IF YOU COME BACK IN THE NEXT LIFE

It was a low, heavy sky, just like that day. The windless afternoon suddenly turned cold, and the air smells wet; and so was the scorched earth that burned to a crisp for a few days prior, and whithered the plants and dried the leaves.

The storm is coming.

In my studio, I was trying to stuff my legs into the jeans I dragged out of the laundromat just the same morning; but the more rushed I am, the more twisted are the jeans, the more difficult it is to wear.

After a long day of botched plans and ruined schedules, it came naturally to me; a reminder to myself that I didn’t deserve life.

“But I am Josie. I can’t have it easy. From the biggest of dreams to the most trivial of feats, it always have to be very difficult. Everyone in the whole world wants to do something, they got the means, they have it done, and they live happily ever after. I will have to struggle at every turn. So let’s not fret over it”

And I ran out of the house barefooted because I know it will take yet another half an hour to get whoever sleeping on my flip flop off.

I spray water to my feet, wear another flip flop and flew out of the fence and down the hill.

I can wait for a ride in front of the house, but then there will be Spots, and Theoden, and Hanshin, and Tabby… and another hour dealing Whiskas Pouch to my ambush, even after they have their own home cooked gourmet warm and fresh just few hours ago.

But down the middle of the stairs, a man with his truck came out and asked which one is house number three.

“This one” I said.

He came to deliver the kitchen counter that was supposed to come early in the morning.

He said his worker tried to deliver as promised, but cannot find the house. He said he asked the cellphone counter across the street, and the young man there said he had to go uphill, and that he almost gave up, and thought it was a wrong address through and through.

I didn’t even bother at the mention of the grandson of the woman across.

I am Josie, it has to be difficult everywhere along the way, so being surrounded by jerks and assholes should not faze me.

I opened my fence, I let them carry the counter inside, and let them go when they got stuck with too many items on the floor as they wait for their designated new place.

“Please, just put it here. Let me handle it myself”

“But this table is heavy and…”

“Please, I got used to things the difficult way, I got used to always end up doing things myself. I need to go out, I am late, and it’s going to be raining and storming. You will be in your car, I will be on my foot. Please, for once, leave me alone and let me get just one thing done the right way today”

I thanked him on my way out, and ask if he wants extra to cover all the going around (usually people will linger and chit chat and we all will get a message it was time for some tip, and he has been standing there forever) and he said no. He was just stunned at all the speeding bullet of things, but I do not come from this land where everyone do it at their own pace, like getting lunch done two hours after the allocated time, or finish a project one month late from the deadline without care of what their pace might have done to the lives of many.

I went to the supermarket, told a co-worker what meat I need for tomorrow’s meal for my big fat extended family (they never knew I bought so many meat for cats), and be gone for the colony.

The wind had started, long and steady, but faster and faster. It was biting cold just like that day, when a desperate cry pierced the sky, and the storm stopped in its track, so that I can find the kitten sitting there wide in the open, no longer able to walk. (Full story: Hunting in The Storm)

The kitten had burned paws and it had long been infected before I found her. She had long fought it with what she had, but she was three months old, she lives on the street, she eats what she has; most of the time, she has none.

Although she heals, very slowly at first, and in better pace as she caught up with better nutrition and medication, her infections outran her and her system shut down. Although she fought a good fight, she finished last, and crossed the rainbow bridge just a few days before, with paws that had just turned pink, and wounds beginning to dry, but septic everywhere else.

The day she crossed over, I was more afraid that I failed her, but that peace on her face refused my claim. The last rub on my hand, that paw and cheek that always seek my finger.

“If you come back here again in the next life, I promise I will treat you better” I told her. “I will not be distracted by jerks that damaged more than what they fixed. I will not be disturbed by insufferable neighbor who neglected to fix their house and started the whole thing”

If she comes back here again in the next life, there will be peace and not storm, there will be abundance and not limitation, there will be just me and her and trying to mend things together, living happily ever after.

When I passed that point again, under the retro lamp in the park, the drying grass impatient for rain, a piercing cry.

I stopped dead in my track and looked back, the same place where I picked her up last November, but there was nothing.

It didn’t feel like it’s coming from that place, and I was sure the wind carried the voice everywhere.

Just like last time, I got her the third time she cried.

She was stuck between the fence of a restaurant just across the street. She had apparently tried to cross the fence, but put one hind foot in the wrong place, and when she tried to backtrack, put yet another foot in the wrong and got tangled.

Her fourth cry was more “Uh Oh” than “Help” when I came running with my bag dangling halfway on my elbow.

Detangling her was easy, for me, because I saw the whole picture; but I had to made her pull and put her leg without her seeing what was going on in her rear, and she was kind of worried about it.

But she went back down to the ground, eventually.

She looked just like the other; she cried just like the other, but no burnt paw except for burnt tummy. She was just three months old, just like the other.

While she ate the feast she probably the first time after a long millenia, I emptied my bag, and crammed everything in a hurry into smaller pouch.
Just before she ran away to whatever danger awaits her as the storm started, I picked her up and put her in my bag, and ran home.

It didn’t occur to me that my wallet flopped out of my pouch until my ride took me down some ATM so I can withdraw money for what supposed to be her vet bill.

It’s too late to go back into that park. It’s 11 pm, it’s dark and it’s raining. My ride wouldn’t have wanted to wait and I will end up walking home with a stray kitten in my bag.

Well, I am Josie. It has to be so freaking difficult in every way. Other people will just hail taxi, go home and be done, but for me it has to be as much twists as possible and as much annoyance as possible, just enough that I was totally bummed and desperate but just not dead yet.

I walked back into my house and put her on the new kitchen counter that was then sat right in the middle of the living room, blocking the way to the kitchen, and got stuck between everything else.

It’s going to be a very long weekend.

I looked at the small jar of ashes in the studio, the one I planned to spend time with through the weekend.

It has to be difficult just to get things done isn’t it?

I picked it with my wet hands, the early rain dripped down my hair to its top.

“Is that you outside?” I whispered.

But the jar didn’t answer.

“If you come back here again in the next life, I promise I will treat you better” I told her. “I will not be distracted by jerks that damaged more than what they fixed. I will not be disturbed by insufferable neighbor who neglected to fix their house and started the whole thing”

If she comes back here again in the next life, there will be peace and not storm, there will be abundance and not limitation, there will be just me and her and trying to mend things together, living happily ever after.

“Alas you came back too fast”

“I put down the jar and grabbed a towel to dry myself. I don’t have abundance yet except from overflowing cats, and this is Josie we’re talking about. Life has to be very difficult in every bit of things”

“But I promised, and I keep my promise. Let me try and get this one right. If it’s not, then, I’ll rot in hell, but my life has been less than heaven anyway, so there’s no regret if it still is and if it still will be.

I walked out of my studio and went into my room, trying to figure out how to weasel out of life this time.

She followed me inside. She kept crying.

She pawed my fingers, and lick and rubbing her cheek until she was too tired to do anything else and fall asleep.

She slid to the side and was about to wake up and cry all the way over, but Bandit grabbed her and groom her back to sleep.

Well at least one thing started right, though not by me.

I am not sure if it will get any easier, but at least I try.

~ Josie

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