We said good bye to El Nino yesterday, after a long battle with premature aging, and various illness.
El Nino was found with his sister, La Nina, in a box on the middle of the street during one of the fiercest storm in Bandung, six years ago. They were always sickly, but they always bounced back.
El Nino was the shadow of his sister. Wherever Nina go, he will go, whatever Nina do, he will do. He will protect Nina at all cost, he will wait until Nina finished eating, before he takes his turn.
Like his name, my relationship with Nino is stormy. He was sweet and charming and patient and kind, and I love him more than any word can say.
Six years ago, when they were just about one year and just been spayed and neutered, I took them and we all moved into our permanent (still on mortgage) property.
We had nothing. An ironing board that function as our kitchen counter, a filling cabinet full of documents, few bags of clothing, and many boxes of towels.
I had spent everything to the very last dime. Aside from one door that separates their territory and mine (and the sick and the young and the dying), there was nothing else I can do.
My day job was at the other end of town, and only few buses go that way, so I have to go very early, and come home very late.
One day I opened the front door to Nino crying desperately as he lead me to his sister, dangling lifelessly on the window.
Nina had tried to jump into the kitchen through the window and got stuck on her tummy. Cannot go back, cannot go forth. Despite all my efforts, she was hanging in there too long and finally lost her life.
El Nino was never the same cat again. He become grumpy and angry, his blood is always on the boil, he picked a fight with every one, and he will not let me touch him. He will not listen to me, and if I tried to talk to him, he either talked back or brush me off.
But in the eye of that storm, I saw silence. I saw loneliness, I saw a lost kitten.
Every time I saw him, I saw the eye of the storm, trapped between all of the world that spins around him in jumble and tumble.
Yet I always extend my hand. A part of it, out of guilt, because I was not there, but most of all, I want him to know he is not alone. I feel the same pain, I feel the same regret, and I love him just the same, if not all the more.
There were time when he forgot to be grumpy and play with others. There were times when he stop being a jerk and become everybody’s sweetheart, there were times when he was El Nino: sweet and charming, patient, kind, and funny
There was a time, few months ago, when he was sick and can do nothing but lift his head – calicivirus – and I took him into the house so I can pay more attention to his healing.
He healed, but never recovered. He is tired easily, he is not as grumpy, he is getting old three years in a day.
He still glare at me, fiercely, but when I look into his eyes, I see the eye of the storm. Still the same kitten, still the same love, just a lot more age.
Time after time, he is getting thinner. He eats less, he sleeps more.
He lets me touch him, he let me carry him, he no longer talk back, and when I sat by the floor looking to the moon, he’ll be by my side.
Yesterday afternoon, he looked at me from the glass door that separates his territory and mine (and the kittens, the sick, and everything in between). With that fierce eye, with that eye of the storm.
And then, he went under our lemon tree, the tree that follow us since our first day into this house. He likes to climb there, he likes to sleep under its shade.
I kind of knew.
Like the storm, rolling far and wide, it dissipates.
And take El Nino to the sky.