There was a tiger outside my window and the moon was shining brightly into his eyes. He was sitting – there, on the other side of the street – and watching, watching me. I did not live anywhere that tigers should be so I did not know how he came to be there. But he was: sitting, and watching.
For a long time he said nothing – so neither did I – until at long last he spoke. He did not open his mouth. His lips did not move, but he spoke. He said he had been traveling for a long time, that he was tired, and that he was not sure he would make it through the night. He asked me if I would come down and lie with him. Not one to refuse a dying man his wish, I told him I would and joined him outside beneath the trees. His coat was a beautiful mix of orange and black with patches of white here and there like bits of snow fallen across his face and his feet. As he breathed his nostrils flared open and closed, gently ushering deep breaths in and out, the air brushing against the blades of grass in front of him like water in the soft swell of the tide. He regarded me with his eyes, and I him with mine – mine bright and blue and his deep and dark with a twinkle like the night sky.
He told me that he had not been wanted in the place he had called his home. That he had been neglected, not truly appreciated, and not truly loved for a long time. So he had left. He was one of the last of his kind, he said. Most everyone else had left before him as there was not much space left for ones like he, and it was because he could find nowhere to go that he was sure he would be dead by morning.
I told him that I was sorry and I asked if there was anything I could do.
He thought for a while and then answered that if I might just rest with him and talk some more that that would be enough for now.
I told him I would – I was happy to – and we lay down together – he against the tree and me against his chest, the fur rising and falling, his breath rocking me like the wind to the leaves in the willows overhead; tenderly, slowly, and with care.
He asked me of my life so I told him of my mother and father, of my childhood, my family, my fears, and my dreams. I told him of the first time I had kissed a girl, the time I had run away from home, the time I had broken my leg, and of how I fell in love. I told him the story of my life, long and tedious though it was, but he seemed interested, and nodded and smiled and blinked at my words, and when I was done he told his own.
Then, finally, when each of us had talked long enough we fell slowly to sleep, but, before we did, I asked him one thing:
“Do you think we could see each other again?”
He looked at me, cocked his head to the side looking cat like for the first time, blinked once, and then answered: he said that he hoped we would.
And then there was sleep.
The next morning I awoke in my bathrobe, the neighbor nudging my foot, lying beneath the tree. There was a curious look in his face as he helped me up and I was unable to explain what had happened the night before – not really – but he did not pursue it, only dusting off my back and going on his way; he was a good neighbor.
That night I saw the Tiger again. He seemed bigger, stronger, his fur brighter than before, and he was happy to tell me, as was I happy to hear it, that he had found a place to live – a fertile land to thrive in. Since then, I have seen him many nights. We have become great friends the Tiger and I, as he is kind, and caring, and has taught me many things. So it is knowing this that say:
“I feel sorry for the dreamer who lost him.”