WHERE THE ROAD BRANCHES

We walked for a decade. Her in the hillside, and I in the city. We tell the same story, of the world above us who never stop and look down, of the hands that swings with branded leather on their sleeves, or the comfort of cotton around their legs.

We see the same sun, hers through the specks of the small leaves by the tree, where she would lay and spend the day, I through the filmed glass where I would sit and toil to the evening.

One day we just walk the same road, ten or twenty steps uphill that will end in a small ravine, where we can see little people like ants marching one by one in one line below us.

And then under the twinkle of the stars, and sometimes the glare of the moon, we will sit by that road, no one around, night breeze abound, about how our days goes round the sun. About the many people I meet, each with their own goal and golds that they are chasing, some with envy that a little girl from another city at the opposite end of the island interrupt the calming trickle of their slow life causes ripples and send giant waves. Hers will be about the forest at the end of that road, going up and branched into two. One leading to the serenity of the graveyard at the back of the mountains, with Pagodas, gardens, and butterflies, the other to the density of a training ground where armies pretended to kill their enemy and hunt down aggressors, up, up and away.

At other days, it will be quick, because the rain falls and none of us like to be wet. For many more reasons besides, one of them is when holiday comes and people spend time outside, with friends.

One particular day, I didn’t know if it was long or it was short, but it was one night hard to forget.

She used to come to me, running along the curves of the downhill road from where she stayed, while I would climb up with grin to my cheek, but that night she stayed by the house, and look at me, and look down; like little girl with sin and doubt.

The air smells different and the bottles down the ground is not water.

But my sight was not with the difference, my sight was with the horror in her eyes and the dripping red blood from her mouth. My heart was with the devil’s trill that rushed my feet and the arms that extended as if to hold the sky.

It was not the sky, it was her.

And the first beat of the morning I have forgotten anything just so I can be the first to see the doctor when she opens the front door of her practice. And joined the sorrow of the whole clinic when they can do nothing but proclaim all the names of the Almighty who let the drunk cut the lips of an innocent street cat who happened to be at the wrong place in the wrong time.

And preach me of free will. I would rather God be the dictator that giveth not such free will if it is to protect all creation from the one that He created based on His image, that He loves so much he gave His son for, yet still acting beyond the frown of the devil.

Even if it is to change our story, to the days when she is alone in my bedroom, with a painful mouth that she cannot use to eat. To the evenings when I will rush the stairways and through my front door with select meat finely ground and honey and milk.

And the many, many months and bottles upon bottles of antibiotics, and tests, and blood, and plans, and scraps and lies.

Lies because no one will understand why I have to skip office to care for an old, street cat. Lies because many more will try to use such to expel me out of the place where they used to tell the same lies to get free lunch.

At one point, not only she lost her lips, she lost all of her teeth, except a few incisors and four fangs and little more at the back. The vet needs to make some space to fill in her remaining lips and cheek with fat that they will extract from her tummy, now waving like lace due to many generations of kittens, some made it to grow big, some to a long life, though many none at all.

Then come many more months of bottles of antibiotics, of special food, of crazy mazy day when I have to tumble head over heels so I can procure all of her needs. She has half her lips repurposed and she can lick, but she cannot eat and there is many to be done still.

After the second surgery, come one day when I look at her, almost like new, and I call her Libby. Liberty, and Lippy.

She can eat now, though she would never tasted the crunchy dry food again.

She can walk now, she can look around her new world larger than the piece she always see through the window. She can sleep, she can jump, she can run.

She can sniff again, many more things than the smell of all the medicines she has to swallow, many more than the uncomfortable ointment around her nose.

She can see again, many more than piles of books and computer and a table. Many more than an empty room and a stuffy bed at night when I squeeze in just haphazardly because I can no longer open my eyes.

She can live again. She came forward a bottle baby discarded on the road all alone, and keep her as her own. She let Mona Lisa nurse although she knows she has no milk, she let Mona Lisa snuggle although she has only gray hair and a few bones. Libby reminded me very punctually, every three hours, if I have not come with small bottle and syringe with milk for her newborn baby.

Just one month ago, we’d tell the stories where we will sit by the porch eating lunch, because there are too many paint dust flying everywhere. Hers will be enduring bangs, and grills, and smoke. Mine was the temper and withholding anger from obnoxious men with their outdated paternalistic views of second class woman, and the many nights of driven to the corner of the cliff.

Just like her, I tried the best I can to endure, but then, we claim life back.

I am still on my way now though, but hers come to an end yesterday night; when she jumped from box to box and meowed at me with her coarse, weary voice, though her look is as young as a child.

When she waited patiently near and I can see her every time I open the door, hauling things out.

When I saw her yawns for one last time, but then coughed in her sleep.

I knew. That voice in my heart told me, and I listen.

“Libby, are you going?”

She meowed one last time. She looks tired, all so sudden.

I tried counting the many gray hair on her now velvety fur that glisten under the sunlight, but I failed. It had grown so much.

I saw the only two fangs that she had, one turned yellow and the other one ready to go.

And I heard her soft, calm purrs; as gentle as her breath, and steady as her curl.

“All right, if there’s no stopping you”

And she looks at me and I see that child again. And the hilltop where we first met, and the days we spent under the twinkling star and the waxing moon.

The speckles of the leaves where the sun peeks, the twilight the films in the office that I long have left.

Mona Lisa smile.

And the story when I stand at the same place as dawn break, with Libby in my blanket.

Then another day two weeks from now when I will be standing with her urn.

At the end of the road where it branches, one to the forest for the armies learning to live, and one to the graveyard with green grass, Pagodas and butterflies.

Where I will call her name to soar to the sky, and heard into the depth of my soul.

Liberty.

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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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