Throughout nine years since I came to Bandung at 2008, I have passed that road many, many times. In the morning, at noon, in the evening, at night. With bike, on foot, on motorcycle, local public transport, car, taxi.
That park across the military base has always been empty. It’s tree hundreds of years old, way predating the first colonist that conquered and enslaved our country for three and a half centuries. It’s soil has always been damp, as rain fall through between the leaves, but sun cannot reach. The green moss patches on the ground, along the trees, the dense bushes, lush greeneries. That place is one of the last pure land in Bandung, and I am glad it belongs to the military.
On the other end of the park, a lonely statue stood. It’s black, robed stature was subject to ridicule for the unknowing, always impudent Bandung young. Unusually, on his chest, embedded on his pastoral robe, a row of military medals, but I can tell from the smoothness and detail of his face, the firmness of his faith, the love of a father, the care of a brother. Father Verbraak, SJ is a catholic pastor, the only one, who came from military officer to spread the love and compassion throughout this war ravaged nation. Although he is Dutch, he was well respected by Indonesian military because he never seek the divide of parties or nation. If someone is wounded, he will go cross the war line to render his loving hand. Even in Aceh, which loathe “kafir” like us, and was (and still) so deep in the hardness of Islam, he was revered to as “Father” and an orphanage, the only one Catholic among everything Islam, still standing today.
His statue was commissioned by the highest ranking Army commander, and was always put across the street, looking over the base. Such is the respect our military has toward him.
And every single time I pass that patch where he stood, watching, I never failed to salut him and send my greetings.
Last night, in the rush to restock whiskas pouch and feeding the colony, I rode motorcycle taxi and in the turn of the road, find something even more unusual.
A kitten. Sitting next to a giant tree with distressed look, just by the road.
I have never seen a cat in that park. Ever. It’s always empty. Once in a while someone or two walked along inside, but never any animals. Not even passing bird.
I cannot stop there. The rule with online taxi is that they drive me to the destination point, or they won’t get their money (from application) and their rating goes down. Then they lost their daily bonus.
So I rode on. I just hope that whoever angel with me just keep that little one there until I can run back and get him.
I jumped down on the destination, past the Father’s statue (and I salut him, of course) ran inside to stock on Whiskas, and go back to the kitten.
It was dark, not enough light, and the pavement is old. Some stones went missing, some other soaked with water, at places, bags of garbage. I can’t run as I planned to, and I have to watch my step and walked even slower.
When I passed the Father’s statue again, I salute him once more and smile, then I moved on. The further I walked, the darker.
It’s pitch black around the place where I saw the kitten sat, but nothing under that tree. I walked slower and go around, not realizing that I have been looking at the wrong tree.
When I step further into the other end, I heard kitten screaming and crying. I looked around but found nothing. Still the voice is there, so I stand there and listen.
That yellow kitten ran like hell was burning his tail toward me. As if we know each other forever.
I grabbed him, hold him on my chest, and open a pouch of whiskas for him. He is dead hungry. It’s pitch dark I can’t see anything, but I thought as long as I don’t roam around I will be ok. It will just take several minutes.
I watch him eat while sitting at the low wall of the road side chatting with Christine Alice.
All of a sudden, I felt someone was standing behind me. I looked back, but nothing. It was like I was grabbed by something big and tall from behind, but there is nothing around me. Not even the wind.
I stood up and look around, nothing. Yet I can feel it very clearly, that the air had changed. It’s creepy and all of my hairs stood on its root.
I can feel my spirit animals growling, and somewhere very far behind, I can almost hear someone warned me to beware.
I told Christiine I am going. The kitten hasn’t finish eating, but I jacked him off, pushed him inside my bag and ran as fast as I can. A few ten steps away will be another road, well lit and less empty.
But the more I run, the farther it seemed to me. The more I hope for the light, the darker it becomes around me. It’s like something is holding me, but I keep running. It’s like something is surrounding me, but I just keep walking.
The kitten never stop screaming.
Then I stopped.
“Goddess Bast”, I called, almost can’t hear my own voice “Daughter of Isis, daughter of Ra. Protector of the Feline. Bless this kitten lives of nine. With soft footed pace, grant him your grace, comfort him and ease his pain, your healing touch make strong again”
The kitten calmed down a little bit. Enough to lend me a breathe, and then I turn back once again. Still nothing.
So came my trump card. Never failed.
The Apostle’s Creed.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
I felt a gust of wind from behind me, I was in fact so near to the end of the road.
I stepped into the light, and continue to run to the nearest public gym and a sporting park nearby. I know there was another giant tree there, but our mayor had installed a very bright light, and a wooden chair. It’s his humor to re-create the scene where Mr. Bean fell down from heaven.
That totally blew my mind.
I slumped to the chair, kitten in bag next to me, and immediately he climbed out and sat on my shoulder, pressing himself onto my neck.
I told Christine I am OK, then called another motorbike taxi to go to the colony.
The driver called me to ask for my exact location, and find me in a jiffy. We didn’t wait too long. He gave me his helmet, I put it on, and we blasted off.
The kitten was a lot calmer. We both were. I took a picture off him looking around on my chest, and then we walked to the colony.
Shota and the old man must have felt something, or smell something, because they stopped midway before greeting me like usual.
I gave them all the food they want, and stayed a little bit, after quarter of an hour, I went straight home.
It’s still creepy when I remembered what happened. It’s just extraordinary. Extraordinary dark, extraordinary kitten, extraordinary journey, though I might forget it in years to come.
But if everything happened for a reason, it’s probably a good reminder how lucky I am to be here, how lucky I am to have everything I have, and that I should be grateful I can bask under the sun, with all it’s trial and tribulations, instead of lurking in the dark and nothing more.