The first time I took a plunge and handle a colony, I was still about twenty.
Back then, where I was, trap and neuter is unheard of. So most of the time, a colony would meet its end by sickness, by culling, or by other type of intervention, mostly cruel even by the old days’ standard.

The first time I lost the whole colony, from the backyard of my campus, it was more bitter though a little bit sweet. Half of them died because of Calicivirus outbreak, some other from secondary infection post war, the rest of them by intervention of human.

There were students who dislike stray cats, or cats in general. Cats are dirty and they like to steal food. Cats pee and poo everywhere, and cats give females disease that rendered them unable to have children. What asset does female have, if not their ability to produce children? Some even use children as the glue that keep their men by their side, either by force of responsibility and social peer pressure, or by Stockholm Syndrome that grew and consume the men.

We are puritan while the rest of the world is metropole.

These student will remove the cats; by their own hand or by paying others; and where I went to study, was built for the middle up. I survived by scholarship so I am outside the circle.

The first time I realized that no one would answer my call, I sat there by the edge of the mezzanine where I used to see them come spraying out from the bushes, and half an hour later still can’t believe they were gone.

The first time I realized that the little friends who kept me company in the outcast world, was the first time I cried in silence in public area, until the Dean of my faculty, wondering why I was sitting alone with a bag of steamed tuna crowded by flies asked me what was going on.

She was kind of unsure. Half of her didn’t think I’d have love problem, because aside from a close friend, two years my junior, I was usually seen alone. But looking at my age, it’s kind of natural isn’t it? though that time, and even now, geeks and nerds are more of a joke instead of a love mate.

She was the first member of Psychology that I met, the first time I submit my application. She was the one who saw my numbers, my tests, everything. She was the one who reviewed my credential, and though she was not so sure between Pharmacy and Psychology, took a deep breath and recommended me into Psychology. I thought she must have been one of the senior lecturer or something. Two months later during initiation I found out that she was in fact the dean of the faculty.

Asking me what was going on, I told her, sheepishly, that I had been caring for a group of homeless cats, that I found sickly and suffering behind the campus. She told me she heard about me, especially because I am a stellar student, and stellar student should be in the library instead of behind campus, near the garbage, feeding stray cats.

But the way I describe my experiences, the way I approached and examined my own feeling, emotion, the way I explored my thought, she got the idea that caring for animals is also a new subject to me, and that I learn from it instead of taking it as a hobby and draw pure pleasure from it.

She told me it was called “Empty Nest Syndrome” and that I soon will learn about it. It was advanced subject that students will learn near the end of their course, but she knew I am well beyond my peers and that I was already halfway through advanced classes.

I never told anyone that I got a straight A on those based on first hand experience, much less that the first hand experience was my failure to rescue a bunch of homeless cats.

The first time I decided that I would adopt Elinor’s colony was three months ago, twenty years after that day I cried alone watching empty spot by the garbage. I trapped, neutered, and returned three, lost two out of calicivirus, adopted two, and still struggling to save the rest.

Elinor, in her late day of pregnancy, sat by the road watching me hop into my ride. I opened the window of the car then, saying bye bye and that if she gave birth that night, since she wouldn’t let me touch her still, I hope she’d be safe. Her belly was so big she can’t run anymore and walk so slow anyone can just scruff her.

I have never seen her again.

I would hope that it means she went away, to somewhere away from harm, and that she is now raising her blossoming children in peace. But there was also these two guys who watched me every night and see how I gained their trust, trap them and return them a few days later. One of them is a paternalistic chauvinist who thinks women should know nothing, and minority is second grade, yet copy my tricks and dispose of any cat that he can grab.

It’s true that eventually I herded what was left from the colony a little bit further, but the place is an open public park and I cannot contain stray cats.

It’s true what other rescuer said that “it’s their fate, we did what we can” but it’s very easy to be realistic and factual, whatever they call it, when they don’t have to see the cats every day, watch them grow, and see them vanished without trace while the enemy is grinning on my face, using my tricks against me. Those rescuers, some are my friends, might mean well, but their words were flat and coarse for me. I wonder if they can be as “mature” and “realistic” when dealing with their own colony.

The first time I start coming every night for Elinor’s by the park, there were nine. Then ten, then eleven. Two come and go.

It’s hard to imagine that Shota and Fuuta would die out of sickness, they were the strongest and the healthiest, and they are always together. Maybe they just venture out together for new frontier, starting their own kingdom, somewhere around the park where food is more plentiful than what I can offer. Still I worry if it is that guy again, disposing them somewhere dangerous, since Shota is friendly to people.

Fergus has enough of life. He has always been free spirit and no one can touch him but me. It’s for the better. I refused to introduce anyone else to Fergus even if they ask. Sometimes I see him walking around new restaurant a few hundred meters away from the park, and since he is so handsome with that luxurious, white fur that flow like silver under the glistening moon, no one would say he is dirty and ugly. Sometimes he sat by the stone bench nearby, and come to join the feast when I come.

Last week there were three, now, only one.

One old cat who hide behind the bushes, sharpening his worn out ears so that he will not miss me. One old cat with a bald back, its skin thick like Rhino’s from persistent attacks of mange. One old cat who endures many claws and bites from the younger leader of the colony as long as he can have his share.

One old cat who eat as fast as he can so he can chase after me and ask for extra. For pension. He would then cross the park and slip into the beautiful garden of a bank and disappear in his retirement home.

It is the first time I realized that one day, I will be back in that place again. Sitting alone on the mezzanine floor behind my campus, with a bag of uneaten steamed tuna, looking at the empty spot near the garbage.

One day, I will be back in that place again, crying in silence.

After, I will turn my back, and walk away.

Twenty years later, or twenty months, twenty days, or maybe twenty hours, who knows, twenty minutes? Another park, or another garbage, another colony.

And then there will be that place again, on the floor of mezzanine floor, with a a bag of steamed fish, where a bunch of cats will spray out of the bushes for one night feast.

May it be many more nights after.

~ Josie



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Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate

The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law. We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals

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