My Grandma always said happiness was like a bobcat: stunningly beautiful but notoriously elusive. She spent the last ten years of her life sitting on this very deck, hoping to get just one glimpse of the animal that supposedly roams these forests all year round. Sometimes she’d sit here into the small hours, dithering with a blanket wrapped around her, breath coiling upwards in spirals, but to no avail. Not only did she never see a bobcat, there was no sign that one had ever been in the vicinity. We checked the woods beyond our property many times, scouring the ground for signs of pawprints and even keeping an eye out for dead animals. Nothing. Not a dicky bird. Despite this, her dreams of seeing one never faded, not even when she was dying. But mine did. I saw the disappointment in her eyes after every fruitless night-time watch and I abandoned the hope I’d shared with her since I was a small child. The bobcats clearly didn’t want to be seen, and so I let them go.
It was the rain that drew me outside. One of those summer downpours with droplets so fat they ping off the decking like they’re made of rubber. My plan was to sit on the bench beneath the corrugated plastic that serves as a roof and just listen. Let the sound wash over me, driving out all thoughts of the shoddy day I’d had at work and the moronic drivers with whom I’d had the misfortune to share a commute. I poured myself a glass of merlot, slid back the patio door, and there it was.
She was just sitting there looking at me, not twenty yards away. I’m sure it was a she, although I can’t explain how exactly. A certain softness in the markings around her eyes perhaps. She was so beautiful I felt the breath snag in my throat. Moving carefully so as not to startle her, I inched forwards until I was leaning against the metal fence that borders our decking. I half expected her to scarper, to turn and dart down the slope and away into the trees, but she just sat there blinking her lazy cat eyes.
‘Why couldn’t you have shown up earlier, eh?’ I wondered aloud. ‘She wanted to see you so badly. It would have made her life.’
She stayed just long enough for me to finish my wine. I sipped it as I stared at her, bewitched by the intricacy of her markings and the litheness of her limbs. As soon as my glass was empty, she got silently to her feet and slunk away down the slope. I craned my neck trying to keep her in sight for as long as possible, until eventually she vanished with one final flick of her tail. Only when she was gone did I realise I was soaked through, that I had unwittingly stepped out from beneath the protection of the roof and as a result had got thoroughly drenched. Chuckling to myself, I shook my sopping hair from my eyes. Grandma was right: happiness is like a bobcat. It shows up unexpectedly, dazzles you with its beauty, and even if it leaves soon afterwards, you will forever be grateful for having got to see it.