A few hours before I am sitting here, writing this post, I was standing in my porch. I was finally done hauling all the cat sand and then folding boxes so our garbage guy can pick them up on Monday and cash it in in the recycle center.
On my last box, a teenage boy came approaching my fence, gingerly, look up to me standing at the other end of the stairway
I stopped folding. I am not muslim, but I am not Ted Crush, much less D.Tramp (typo intended). So, “Mualaikum Salam”
He reminded me of Holstein. Round face, a bit stocky, kind of unkempt, gingery approaching a stranger. Gulping on uncertainty, preparing for the worse,
“Can I talk?”
I brought the folded box down the stairs, dropped it on the pile and approach the fence. “Sure”
I can see from his face that he had Down Syndrome.
He passed over some crepes rolls in a clear plastic bag. “I am selling this food, mam, just in case you’re interested”
I picked up the bag,”What’s in there?”
“Chicken, vegetables and mushroom”
I look at him, “Sounds delicious. Who made them?”
I smiled “How much is the price?”
“Seven thousand five hundred” he said. There’s doubt that diminish his voice at the tail of his sentence.
I am looking at six rolls in the bag, “All?”
He was taken aback. For some reason he didn’t expect that question. Just like Phantom, a black feral cat in the neighborhood who trailed and stalk me so very quietly until I realized that I was being followed and instead of a kick or some chase he got big chunk of tuna.
“All would be forty five thousand mam”
“You’re good in math”
He giggled. “My mom wrote it on paper and had me memorize everything, every day, morning and night”
“You have a great mom”
“She made me do things I don’t understand. She told me to wash my self and my clothing, she made me walk the road everyday selling food, and she made me memorize things”
He stopped for a while, “She said, one day she will not be with me anymore, so I have to take care of myself and keep selling rolls”
I remembered the colony I had just lost. How the grandma taught everyone in the colony, whether it’s her kitten or not, how to hunt, what to hunt, where to hunt, what to eat, how to take care of themselves. I remembered how she comfort those failed in their attempt, and how she ended up sharing her meager share and sit aside. In her later days, she mostly ignored the kittens, and have the older ones taught the same to newcomers, but when there’s no one, she still tutor the kittens who comes to her meowing.
I found the boy looking at me, afraid he had said something wrong.
I smiled in assurance and hand the rolls back at him. “Hang in there, I’ll get some money”
He let out some relief breath “That’s OK mam, you can bring it in with you”
I wonder what happened if I would come into the house and never get back out. It’s pretty late and no one is out to help. But I remembered Bobtail. I remembered how he tried to trust his new parents, a neighbor few kilometers uphill and continue to trust and try until he was convinced that he was betrayed and returned home, walking on hot asphalt one step after another with empty tummy and aching bones and muscles, dehydrated, malnourished, whatever got inside him that few months later claimed his life. The happy ending was only that he spend his last day back home with the best of care with stupid lady who trusted the wrong person.
There was fifty thousand Rupiah in my purse. The only money I had left until my next payday maybe on Tuesday. If I spend it on the rolls, I won’t be able to spend anymore because I have to keep the balance for the cats’ food and tuna on Sunday. Seven and a half K is too much for a piece of roll in the first place.
I put the rolls in the freezer, pull the money and went back out.
When I hand it over, he looked at it and said “please pay with fixed money mam, I don’t know how to count, and once, I pull out some money from my pants so people can choose which one is good return, a group of other boys like me grab it and run away”
Well, if there’s super predator anywhere in the world, it won’t be in America with the Clintons, it will be Indonesia and they will run free.
“Keep the change”
He smiled so big. “Thank you mam. What have you been doing? No one is out but you”
“What have you been doing?” I asked him back “You know it’s late and no one is out but you are selling food anyway. How many more left do you have to sell?”
“Yours is the last mam, but if there is no one buying I would go to security posts and police station and try to sell there. Mom said not to go to crowded places like gawker stall where people drink from bottles or holding cards”
I wish all kittens would do as their mother taught them but otherwise we won’t have that saying curiosity kills the cat.
“I am just cleaning” I shrugged, “Wanna help?”
He was clearly disappointed. “I’d love to… but I am clumsy. I am slow and I will trip and fall, and I break things. People got angry”
“I am done anyway. Just go home. Tell your mom “thank you for everything” tonight. You won’t understand, but one day you would”
I remembered Tortie. Toothless, in a forest, surrounded by wild dogs. She can’t hunt, she can’t defend herself, she relied only on the mercy of conservationists campers, she lived long and suffer. But she keeps hoping, she keeps living, and she finds me, and I open my door, Always.
I remembered Constantine. He lived long and suffer, bearing kicks, bearing sticks, bearing flood, bearing heat. Scavenging from garbage to garbage, with crooked spine that made him hurt to walk, but he keeps walking, and he found home. He found me, and I open my door. Always.
I remembered Mama Cat. Carrying big belly full of Pyometra, roaming the street, into the rubbish, in the day, in the night. She cannot hunt, she cannot breath, but she keeps walking, and she found treatment, she found me, and although we treat her too late, I opened my heart. Always.
I remembered Liam. Running from his life as dog fighting bait. I remembered Bridges, blind on the bridge atop raging river, I remembered Wina, just a kitten, hanging by the walls of waterfall. I remembered the second Mama Cat, her face as big as mango, filled with pus, filled with blood, unable to eat, unable to drink, but she keeps seeking, and she found salvation. She found me, and I open my home, my purse, my savings. Always.
I can’t see myself doing otherwise.
Because when I am alone, when I am weak, when I am sick, when I am tired. When I am penniless, poor and needy, I keep running, I keep trying, and somewhere out there, some strangers, in another land, in different language, different religion, different standing, open their heart, open their soul, and I am saved. The cats are saved. Always.
Whatever you do for the smallest, you do it for Me. Yes. Always.
And whoever seek the Lord will find. Yes, Always.
“I will be going mam” the boy’s voice brought me back.”Assa..” his voice vanish again with doubt.
I nodded. “Assalamualaikum”
“You are not muslim, it seems, is it OK for you to say that?”
I smiled. “I say it right no?”
“Yes, but aren’t you afraid of sinning?”
At least in Bandung, and I know some part of Indonesia, having other people from different religion than Islam say something in their language, or a muslim saying “Merry Christmas” is offensive to Islam. Our president is a muslim and he was sworn at with bad words by his fellow muslims for saying Merry Christmas and Happy Easter, told it’s a sin.
“Son, God is understanding. Otherwise, you won’t be here now, and you won’t find me, the last person out of their house to buy the last piece of your food. I don’t know if you understand, but I do. I didn’t see you speaking Arabic, I didn’t see you as muslim. I see your good will sending me good wishes, so I send you mine”
He gave me that biggest grin.
“Mualaikum Salam, good night” And he walked away.
I climbed the stairs back to my house. I complained to God for throwing all sort of crazy cases down my door, hoping that He wouldn’t rely on me that much, but maybe all those crazy cases ended up on my door because like last night, I am the last person still out of the house, and others won’t answer the door.
Really, it’s not supposed to be a burden, it’s supposed to be an honor.
Happy #Caturday everyone.