I know that old man. He is a homeless person who go back and forth around the bus shelter where I start my day and end the night. He lives by collecting boxes and junk, and sell them by the kilo.
Most of the time, when I stop on that shelter with the last bus, he is already sleeping, curling himself like a shrimp and slipping both his palms between his thighs for a little bit more warmth.
I would slip some bank notes into the small pocket he has on his dirty, worn out shirt and move on.
Times and again when he is not so lucky, he will still be awake, crouching in the corner with his empty sack, eyes forlorn to the sky.
I would smile as I pass, slip some bank notes into his hand, and move on. It’s not much, but enough for a basic meal that will keep him alive for the next luck that he might seize when the new day comes.
Last March 7th on my way home from the market, I saw him early. He was folding many piles of boxes and sorting junk.
I was happy for him, but I was not happy to see a tiny clump of filthy cat baby on the box right next to him.
I know he is homeless, but I don’t know whether he has mental illness or not. He never speaks to me. He just looks at me when he got my bank notes. I had never seen him with cats, nor kitten before.
Trying to think positively, I thought, someone must have dumped that bottle baby in the box, he picked it up, and bring the baby with him. I saw that happened before with a man who lost everything and lived on the road with his baby and a small daughter near a military compound; his wife long abandoned him, choosing what must be a better life. Faith and loyalty will not feed a tummy.
I texted Sheilla to ask her company. I wanted to be sure. If the worse is true, I want to ask kindly for him to give the kitten to me. That baby is less than four weeks old.
But March 7th is a public holiday and the constipated roads of Bandung had frozen into hell. It’s nearly one and a half hour until she finally reached home.
That man was not there anymore, but we had to be sure.
I saw that kitten writhing and crying on a pile of rotting garbage in a locked room that is supposed to be a small ticket booth for the bus.
We tried for a while prying the booth door open, but it’s impossible. Sheilla thrusted herself into the locket but the baby was too far down.
I ran to the nearby security booth in the SOHO complex just behind the shelter and borrowed a dust pan with long handle.
He was dirty, he was dehydrated, he was hypothermic, he was starving, he was in excruciating pain, and as soon as we lay him down on what we choose to be his baby blanket, he was gone.
I was so angry I burst out into tears and for the next few hours, lost my speech.
How would someone torn that baby apart from his mother, alone, and dump him away? How would someone deliberately throw him into a locked booth, where he would die slow and painful without food, water and chance for salvation?
How can human heart rot so deep, it’s worse than even a devil?
“We tried” Sheilla said.
I folded the blanket over my baby, gone much too soon, and ask for his mercy.
“I am sorry I am late, I am really, really sorry; but I hear you. I see you, I care for you. When you meet your creator, ask Him to show you my face. Not all humans are bad. I love you”
March 8th somewhere in the middle of a business, Sheilla texted me.
“Someone dumped a yellow baby into our garbage bin”
And she sent me photo.
And my heart stopped beating.
Had he lived, my baby will look just like this one.
He was filthy, he was covered in motor oil, he was dehydrated, he was hypothermic, he was starving.
I always believe that chance only come once in a lifetime. If there is such thing as being given second chance, God himself has to show me.
He just did.
“Well then, let’s show death what we’re made of” I replied.
Death can steal as much as he can from me, I will save twice as much.
That night when I went to the colony, I saw that man sleeping in his bus shelter.
Had we not pick the baby, he would have been decaying in there, and the man can sleep so soundly, as if nothing rots just one step away.
On my way back home, I saw his face. The days before, I see a human.
That night, I see nothing. Humanity had died, except my own.
So I turn my face away, and move on.