excited to see the Blue Grotto; she remembered it as something personal-connected to her-because it had been the setting of a scene in a book from her childhood. She always felt connected to places she read about.
She looked at her boyfriend as they neared the ticket window in the piazza at the Marina Piccola. It really was very hot even though prime tourist season, with its real heat, had passed. "I'm going to sit in the shade," she said. "Is that okay?" He nodded, "That's fine."
She walked towards the raised stone wall in the shade of a tree but stopped when she saw a cat. There were lots of stray cats around the cobbled streets of Sorrento. They stirred in her a mixture of feelings-how cute and how sad. This cat stopped. He was big for a cat but still small. His white chest shuddered, his body heaved, and his shoulders shook and stiffened. He vomited a pale, thin white liquid on the hot stones. A large, red, open wound covered the right top half of his face. She froze. The cat walked a few more steps and then convulsed once more with another bout of vomit.
She felt her breath catch. Water? He needed water. She looked about for a little bowl. Maybe in one of the ice cream shops? But would they give her a little bowl without her buying ice cream? And how would she tell them she just wanted a little bowl and no ice cream? She didn't know any Italian. She ran to her boyfriend at the ticket window to ask for help. But he was busy trying to buy the tickets, trying to communicate in simple English that the Italian woman might understand. She pulled a couple flyers from the counter and tried to shape them into a bowl. The cat had gone to lay in the shade of a bush by the stone wall.
"Hey, we need to go. The boat leaves in 10 minutes."
"But…no. I need to give that cat some water." She explained about the vomiting and the wound. She showed him the cat.
"Oh my god." It was a big wound.
She did the best she could with the flyers. She poured some water into the poorly folded paper bowl and set it by the cat who backed away warily.
They began to walk to the boat. She wanted to go back and take the cat to a vet. He said they'd miss the boat. She was upset. He stopped to tell someone about the cat. But the man didn't seem to understand or care. He nodded and pointed them on to the boat.
She said they should help the cat. They could pick up the cat in her sweater and ask the taxi to take them to the doctor por gattis, was that right? He said the boat was leaving soon. They didn't speak Italian. They cat was a stray and would just run away from them. The cat might have a disease. He was allergic to cats. They didn't know where the vet was. How would they get the cat to the vet? So many reasons to get on the boat and go.
She cried behind her big sunglasses the whole boat ride to Capri. They saw the Blue Grotto. It was beautiful. The water seemed to glow, a lovely azure.
They argued about leaving the cat that way. She cried again. They said things to each other they later regretted. They apologized for cruel words and accusations.
She could have helped the cat if she really wanted to. She didn't need permission. He didn't force her to go.
He knew how she felt about helping animals. He should have been more supportive and understanding.
They returned to Sorrento that evening. She rushed to the bush. The paper bowl had unfolded. The water dried up or spilled out. The cat was gone.
Susan Jahangiri is a vegan dog mom with a passion for writing. She is currently working on her first novel.