It’s a stormy day at the end of a disaster; and I was stuck in the middle of everything under the pouring rain.
Agats is a remote area deep in the virgin rain forest by the border of our country’s neighboring Papua New Guinea. There lives one of the last remaining ethnic tribe of Asmat. Away from civilization, with little touch of modern advancement. Little education, little houses, no clothing.
Difficult terrain is an understatement. It took ten hours of small boat through the river and sometimes ten more days of crossing unadulterated forests to reach them.
These people, our people, had chicken pox outbreak.
Hundreds of children lost their lives to what is no more of a threat a few hours flight away. Every single day the burial, every other minute the cries of grieving mothers, and us, at the other end of their home forest, with cure and help, risk our lives trying to reach our hand out to touch them.
Our hope was with the government, and this small, old, (Catholic) bishop going back and forth with what little they have, and the Holy Spirit that hardened their will more than steel.
It was how I came home late, trying to earn more at the end of everything that tug my wit in keeping the cats alive. For that dying child in the arms of his crying mother, For that dark skin made in heaven but bound for hell, for my people, God’s people.
Again: and I was stuck in the middle of everything under the pouring rain; a season that comes late after a long stretch of dry and heat.
I went to that hotel once, after I went out of hospital in September 2016 and the caretaker to whom I entrusted the lives of my charges rolling on my bed with her cellphone giggling. I went to that hotel again that night, simply because the storm was unbearable and no vehicle could pass.
It was not the best time to spend extra money, but I can’t walk home in the storm and no one will drive me.
I turned the TV on, but muted the sound. I was busy with a woman I came to know through a Jesuit drop out who fought for the Asmats like I did.
And I heard that timid meowing that I thought had came from Animax on TV.
I stopped working and listened. There was no other sound but the raging storm.
I just had to go back to working. I had little time.
And the meow again.
I opened the door to my room, a small and cheap one at the third floor, with an attic to the roof, the only one available.
No one was there.
I closed the door behind me so the rain won’t come by the wind, but it never feels the same. My concentration broke and branched. Part of me was unsure, the other, very firm.
The third time I head that timid, yet scared meow, I opened the door again, and walk as closely to the wall as I can, shifting like a bandit through the small corridor leading to the balcony at the other end.
I came back to my room, but something told me to look the other way.
I peeked through the corner toward the fine wooden stairway that lead me to my abode, and found her there.
Two steps from the top, sitting, looking up, half wet.
I knew she was asking. I also knew she was afraid.
I sat on the floor at the top of the stairway, because my traumatic phobia of height soared whenever I looked down every stairs, and I extended my hand with my own kind of fear.
She let me reached the tip of the nose.
She let me reached the top of her head
She let me shift forward
She let me hold her cold body.
I took her to my room and poured down the last pouch of whiskas I had on an emptied plate of fried rice ordered because there was nothing else left and I haven’t had any meal since the morning.
She ate. Not enthusiastically, but the waves of her tail told a true story.
I was back on the bed then, accidentally pressed the remote with my knee, and sat along the opening tune of the X Files.
What mystery the universe holds.
The cat jumped onto the window sill and looked at me. I glanced at her, smiled, and got back to work.
She meowed at me and I took her away from the window, wrapped her in my blanket, and set her by my side.
She slept eventually, if I scratch her back and rub her head; but as soon as I was back on my phone, she would shift to the corner of the bed, and even slipped down under the bed, at the furthest corner of the room.
I had to drag that heavy bed away from the wall to reach her in the morning, as soon as the rain stopped falling. I havea job to do, and the guilt that haunted me for leaving 90 cats in my house alone during the storm, although I had no other way as it happened.
I called a taxi, reached home in twenty minutes, and ran inside with her.
She settled at the corner of the living room, buried under empty boxes and piles of things I had thrown, one on top of the other, as I frantically renovated the kitchen, and now the back porch.
When the smell of steamed beef and chicken and lure of pork and fish sneaked through the crannies of the house, then, I will see her head poked up, her round eyes like periscope.
And I will call her, and she will come to me, and she will finish the food on her plate rather unenthusiastically, though the waves of her tail tells the true story.