I'm about to enter my senior year of high school, and I am at band camp - a place called Camp Green Lane - somewhere in Pennsylvania. It's the third or fourth night of camp, and my friend Bob and I are up to our usual antics. This particular evening we'd decided it would be great fun to disconnect the water to the staff cabin. So we're creeping about in the woods when suddenly from behind I hear, "Meow?"
I turn around to see the most adorable cat emerging from the woods. She's a small muted calico - white, grey and orange. And at that moment, I fall in love. I name her Delilah, after the Queen song.
I bring her back to my cabin and she becomes my pet for the rest of the week. At each meal, I carefully wrap up food to take back and she's quite content. When Saturday rolls around, I'm not sure what to do. Bringing Delilah back on the bus is not an option, so I say my goodbye's and we part ways.
A few days later, Bob and I decide to take a road trip. We hop into my 1984 shit-brown Pontiac Firebird and head west, and we find ourselves back at Camp Green Lane. Delilah is waiting for us - as if she knew we'd be back - and she settles herself into the back seat.
Traffic heading home that evening is brutal. And as a stupid 17 year-old, I don't realize that leaving the car's A/C on full-blast while stopped in traffic is a bad idea. Naturally, I overheat. So here we are: two dumb kids and a cat - stuck on the side of the highway.
As it turns out, we had an angel that day. We're not waiting long when a woman in a Jeep Cherokee pulls over and offers us a ride.
"Um... we have a cat, too," I confess.
"That's okay - hop in."
Bob's dad was a dentist, and the woman drives us all the way to his office. The three of us wait for him to finish with his patients. Delilah sits in her own chair in the waiting room, enjoying the adventure.
A few days after I'd brought her home, I take Delilah to the vet for a check-up.
"She's a beautiful cat," he says. "I'd say she's about a year old. Very healthy. Oh - and she's pregnant."
I learn that once pregnant cats pick where they'll build their nests, you really can't change their minds. And while I try to set up comfortable boxes for Delilah's convenience, she instead opts to bear her litter in my underwear drawer. Four beautiful kittens - two boys, two girls - and Lilah is a fantastic mother.
The years passed. I graduated high school and moved on to college, to grad school. To new homes with roommates, friends, lovers. And each time I returned home, Delilah welcomed me back as if I'd never left.
She was a chatty cat with a gentle purr. The fur around her neck was snow-white, and she was very diligent in keeping it clean. She had a toy pom-pom - which we called her 'fussball' - and she'd play with it every night on the stairs, tossing it up and down and chasing after it. If she caught you watching, she'd get embarrassed.
A few months ago, Delilah started to lose weight. We took her to the vet and learned that she had some tumors in her stomach, there wasn't much they could do for her and it was only a matter of time.
This evening, HE and I took Delilah to the vet one last time.
She got angry when I tried to put her in the cat carrier. She even growled - as if to say, "Leave me my dignity. I didn't come here in one of those things." And so she rode to the vet seated on the back seat.
Driving home from visiting HIS parents last night, we got into a discussion about what happens when we die. HE shared with me his beliefs that we are all essentially made up of energy, and although our bodies may be gone, our energy lingers.
After it was over, we were sitting on the bench outside the vet's office. Thinking back on all the years and the many memories of Delilah, I turned to HIM and asked, "Where did she go?"
To which HE replied, "Nowhere."