For Kuma

This afternoon, I made a ceremonial walk along the paths and places Kuma used to go. Ten years ago today, around 6 a.m. PST, he looked up at me quizzically before slipping under the apartment building’s back gate. I let him out an hour earlier than typical, into darkness and without accompanying him into the alley as usual. My eyes never met his again. Kuma vanished.

Sixteen days later, San Diego city workers recovered his collar from a nearby canyon. The inference was clear: Coyote, as we suspected about Priscilla—a neighbor’s kitty that similarly disappeared 12 months earlier. She inspired his adoption.

Still, I continued looking for Kuma anytime I left or returned home along any of his frequented routes. I only stopped searching after we moved to another part of University Heights in October 2017. Our old place was no longer somewhere he could return to us; not that I honestly expected such occurrence—but who really ever abandons hope?

The Featured Image and first companion portrait come from Leica X1 on Sept. 24, 2010—just days after he joined the Wilcox household. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/4, ISO 200, 1/30 sec, 24mm; 2:18 p.m. PDT. The other is the same but ISO 100 and 30 seconds earlier. These two are composed as shot, but the first is rotated 180 degrees.

I used Google Nexus S to take the third photo, according to the EXIF. Vitals: f/2.6, ISO 50, 1/483 sec, 3.44mm; 10:48 a.m. PDT, Sept. 23, 2011. The day before, Kuma was hit by car, which, as you can see, didn’t much stop him. That ledge, along a neighbor’s property, was one of his favorite, frequent hangouts.

The final portrait is among the last I can find taken of Kuma, on Oct. 20, 2011. I have tested and used so many devices over the years that I don’t recall which ones when. Supposedly, just a month later, I handled a different smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S II. Vitals: f/2.65, ISO 32, 1/105 sec, 4mm; 5:21 p.m.

Kuma was 18 months old when we lost him, and I have often regretted not having him microchipped. Sometimes, like today, I casually survey neighbors’ windows while walking past, hoping to see a cat staring out that I recognize. The scratch across his nose, which was there when we adopted him, is like an identifiable birthmark. He no longer belongs to us, but to whomever rescued him—should such miracle be the case. I seek relief in the possibility that rather than being taken by a coyote that he is alive, well, and settled into another home.

For Kuma, I remember.