Tumi

I lost my phone on Saturday, or it was stolen. The entire Sunday, I read a book on Marxism in the Philippines edited by Abinales. I finished reading the book in half a day, all because there was nothing to distract me from reading. Except for one–Tumi’s wailing.

My poor cat kept going back to his litter box, scratching the walls of the pink, square plastic container which I lined with shredded paper bags from 7eleven. A follower on Instagram told me that it’s good to replace the usual cat litter sand with paper as paper won’t be too painful for the cat to claw repetitively when he attempts to poop following a major operation. (Last week, he underwent an operation to remove his ruptured anal sac and to clean the surrounding area covered with pus and abscess.)

Seeing Tumi in pain, neither eating nor drinking, unable to excrete the waste inside his body for four days, and looking at me with so much dependency one doesn’t normally see in a cat was disheartening. He would climb to the bed, clumsily carrying his heavy body to sit next to me. After getting tired of looking at me, he would inch closer and lean his head on my arm while my other hand held the book I was reading. Then he succumbed to sleep, to forget if only for a few minutes the pain and discomfort he might be feeling. Seconds later, his small head was held by my palm; he curled his body like a croissant, but it’s not the cute kind of cat croissant one sees on Instagram. He looked like a baby, and I think among the four cats, it was Tumi who didn’t grow up like a normal cat. It’s as if he’s suspended in animated kittenhood. And for this I feel that he, among my four cats, needed me the most.

tumi

I didn’t want to document his suffering. It isn’t my object whenever I take pictures of him sleeping or yawning or walking in the room without any clear direction where he’s heading. In fact, I question the need for Tumi to go through pain in order for me to keep him by my side.

I asked his veterinarian what our options are. The most radical is to open him up again to remove the hardened stool in his large intestine which is a result of his inability to normally evacuate his excretion from his digestive tract.

I said no. I didn’t want him to go through surgery again for my sake. Owning a pet can be a rather selfish thing to do. It’s keeping an animal in a small place, letting him wait for his owner until he finishes his day job, come home to him, feed him and play with him for fifteen minutes, then feel good about providing the animal his basic needs and what little time the owner has left after toiling the whole day, and himself being a version of a pet by someone who’s more powerful, better connected, more moneyed. It’s a little too cynical, but it is.

While at the vet last night, I observed the comings and goings of pet owners who were holding their animals, all dogs, close to their chests, imitating those Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and her child. It’s almost grotesque. The cat owners were different. The cats were caged, the owners aware of the fact that what they have is a semi-wild animal who would not think twice of using their sharp claws in the event they felt their safety is compromised. The cats were as sick as the dogs, but the felines based on how they stared at me knew that they had to be respected, their honor to stay intact in spite of the presence of IV tubes attached to their arms. When the nurse brought Tumi out, I saw an infant looking helpless, meowing to me as if he’s telling me that he needed to be held, that he missed holding my arms while I embrace him tightly.

It was a difficult scene to look at. I do not know what I have done to render Tumi dishonored, to forget that he’s a cat, that he is supposed to be independent of me.

tumi 2

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At the end of the day

Now this is how it feels, to be alone at the end of the day.

I arrived home at 6:20 after leaving work at 5:00 and having done my grocery that I hope will be enough to last me for a week. As soon as I got to my place, I took my clothes off, washed my face, and flopped myself on the edge of the bed to reach for my iPhone charger. I opened Spotify and searched for Amy Winehouse’s songs.

I fell asleep for a good one hour.

When I woke up at around 8:00 I knew I had to force myself to eat. I prepared a simple dinner of salad and eggs for one.

This, it is now clear to me, is the life of a man on his own. The sensation is new. I don’t know if I will ever get used to it. Certainly I can imagine a life of independence. I didn’t cohabit with any of my partners right away, but at least then I was sure I had a partner. We lived separate for some time, but I practically spent most of the time with them until eventually it was decided that I had to move to their place.

I’m mature enough to understand the nuances of most agreements. I’ve become more adept at reading the fine prints as well as inferring the implicit meanings of phrases used to set the terms of the contract of a relationship. I have to keep a place of my own and not to think of it as a dead investment but rather see it as an emergency fund. It’s sitting there without earning any interest, in fact losing its value to inflation and the changes in the purchasing power parity of the currency, but it has to be there, depreciating in value, because someday, I will have to open the door of the unit using a set of keys that is barely used while trying to carry several pieces of luggage, boxes of books, a decor or two bought in one of the travels I had with my partners, a box of love letters, and a microwave.

This is how impermanent relationships are, as all things. In the meantime, I have to force myself to endure the silence, not to be ashamed of solitude, and maybe see myself free from images in the background or foreground, and to know the person standing in front the full length mirror better.

My cats

Juanma has told me many times that I can empathize better with animals than with humans, that I care more for the welfare of my cats than for any of the people I know. I don’t agree with him, but there must be some truth to this observation.

I know when my cats are sick or are sad. I don’t merely anthropomorphize them because through years of raising them I can sense the slight changes in their meows, the drooping of their ears, or the abnormal shedding of their fur as indicators that something is wrong. My four cats are so dear to me that they figure prominently in most of the plans I have for the future.

I’m thinking of getting my third and a bigger condominium unit because I want to accommodate them and take them away from my ex who currently houses them. I think that they’re becoming too much of a burden to him. (Being with four cats while trying to begin a new life after a time with someone can be very difficult. How can he explain to the guys he’s dating the four felines that sit quietly while they talk about what each looks for in a partner? And for this I am most thankful to him for agreeing to provide a home for our cats) Sure, I see them regularly during the week to deliver their food, buy them the best cat food I can afford, take them to the vet for their vaccines and emergency health needs, but I want to see them every day, play with them, and make sure they have the best life I can provide. The condo I currently have does not allow pets and is too small for four cats.

I do not know when I started to be enamored with cats, but it should be when I was still young. Growing up, we never had a pet in the family because our house was practically open and any neighbors’ dog or cat could enter whenever they feel like it. But cats, they have smitten me with their proud demeanor and elegant gait. They look needy but are never.

I had wanted to have a cat but one cannot own a cat. Leave your door open and the next thing they’ll do is escape and find their happiness somewhere.

I believe my four cats will do the same. Sometimes, I intentionally keep the main door of the unit and screen door open to see what they will do. Didi, the youngest among the four doesn’t think twice of zooming out, Mimi hesitates, Priya observes, and Tumi will squeal, but all of them run out just the same.

I know, however, that they will have a difficult time surviving in the street. I’m imagining Tumi meowing at the top of his lungs waiting for me to scoop him up and take him home.

I understand that these four cats are a lifetime responsibility.

They’re the closest I can have to feeling unconditional love. I care for them because I hold myself accountable for them. The relationship I have with my ex has undergone drastic changes, but my relationship with my four cats will never change. I wish for them to stay healthy, happy, and hopefully one day figure out that the reason they still see me bringing a sack of dry food and cans of wet food to their place even though I do not live with them anymore is because I love them.

Surfing

There’s something about surfing that keeps people who are older than 30 from trying it. It’s an athletic pursuit that is for the young, people who are less concerned about looking trying too hard. It’s for someone who’s less afraid to commit mistake, something that keeps those who are older from ever attempting to mount a surf board, wait for the right wave, and in the most opportune of moments ride the surf like nothing matters but the exhilaration of lording over an ephemeral wave that lasts a little longer than a good orgasm.

I don’t see how I will ever be able to learn how to surf. There are too many things to take into account before you experience the rush and the high of riding that wave. The right way of paddling to the middle of the sea, spotting the right surf, knowing when to begin standing up, reminding oneself that the front foot should be horizontal relative to the body and to bend one’s hip to maintain stability, and using one’s core to keep oneself from dismounting the board before the right moment–these and more have to be in one’s mind if he has to surf successfully.

I wish I learned how to surf when I was younger, back when I was more daring and less fearful of the opinion of the crowd on the beach. Surely, I know the crowd doesn’t care. They’re only interested in that one surfer who stays on the board longer than most, who rides the waves with careless abandon. The crowd doesn’t care about the tourist who miserably fails in keeping himself vertical on a board the size of one of the main doors of St. Peter’s Basilica pushed by a surfing instructor who identifies the right wave for him, who is in the beginner level and will remain in that level because it will be his last time to visit this beach as there are other beaches waiting to be visited in his lifetime.

It’s too late to learn surfing now. I’m too heavy for it, too awkward, less agile, ridiculous-looking in a pair of board shorts that will only look nice on someone with defined abdominal muscles.

Nonetheless, when the day is over and one returns the board he has rented and paid the instructor the amount they agreed on, what stays in one’s memory is that moment when he successfully stands on a surf board, even though it is only a little longer than climaxing.

Indeed, he will not go back to that beach again, will not attempt to learn surfing again, will tuck away in the farthest part of his wardrobe that pair of unforgiving board shorts, but he knows that the memory of riding the wave for a mere 5 seconds is something he can revisit in the future when things worsen, when age has permanently caught on, when dreams, hopes, even passion is paralyzed to a standstill.

That’s the beauty of surfing, of those little memories of islands of happiness. We, humans, need them.

Being alone

At 12:53pm today I woke up from a dream almost too real, for a second I thought the emotional pain I feel inside due to a recent breakup is only an illusion, and I could take a ride to Mandaluyong to see Juanma again, but it wasn’t to be the case. Nothing is going to change anytime soon. I am still alone. This has been the longest time I have been alone my whole life. Alone in the sense that there is no one person out there that I know who will ask me if I’m all right, without a partner.

From my window I can see the metro moving ahead indifferent to what I feel because truly it doesn’t care about anyone.

This recent week, in the rush of events, I met an old love, someone I consider the closest person in my life, but even he has changed. He’s the same–his voice, scent, touch, yes, even now he looked at me, but he’s changed a lot in the same way that I couldn’t recognize myself when I was with him. I knew I love him, but it wasn’t the same kind of love I felt before. We’ve both changed so much, but ironically and naively, the only thing that didn’t change is my expectation that people don’t change after the years, heartaches, solitude, travels, people they meet on the way.

The way this expectation was shattered was too painful and traumatic for me. Reopening wounds from the past was the most inhumane thing I could do to someone I love, and I left him again knowing that after four years since that painful conclusion to a relationship that spanned for almost four years, I can honestly say to myself that I deserved now the comeuppance for the pains I caused him that time, and for this, I will never hurt him again, and the only way I can do this is to distance myself and not to inflict more pain on him by loving him like I used to in the past. We said good bye, not as friends, but as former lovers who decide that what was will never be again.

***

In that dream it was raining. I was going to the the other side of the road and Juanma to somewhere I don’t know where. I looked at his sad eyes. He smiled at me and gestured a kiss. I ran towards him and right at this very point in my life, there’s only one place in the world that I want to be in, and that is to be beside him.

But fate has other things in store for me, for him.

I promise myself not to be afraid to be alone this time, to not force myself into anyone’s life without first making sure that I will never hurt them like the people I loved in the past.

I don’t like being alone. I have never been alone before, but I hope to discover the value of being single, of depending on no one for my happiness and sense of self.

Only after this will I know how it is to be truly beside someone.