How long has it been, since the good old days? Covid 19 did not only bring change. It uprooted the lives we all know, and replanted it upside down somewhere else we barely recognize.
Through the entrance of the shutdown, early in March, toward the end of this June, I have barely known my home. At opening my eyes the first, after a glass of water, is bagging up as much cat food as I can possibly carry, the front door, and alley after alley, rows after rows of closed down restaurants – big or small, markets, hypermarts. From the outskirts of town, to the hall of the governor, the house of the mayor, to the end of castle like elites throughout the hillside.
Even if I still recognize the little faces who lined up behind my door as I go back home, either for just a sip of tea and reload my supplies, or to dole rations for my own, it was still seeing the world in a completely different lens.
Now that Bandung finally started to embrace the new normal: people peeking out, and lives gradually restarted, I am looking through the window of my bedroom to the whole hillside that still looks the way it was before everything, yet so different.
There was a sense of longing seeping in; of the days long gone before we know death were so close, but alongside it, a burst of gratitude.
Appreciation of the things that we all – I for one – used to take for granted. Fresh air in a bright Sunday morning. Peeking like little thieves out of my bed so I won’t interrupt the calming sound of cats purring in choir, the bubbles in boiling water, the stain of tea as it brews, just like the cloud moving across the sky.
How many have we lost through the pandemic? The lives that don’t matter to anyone. The lives that everyone so easily forgot; the lives who came to life as they heard the sound of my steps, our motorcycle, the clapping of Sheilla’s hands, or the chiming of her keys. The little feet who came running, so that they don’t run out of life, the rubs on our legs and arms before we stand back up, as tired and bedraggled as we might be, to wage the next war nobody would see.
But, how many walk through with us and live to see the new moonlight, and enjoy that same sunlight that now kisess my cheek? Mothers, kittens, teens, cast away. Those who started three months old and now reach adulthood. Those who just delivered a litter of babies now manage a ‘kittengarten’, those who timidly hide behind the furthest trash bin have now become a hunter. Those at the end of the queue to safety, now a survivor. Those who used to be clean, fragrant, friendly, now dirty, smelly, and alert; but strong and tough as their ancestors have always been.
Some days it is bitter, even in our own home. A small place by the hillside made for only 80 cats, forced to host 160 (real data, we do have 160 now). Some days a little bit sweet, but we hope the rest will be victorious.
Just a short while before the whole mess with SARS-COV2 began, Wei Ling was a 3 months old kitten, locked in a wooden box without an air hole, wailing for her life. This morning, when the last piece of strawberry landed on my pancake, she jumps like a heroine in the Marvel universe, with the permanent wink she attained in her early days after joining us.
I pick up the same cellphone that has been taking moments throughout my journey as a rescuer, and snap a picture.
I upload it now, pancake still on the kitchen counter – waiting for my crime partner to wake up – to share my gratitude with you; my gratitude for you.
Thank you for waging their unsung war with us; in every struggle, in every loss, in every gain, in all the wins. Thank you for your unwavering courage that gave us bravery, thank you for your never ending prayers, thank you for all your support, which have been the rock and mountains that kept us standing.
Some of these survivors will slowly regain the lives they almost lost. Some will stay with us until their turn comes, or grow old with us through the new normal until the next wage of war.
As we walk, hopefully still together, to the new world the Covid 19 carved for us, I am placing my hand on my beating chest, and bow to you all my respect.
And then, invite you to still walk with us, as we answer the pleas and prayers of many others still waiting in the dark.