The morning breeze blow softly through my bedroom window; carrying over the smell of Lavender as it softly caresses me, whispering “Wake up, wake up”
But the sky is still dark when I opened my eyes, darker than any night, but before I decided to follow my nature, the cat of the wind rub itself against the bamboo trees, leaving the soft rustling of its leaves in my ear; “Wake up, wake up”
I shifted over, letting myself slide through the end of the bed, so that my body will fall into standing position in defense of itself against gravity, and open the door.
Two of Tamarin’s kitten bolted through my legs into the room as I do so. Though I can’t see them but two tiny specs on the floor, I can feel their soft baby fur, and I can hear the gentle crackle behind me. They are cliff climbing to get on to my bed.
Sky at the front porch is also dark; it made the tiny sparkling lamps from Bandung city looks like stars over milky way. Again the cat of the wind came over and rub itself against me, against my bare feet on the floor, “Wake up, wake up”
It’s still 3 am, the time that people made into the wisdom of “It’s always darkest before dawn” and it is Saturday also, but if I am to catch the wholeness of the day, I ought to wake up.
A few steps from the living room is my little kitchen. Tamarin herself jumped down from the stove table and rub against my feet. The new queen has been living with me for about a year now, so she knows it best that I always turn on the stove first, heating water that turned into warm milk for her kittens.
At the back of my mind I remembered a friend once said that she wants to have a house from which she can watch the sunrise from her bedroom window, and watch sunset from the porch. She told me she will start her morning with a cut of hot coffee and stand still with her silky bed garments blown by the wind as she watch the sun rises. She said she will have a romantic husband who wakes her up every morning with a kiss.
She didn’t know that I have that house she dreamed of; not in a dream, but now, for real. To chase such dream she moved away to capital Jakarta where the big bucks were last spotted. We kept in touch and she visits twice before, but that was when I still live in a small rent with wholesale quantity of street cats.
I wondered what would she said if I told her that right now, I was just about to watch the sky burns red, and the sun raises? Here I am standing at the kitchen window, simmering water for warm drink, letting the morning breeze blowing my garments. Not the silky one that flows in the air like those shoot in the movie, but the experience is still great.
And I didn’t have to marry a romantic husband. Every morning, the Wind God and his cat will slip into my room, and wake me up with a gentle caress on my cheek, and kiss me with the sweet smell of wild flowers from the backyard. At some days it will be rosemary, at the other day gardenia, and some other day like today, it’s Lavender in full bloom.
If someone told you that heaven is within you, believe them, because no one but yourself is the one who can attest to the grandness of nature when it grant your dream come true. No one but myself can attest to the beauty of heaven when people think I lived in a small shelter for street animals with no tangible value but powerful force to drain your wallet.
Aren’t money the source of happiness? Maybe yes. For four and a half years now I have been joining the filthy nation that give another function for the street. The homeless: people, animal, plants, those who had made street into parallel world where the cold concrete a bed, the sky as roof, and the cold wind a friend. They play hunger game endlessly in this universe, a popular sport lately. Money can buy them food, can buy them blankets, and sometimes, just sometimes, money can lift them up a little bit to better face the loveless glare of the other people that use the street as it is: for transport.
Money can buy me more cat food to cure my addiction to hearing little purrs on the streets of my homeland.
Still when I don’t have them, I still consider myself extremely lucky that I can have such heavenly house for some of them that were disqualified from the perpetual hunger game, or those who lost their bets and has to face deformity as result of the loss.
They are in my backyard now. Fifty shades of gray with a few Calico, some stripes of orange, a little Whites, and a large, slow moving Tortie. The other blacks blends too well into the darkness. I can slowly see the round eyes on their faces as they lined up for their breakfast. Sun is not going to rise until two more hours, but they are creature of the twilight and I live for them 24/7.
Twenty four hours a day, Seven days a week. I am notorious between vets because whenever their phone rang in odd hours of the day, it will be me.
They should have known that I also rang human doctors, when I can no longer bear the pain on my left knee. Years ago when I was in Junior high, I joined a basketball competition, an amateur competition. When I was up in the air for a shoot, one of my opponent got impatient for her turn, and she jacked off my left leg, forcing me to land back on the ground knee first. My knee cap cracked and though I can walk and run like normal, it is no longer spheric so I have to watch my limit because my calf bone will slid off (just a bit) the center and I will end up with swollen legs for months (unless I took a complete rest, of course)
And I rang the human doctor more often lately. He is young, attractive looking, toned body, and get masters’ degree in bone surgery from United States of America. He also smiles and wave his hand to me when he saw me waiting in front of his practice and that drive the middle aged ladies behind me go nuts with jealousy. It’s not my fault we are at the same age and happened to have our higher education stick to our head. Most of Indonesian ladies drop their degree as soon as they graduate and married the next bachelor coming or ended up working in a completely different field for the sake of social acceptance.
He just can’t stop shaking his head every time he wrote me a prescription after seeing my left knee. “You have a long leg, and your skin is fair. Really, if only there’s not too much scratch mark over there… You should watch yourself”
I always said that the mark is a proof of mature woman, but he always get back to me half angry with a big grin and a small chuckle “That’s stretch mark, lady, it’s a different thing”
Honestly, though, I don’t think my knee will never heal, that’s why I don’t stress over it.
When the last builder stepped out of our house, I realized that the water went out with them, and the manners with which the developers deal with me when I asked them about it explains it all.
It isn’t their fault. It’s mine. They want to finish the house as soon as possible because I needed to moved in fast, so they send more people to work on the house, and open the tap clock round. But unless I pay the balance of the down payment, they can’t open the tap for me, not that often. They give me water, every day for two hours, six days a week, at random time.
If I stay at the house all the time it’s no problem. I can just leave a tab open and when the water runs out, be ready with all the buckets that I have. However, since I have to go to work, the only thing I can do is leave a tap on the bathroom tub open, close the bathroom door, and pray hard that the cats won’t be too curious to sneak in and end up drowned.
The head builder told me that I can go round the penalty at low cost. He suggested that I can have him build underground water reservoir so whenever the water comes out, I will have a huge bucket ready for it. The water then drawn into a water tower at the back of the house and I will have water running whenever I need.
But it will cost me USD 600.
Honestly USD 600 is nothing compared to remaining balance in the down payment and I have that USD 600, though it is the last of the saving I have. Eid Holiday is coming the next week and the whole country will shut down for a week. There will be virtually no shop, much less pet shop open so I need to stock up cat food, both for the mobster or for the street cats. There will be no trash for them to dig up because majority of people will be away from town, so I have to go round and feed them twice a day instead of once.
So I shake my head while thanking him for his kind suggestion. I secured enough cat food, and embrace the fate of having to buy water from a merchant downhill, and carry it all the way up back and forth.
Just in case, have I told anyone that the road toward the house is slanted 45 degrees?
I did it anyway. I know I will blow my knee away but I carry those gallons of water up every day, so the cats can have enough water to drink, and since August is dry season here in Indonesia, we will have enough water to keep the backyard a little bit wet, otherwise the dust and dirt will fly over everywhere.
To keep myself away from the pain, whenever I have to carry water, I pray. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, all over again. I keep in mind that Jesus had to carry a hefty cross all the way up just to be hung onto it, so although I am not Jesus, I can at least cope with the water.
On the third day of Eid my prayers were answered. There’s this email from Canada telling me that quite a number of people wrote to SPCA International requesting help on my behalf, and despite my aching nerves I replied to the email immediately.
Twenty or so emails later, a message came in 2 am in the morning, saying that Whiskers’ Syndicate is chosen as SPCAI Shelter of The Month, August 2012. In effect, we are given a grant for our operation and featured on their website. (If you decide to follow the link, please take time to share our page so other people can help us too)
Between sleeping and awake, I learned how Virgin Mary must have felt when Angel Gabriel told Her she was going to be the mother of the World’s Savior.
It was huge; deliverance, hope, blessings, everything. My heart was overflowed with gratefulness that I can’t go back to sleep and ended up carrying a headache through out my working day.
The grant is not necessarily solve the problem. There are still a couple of days delay because someone wrote my name wrongly, but when the grant finally come, it come with a cheerful fate because some of the businesses start to re-open and I came to find a building material shop that are open and even offered a discount.
I wasted no time buying all the materials needed for the watering system. The water tower is right beside my room in the backyard, so whenever I wake up in the morning, whenever I look out from my bedroom window and see the tower I remember to praise the Lord, and thank all my friends and supporters who wrote to the SPCAI about our situation.
One down, more to go, and that would be the cat’s housing. I’ve got a pleasant surprise when my mother suddenly showed up in front of my door a few days after the tower was done, and since she is an animal rescuer herself, she has no difficulties hanging out with the cats. She even (accidentally) pointed out a place that is going to be the Syndicate’s first TNR project.
When I came back to work a week later, she asked around and found herself the help of a gardener to turn my backyard into a green field in which the cats can enjoy themselves better. She even got the help of the Syndicate themselves.
Through an associate I also got a reference of someone who can help build some cat house, but the limited budget can only buy the roof.
But when I worried sick about how I can get some money to finish the cat house, the Syndicate has their own way of saying cat house is not yet necessary (as long as they can have mine).
While the Syndicate can now enjoy their afternoon nap, I have to deal with my new boss.
In March, my old boss made an announcement that she is reaching retirement, and along with her husband (both owner of the family company) appointed the Director of Finance to assume their post as CEO. The Director of Finance has been serving the company for over 25 years and therefore they are convinced that she will be able to carry on the company growth.
Apparently they forget to check inner beauty.
Unlike the owners, who values hard work, dedication, and the skill of their employee, the new CEO, twenty years younger than the previous owner (the owners are 63), values lipstick reporting (red, hot, sexy, but all lies), ass licking, and verbal bribery, while those who had proven to give their utmost loyalty to the company by genuine skill and professionalism will be pushed over the edge or ironed flat to the wall corner. She herself is a natural born politician, the type that has the sweetest word and the straightest face so we don’t know if she really means what she said or just eating us alive.
Within six months after her appointment, I got triple amount of job I originally have, and every week she took a little more job from her favorite staff and send it over to my desk with harsher ultimatum and ever contracting deadline.
At first I tried to keep up with her challenge. Not because I enjoy it, but because I need the salary. It’s not the kind of job I would truly love, but the pay is nice, and I got free time at lunch which I can use to browse for latest information about cat care or take care of my online shop for additional income. If I don’t feel like staying at the office during lunch I can go round the block and feet street cats. I got Saturday off so I can take extra job whenever I need more money (and when do I not?), or just spend time with the cats. But with new tasks coming, I start to go home later and later, and even go to the office at weekend just so I can keep up with the extreme deadline. I lose all of my side job and at the end even abandon my online shop. This past few weeks I no longer have access to the internet at the office because what I do (replying personal email at lunch hour) is contra productive. Lunch hour is for lunch, so as soon as I finish lunch, I have to go back to work and just in case I finish all, there will be more coming because productivity shows who I really am. At least that’s what she said. So Gmail is off, Blogger is off, Google is monitored and Care2 was blocked. The only thing that left on my computer internet now is office email (monitored) and Wikipedia.
I stop making hadmade pet toys or beds that I always enjoy and spend less and less time with the Syndicate, and all this extra time and attention is not paid.
One day my mother called in midday Sunday, asking why it takes me longer and longer just to reply to her text, and why I never return her call. When I told her what happened, I thought she would understand because she is the kind of person who likes stability and security; but instead she blasted me for being an idiot. I take this job so I can care for the cat, so when this job no longer allow me time, and even rob me from the cats, what is left to hold on to? And I even sacrifice all of my side income to take an unpaid overtime!
She is more mad when she found out that I haven’t been eating properly and that my left knee are swollen again for running all over places trying to please a bitch that I know doesn’t even worth my time.
Thursday, 15th of November is a public holiday, and the government made Friday the 16th as a national paid leave. It is the longest holiday in the whole year, and my mother told me to drop everything and catch up with Whiskers’ Syndicate. She reminded me that Whiskers’ Syndicate is a dream that I worked so hard for, and it is only natural that I hold on to it more than anything else. She reminded me that I used to be an idealist with a realistic approach, and that she missed my energy and charm with which I fill my writing.
So I took my old laptop, that broke somewhere last month because of its age. I do not have money to make a proper house for the cats yet, much less buying myself a new laptop (although I use it to work and make money from my craft shop), but I can try to re-program it to run basic function like typing and browsing.
Because I realize now that; while looking at the big picture is important, every little things matter: the happy look of the cats when I brought their toy basket over, the loud purr when they sleep next to me in the backyard, the love and support of my friends around the world, the silent encouragement from my family, and the prince of the Wind who kiss me every morning with the sweet smell of Lavender.
Because I realize now that regardless of my employer or position, working in a glass cubicle Monday through Friday would never make me feel accomplished or whole, unless I truly love what I do.
Because happiness is not in our circumstances, happiness is what we are.
And I would rather fight for that cat house than running all over places dragging swollen knee for someone who won’t even understand the value of a soul.