I once met a cat whose name was not Behemoth. His real name, however, slips my mind, replaced by the name of the monstrous, vodka-drinking black cat from The Master and Margarita. Behemoth lay with paws tucked lightly under him, as he sat on the cold winter pavement. There, he gazed at me with wariness, hope, and self-admonishment for that same hope. I held out my hand. Would he scratch me? Cats have a poor reputation, you see, much poorer than perhaps any other domestic animal. “They scratch,” some say. “They don’t care,” others scoff.
I looked into Behemoth’s burning green eyes. Do you care?
His whiskers touched my fingers, slowly, as he watched me like a lover heartbroken a hundred times, learning to trust again. He was hesitant, like a child deprived of embraces and kisses, and indeed, such he was. At a month old he had been abandoned; and as a descendant of a species who chose to love us without our intervention, who chose year after year, century after century, to love us—the wound of betrayal Behemoth nursed must have been deep.
So with bated breath I watched as Behemoth unfurled into a furry serpent, round with age, silver hairs glistening amidst his black fur, eyes unblinking as we stared at one another. Then he closed his eyes and rested his forehead in my palm. Thus we rested for an eternity, and I could feel in his pressure against my hand his silent plea, “Don’t go.”
But go I must, and thus I left, and in my hand I still felt that softness, that token of love that I too betrayed. So here is my defense for that poor black cat, for that condemned, vilified species to which he belongs, and perhaps the heavens might take the worth of these words to spare Behemoth a night from rain.