Something happened to Mi-chan last summer. It was hot and humid, as Tokyo summers go. She's a house cat and if not found in the kitchen and Watanabe-san's room, would be standing near the glass door looking at the world outside.
A traditional Japanese home usually has 2 doors. The main entrance for the landlord and his family, and a smaller side door for the people serving them (I'm not sure if they had what we would call maids in those days). Or in our case, the tenants and guests.
I usually use the side door since all my shoes are there. But since the bicycle is parked near the main entrance, I would use the side door to get out and then come back in through the main door to get my bicycle. It's a bit difficult to describe the layout of the house, so you will have to imagine.
So Mi-chan is usually found at the main glass door checking out the people who walk by our house. Some of them would stop by to say hi to her. Being a cat, Mi-chan just stares back at them, as if the attention lavished is expected of them.
One night, as I was putting the bicycle back into the house, suddenly Mi-chan darted out of the door. I did not expect her to be there as it was quite late already. By the time I managed to wheel in the bicycle properly, she was already nowhere to be found. So I went out and started calling out her name.
Nothing. Nowhere to be seen. Surely she could not have gone far.
Suddenly I heard something which sounded like cats getting into a fight. Or something in pain. I could not quite make out what it was because it was very sudden and short.
I got worried and started walking further to see where Mi-chan might have gone off to. I even checked out the neighbour's house and the streets around our area.
Since it was late and there was nothing I could do, I decided to leave the sliding glass door slightly opened. I kept praying that Mi-chan would come back safely.
For a few days after that, I did not see Mi-chan. It got me really anxious because I was probably the last person to have seen her. Later I found out that Watanabe-san had found her under his van, in a pool of blood, injured.
I felt so bad after that.
When I managed to find the time to talk to the landlord, he looked quite worried, and said he wasn't sure if she would make it.
I felt really really bad hearing that.
But he told me that he was taking care of her in his room. It was strange that he did not take her to see the vet, or at least to get some treatment.
So I kept praying that Mi-chan would not die. After about a week, Watanabe-san told us that Mi-chan was recovering.
You have no idea how relieved I was hearing that.
After a couple of weeks, we finally saw Mi-chan down in the kitchen. It was really good to see her, at least for me. But I noticed something quite different about her. When I went to stroke her, as I had been doing before, she did not really respond.
Instead, she looked fearful, and distanced herself from us. It was then that I noticed she had a deep cut on her head. Outwardly she had recovered from whatever she went through that night, but inside she may have been traumatised to the point that she avoided any physical contact.
Danny, my then housemate, comforted me saying it was not my fault, when I told him how bad I felt for opening the glass door that night.
But still, for a kitty who helped me in my own recovery, I still felt awful for not being able to help her in hers.
Almost half a year has gone, and I've seen gradual improvement in Mi-chan. She is not as fearful as before, the cut has closed up completely and she does not shy away from touches as much.
We're now very careful about making sure the sliding doors are shut completely. And she has started to return to that spot near the glass door to enjoy the view outside.