At the age of seven, I was walking home from Highland Park Elementary when I saw the cat.

It sat balled up in a crease of concrete where road and sidewalk met. Its golden coat was stagnant in the breeze. It smelled of ozone and wet grass… I curled my knees into my small chest to stare down at its dry nose. I've always pictured cat nose's to be pink and plush, but this cat had been baking in the summer sun for hours. Its nose appeared as a peachy-white triangle with whelp bumps at the tip. From what I could tell, this cat had been dead for most of the day. I'd always wanted a cat, but after seeing this feline's mangled form, I gagged. In that instant, I trashed the idea of a pet all together.

The sight was putrid, yes, but I couldn't keep my eyes away. Curiosity had me by the cheeks, weighing them down, forcing all my attention on this decaying creature. The smell of death was no ordinary stench. Not even the smell of burned hair, the rot of four-month old steak, or boiled egg could compare. This immense foulness seeped into the pores of my skin, leaked down into my lungs and swam through my curls. It sat inside my mind, never to be forgotten. Crows perched the highest street lights and telephone wires, waiting for the coast to clear. Me namely. The nature crawlers strayed away from the rot because they knew that if they got too close, they'd be swooped up by the beaks of scavengers.

I let my eyes fall slowly, a sigh escaped me, and I stood weakly. I needed to get home soon before my dad retired to the sofa. The door would be locked if that happened. I began my journey down the sidewalk, but a rumbling, a short wispy breath froze me in mid step.

I slowly motioned my head around to peek over my shoulder, and there it was. Sitting up on all fours and licking its golden paw. Its nose was rosy now, small and fresh. The cat even had a blinding coat of fur thanks to the glow of the sun. The cat…was alive! It purred sweetly before straightening up, perhaps it heard something in the distance, because it scurried away with a 'Meow'. I stared behind it, watched it disappear behind a neighboring house, and kept on staring after it was gone. I stood there for five straight minutes, completely agape.

That cat was dead, hard and crisp from death's grip and the summer heat. That cat was dead with a stink that only came after passing into the next life. That cat was dead for nearly a day.

But it was alive. I saw it. But I was seven, and at the time, I didn't know what I had seen was a gift.

Now, however, I only see my gift as a curse…