Sunday, September 20, 2015

Farewell to Figaro

UPDATE 4/9/16: Figaro was found nine months later in the Bronx, and has returned home to Brooklyn. 
Figaro, the little tuxedo cat with the big personality who made the Summit Street Community Garden his own, hasn’t been seen since late July. He was last spotted at the corner of Columbia and Summit Streets on July 25, and sadly, it seems as if he isn’t going to come back to us.
If any cat has nine lives, it’s Figaro, who is in his teens. Even if you don’t know his name, he’s a beloved neighborhood fixture. He has touched many of us, literally, rubbing up against your hand or offering a friendly meow. If you stopped to pet him as he strolled down the street, he would sometimes escort you to your door. It hasn’t been quite the same without seeing him saying hello to those who would visit his garden to water, weed, read or simply sit and enjoy the day. Just earlier this summer, when I snapped the photo above, a visitor stopped by to coo at him, after he made his rounds as the garden mayor, visiting someone reading in the shade and then making his way over to me to inspect my weeding work.
Most of us have a story about Figaro, and the full extent of his adventures will never be known. I once devoted a blog post to a day with Figaro in the garden. Occasionally, Figaro would bat at passing dogs’ noses from behind the safety of the garden fence, but the dogs of several garden members met Figaro’s seal of approval.
Figaro after escorting me home one night.
Several years ago, my downstairs neighbor, thinking his roommate’s black and white cat had escaped, brought a cat inside, only to realize that he now had two cats. He promptly put Figaro back outside. Another garden member recently recounted how she discovered, after several days, she had two cats in her home and realized one was Figaro. Figaro also was often the recipient of food and treats from people who didn’t realize he had a home with garden members Amy and Rob. In fact, Amy told me that the cat even played a part in bringing them together.
It’s possible that someone has unwittingly taken him in, though at this point, it’s also likely that he’s gone for good. I got off the bus a few stops away from my own, thinking I saw him, but it was a black and white cat without Figaro’s distinctive short tail. Someone in the neighborhood found a tuxedo cat, but the photos showed a black nose instead of Figaro’s white one. (I checked with the number on another missing cat poster, but that cat, happily, is now home.)
Yet I sometimes still find myself looking in the garden for any sign of him. One day I saw a dark cat with a white nose but it was the gray cat who sometimes hangs out in the garden. The gray cat, always skittish, has become increasingly bold in Figaro’s absence. Sitting at the entrance the other day, the gray cat tried to look confident and as it he belonged, but it ran off when approached. It made me a little sad; if the other cat is ready to take Figaro’s place, he must be nowhere around.
Though it’s hard not knowing for certain what happened to Figaro, this way we can speculate he has perhaps gone off to create a new life for himself. My boyfriend has a theory that all the cats on the missing posters in the neighborhood make their way to the Red Hook cruise terminal, and simply board a ship once they decide to retire from city life. I know I would like to think that perhaps Figaro is on to a new adventure, whether he’s decided to set sail on the Queen Mary 2 to Europe or has opted to go south, to see the six-toed Hemingway cats of Key West. Wherever Figaro is, I know that many of us miss him. I hope that wherever he is, he reflects fondly upon his time as the beloved Summit Street Garden cat.