Saturday afternoon, I was on my way, walking to buy cat litter when I saw an old lady, maybe about the same age as my mother, got out of her car, and tried unsuccessfully to cross the street. Bandung people (not sure about Indonesian in general) is not known to give way to people crossing the street, at any place). I made a U turn and help her cross the street, into a small diner selling traditional dishes. She invites me to accompany her, and since I haven’t eat, I didn’t refuse. the food is affordable so I can pay for my own food.
Her name is Catherine. She used to be Catholic, but after an ugly experience with divorce, the church she believed slap her with archaic dogma that what has been unified by God may not be separated by human, and excommunicate her, although she tried to stay in the church. She then converted to Islam. I am Catholic. I am proud of being Catholic, but I openly tell her that her pastor is an antiquarian idiot. Catherine is an insurance agent, and I told her that some of her colleagues (from the same insurance company) turn their nose up high, look at me with disgust, especially on my T-shirt, jeans, and jacket, and said “Just leave your phone number, I don’t have time for you right now, I have bigger investor” and go away.
As we eat, we conversed about her life, about my unusual choices, and I thought we ended our mutual symbiosis when she told me her Blackberry was broken and she was about to bring it to a fake service center. I told her no, show her to an authorized service center, and when she was properly cared for, I bid my farewell and go home, dropping by to feed a group of feral cats nearby.
I tried to cut the way and go through an alley in some slum area, because I wanted to apply for a medicare. For the first time in history, under the new president Joko Widodo, we have an affordable medical insurance and I want to know how to apply because I am eligible.
Keeping my bag in front of me at all time, I squeeze through the packed alley, and bumped into a lot of people. I didn’t feel anything weird, of course. Some guys talked loudly that if “they” turned right and follow the road, one can get through sooner because the road is quieter, but I would rather not walking alone in a quiet alley in the twilight; although some women did turn to that quieter road.
I was still not sure, so I just continue to sift through my way and moved on.
I was grateful because I got the time to feed the ferals, and still get to the medicare office on time.
After a brief inquiry about the medicare, I went home; passing a pet shop with that huge sign that said “Sale 25%”. I still have time before the cats’ dinner so I walked in, and found some good stuffs with great price.
I was grateful because God gave me a good day that day.
But I can’t find my ATM when I was about to pay. I stepped aside, have the next in line to go first, and dig my bag, but I can’t find it.
I can’t find my cell phone either.
So I apologized to the shop manager, cancel my purchase, and run home.
I feed the cats as fast as I can and used internet banking to check on my account, but some people are faster. The money for the mortgage and cat food for next week were gone. The amount? around USD 600.
Sunday afternoon, I went to my provider and asked for a SIM exchange, and revive my old phone that I kept as a spare.
I was grateful that the next Paypal transfer will not arrive until tomorrow (Monday) otherwise it will be gone as well and the cats has nothing to eat.
I was grateful that although I don’t know how the heck I am going to cover the mortgage, at least I can buy cat food, though it means the cats will have to have brunch instead of breakfast on Monday because bank transfer usually take a few hours after opening. It means around 10-11 am.
Monday morning I went out early, chatted with Lori along the way, and arrive in the bank about 10 am in the morning, only to be told by the security office that the bank had moved. I have no idea because they did not send us notifications, but the security officer told me in detail where they move. It’s the other end of town at the other direction; so I went back, passed my house, and go the opposite direction for another two hours. The cat food is late.
After my account was secured, the bank cleared my Paypal withdrawal and I have money for cat food.
I was grateful that all ended up well, except for the late cat food.
On my way home, I received a message from Catherine telling me that her cell phone was dead, and that she needs my help to accompany her buy a new phone because she didn’t know the difference. Bandung has iPhone 6 for only USD 180 made in India or China, but it runs on Android. Get what I mean?
I told her I need to do things, and that I will be available after 3 pm. I didn’t tell her what happened, but I figured that I need to buy new cell phone anyway (though I haven’t figure out how to pay for it yet) there’s no harm in helping people while looking around.
I feed the cats, clean the house, went about like Captain America fixing things, and run back to the bus terminal. I felt guilty because I know I would have to leave them the whole day today, but I hope they would understand that at this moment, some extraordinary events is taking over.
Still, I was grateful because The Whiskers’ Syndicate has food, I got new ATM, and a little bit time to further resolve my situation.
Catherine ended up buying the same model as my lost cell phone. She drove me home afterwards, but midway her second husband called and told her that their friend was taken to the hospital. We will pass the hospital on our way home, so I told her that she should go visit her friend and I can continue my way home with bus. I was determined that I won’t be late for the cats’ dinner and that I will take time to play with them as an apologies for neglecting them the whole day and especially for starving them because the cat food was late.
Her second husband was waiting for her in front of the hospital, when I got down from the car, and told her that her friend had died. Her husband talked to me when she rushed inside, and there goes my plan to go home on time. I just couldn’t find myself brushing off an elderly who tried to strike a conversation as a diversion from sadness.
In fact, I was grateful that a stranger like me can be of comfort for someone else. It’s nice to be able to do something for others when they need it.
Surely I ended up getting home late again; though I am grateful that since the cat ate late in the morning, they are not starving when I got home.
I did notice, however, that God played pranks on me the whole day today, one trial after another, and I silently whisper to Him that I hoped he is happy now and let the rest of the day be in peace.
After the cats have dinner, I prepared food for the two colonies uphill, and out on my way. I was grateful that although I went out later than usual, it rained so the road is quiet. The two colonies I cared for consists of a lot of young cats, around 6-10 months old. They like to run criss-crossing the street toward me when they see me so I deliberately go late to avoid the risk they got run over. I mean, if Bandung people don’t have the mercy to let people cross the street, what do they care about cats running toward their (probably) only food for the day?
But none of them run toward me tonight, though I saw them sitting at the usual spot, with horror in their eyes.
As I rushed toward them, I saw one of them desperately trying to bite his foot off from the snare that hung him upside down.
I dropped my bag of food and hold him with one hand, while trying to undo the snare with the other. I didn’t bring my cell phone to take picture and even if I did, I wouldn’t have thought to take picture. I didn’t bring any knife or scissors.
The snare was glass thread. It’s a sharp thread used to fly kite. One end of the snare was tied to a motorcycle inside the house, and the fence was locked. I have the option of shouting to the people inside, but I recognize the motorcycle as the property of people who throw stones at me when I feed the cats, so calling out will only give me more trouble.
All I have was my two hands; so I hold the frantic cat with one hand, while reaching into the fence as far as I can, wrap the thread once or twice around my other hand and pull it as hard as I can. Glass thread is sharp, but it’s thin. I know full well that I can rip my hand doing what I did, but I didn’t want to leave the cat back hanging and run twenty minutes back and forth for a scissor.
My only hope is that God will recognize that I stayed positive throughout all His pranks the whole day, and so He will stop being ridiculous just once.
I felt the snare start cutting through my skin when I start pulling. At the same time the wriggling, screeching, and yelling cat hugged my arm with his front leg, and bite me.
The pain stings, and sucks, but I don’t blame the cat. I just keep pulling the snare while holding him with the other hand so he won’t be hanging on his leg.
I hissed. “God, get serious. Help me”
The snare snapped.
I saw a lot of blood spattered onto the wall and fence in the dark, and it runs down like there was murder up there but I didn’t think of it. I untied the snare on the cat’s leg and as soon as he’s free, he jumped down and run hiding in the house next door.
I was grateful because the snare snapped at the right time, and I followed the cat at the right speed, because a few second after I moved away, the door of the house snapped open and someone throw hot water to the crime scene.
It was quiet for a few second. Whoever threw the water probably stunned because there’s no one there, and I was grateful because I was stunned and didn’t know what to do.
When that person finally went back inside and shut the door, some movie played in my head. A man will look at the snapped snare and noticed all the blood splatter and smile victoriously. “Serve you well, noisy/dirty/filthy/etc cat! It must have cut its leg/head/arm off!”
though I am sure he didn’t realize that all those blood does not belong to a cat.
It was mine.
With pounding heart and blood running through both my hands, I feed the cats, but none of them want to go near me; except from the one who was snared.
I am grateful that he is all right. He is not hurt or wounded, and that he eats like an elephant.
He was a special cat.
The colony on that hillside is a family of yellow tabbies. Two adults and two kittens. Two months ago I found a white and gray kitten screaming desperately in fear, a few meters away, alone in a cold night. He was still about two months old. I lured him with food and guide him into the “Tabby Road” (how I called the colony of yellow tabbies) and hoped that they will take him in so he can learn how to survive as feral cat.
The colony took him in, but he became the only one who knows the kindness of human and therefore trusting people. I feel guilty for interacting with him last time because it might be the reason he got into the snare, but the other half of me is grateful because if I didn’t lure him into the colony, he might have died.
I am grateful because his closeness to me instill trust on the colony members on my harmless intention, and I was sure that if I keep feeding them, one of these days I will be able to get them to be spayed and neutered.
But maybe I have to start over now, because none of the original members of the Tabby Road wanted to go near me when I put out the food. It might be because they smell the strong stench of fresh blood running streams through my hand, but I hope they will not lose trust on me completely, so I still have chance to fix them.
As I walk back home to give them the chance to eat, away from human; my heart is filled with sadness. I cannot understand why people would do what they do. The cats didn’t do them any harm. They would sleep on the porch or play on the stairs, but they do humans no harm. They mind their own business, and if the human is working, they won’t be at home long enough to be disturbed by those cats.
Then as I walked further away, the sadness turned into worry. If I have all the land in the world, no, all the land in town; no, no, even if I have just a little bit more land, I would have moved the entire colony away from harm; but I don’t, and I feel guilty I have to leave them on the road, where the same or other people device other trap that might send them to horrible death.
Then it turned into anger.
I hate this town, filled with ignorance and deliberate simple mindedness. I hate its people, filled with hypocrisy and arrogance. I hate their inhumane humanity, I hate their small mindedness and self-aggrandizing wisdom.
I hate God who sent me to this pit of hell that has no chance of salvation or betterment, and still entertain Himself by pulling pranks on me the whole weekend.
And yet, a few steps away from my house, I am grateful because I was there at the right time and the right place to save one life. I am grateful because the cats are not harmed. I am grateful because today, they live.
Tomorrow; I don’t know.