It’s raining all day, and the shop is empty. The cats all tucked up, sleeping in the sanctuary. I have just finished mopping the floor, and thought a cup of warm tea is a good idea.
Peeking from next door, my neighbor caught me sitting on the stairway sipping my tea. Of course I invite her in.
Typical in Indonesia, houses are built directly side by side. My house and hers is only one brick wall away.
Sitting beside me, she sent a picture to my cell phone.
“I found this in my gallery” She said, her eyes looking far into the rain on the hills. “It’s really been three years”
I looked at the picture she sent, and saw the date. It’s really been three years.
Hanshin has always been the devil. He was fixed, but he sprays still. I have lost count how many electronics I have lost because he sprays on them; some of those apparatus were new. I have lost count how many times I have to apologize to public safety officer who has to deal with smelly and sticky electricity sockets, wet safety shoes, or peed-on jacket.
There were time it was so bad, I thought of removing Hanshin from the sanctuary, but it was me who took him in.
He was a bedraggled kitten caught in the rain, trying to find cover, but everywhere he went, people who took cover on the porch of that bank looked with horror upon a dirty, smelly, sticky cat and kicked him away. They looked with even more horror upon me who took off my branded, new jacket to catch him. I thought I heard some ‘eek’ and ‘ugh’, as I cradled the shivering kitty.
It was twelve years ago. Hanshin had since followed me from one rented house to another, until I secured a mortage (still going) on our current home. Hanshin since then become an outdoor cat, and he has since gradually stopped spraying.
My next door neighbor has always love cats. Back in her hometown, she has three cats. She no longer has cats since she moved to Jakarta for college, and later married a man who dislikes cats.
I noticed that during weekdays, Hanshin was seldom home, but he is always around during weekends. I found out later that whenever my neighbor’s husband went to work out of town, Hanshin stayed in her house, and during weekends when the husband is around, Hanshin stayed out.
One week, three years ago, Sheilla opened the door for Hanshin, who walked into the house like an old soldier home from war. He stayed with us for the whole week, not at all minding the cats around that used to annoy him so much. One night he climbed onto our lap, fell asleep as we cradled him, coughed once, and passed away.
A few days later, the husband approached me as I went out for work, and asked me about Hanshin.
I told him Hanshin passed away earlier, and saw his face changed.
He asked me whether Hanshin was ill, and I told him Hanshin was 15 when he passed away.
He then told me that one of his two daughters smuggled Hanshin into the house when he was not looking. The daughter fell asleep and Hanshin roamed around the house, and he kicked the cat out.
One day he was shocked to find Hanshin curled up on his chair by the dining table, and he kicked the cat out.
One time when he was watching TV with her family, out of nowhere Hanshin jumped onto his lap, curled up and sleep.
He figured his wife and two daughters had been keeping a cat behind his back, but instead of an apology, his wife asked him not to break his children’s hearts and just pet the cat.
Then he learned since, that Hanshin is always by the door when he came home from work, late at night. He learned that Hanshin is always on his feet, when he was overwhelmed by job. Hanshin is by his side when he lost his dad, and eventually his mom.
He told me, that Hanshin had grown on him, and he eventually considered the cat part of his family. He learned about cat food, he learned about the litter box, he learned about grooming a cat, clipping cat nails, he bought a cat bed and he learned to stop smoking.
His wife told him how Hanshin got that long gash on his back and belly from a guy who branded him with hot iron, and he had since learned the gloomy reality of the lives of countless cats on the street of Bandung, and elsewhere in the country.
He also told me he never saw his wife and daughters laugh so hard like when they play with Hanshin.
He told me Hanshin was the fire that warmed up his uptight upbringing, the comedic relief that defused his pent up anger (that he often lashed out to his daughters) and the one who brings his family closer together.
A month after Hanshin’s passing, the wife came by and asked if they can adopt Sierra.
“I know, I cried too when I saw that picture”.
I had forgotten that I had my neighbor next to me. Now I noticed that her eyes was red and plump.
“Hanshin also brought your family and mine together. You know my husband has since promoted compassion for animals, and especially stray cats, to his co-worker wherever he goes, and we managed to campaign enough that we TNR the cats all the way up the hills. Many of the ladies in our residential complex now keep cats, sterilize them and feed those on the street”.
I wiped the tear drops off my cell phone and asked if I can keep the picture she just sent.
“You are the one who brought Hanshin to us. He was small and insignificant, but he brought about enormous change”
And it’s only been three years.