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It was 5:30pm. I was walking to EDSA to catch a bus to Galleria for my gym when I saw you, meowing like most hungry kittens abandoned by their mothers do, next to an old man selling cigarettes and candies on Reliance street. I know at that very moment I was smitten by a kitten. You looked like the smallest kitten in the world, the most vulnerable. You looked at me straight in the eye, piercing me with those meaningful stares emanating from your gray irises. I wanted to take you home but I had to go to the gym. I thought that if you’re still there when I’m back, you’d chosen me as your human. I said good bye, knowing it might be the last time I’d set my eyes on you.
At 9 pm, having gotten off the bus, I climbed the overpass on EDSA and saw an eerily dark Reliance street. It was unusually quiet. Then a car approached toward my direction, its headlight blinding me. Bohemian Rhapsody played in my mind. A silhouette of a kitten appeared before me. It was you.
I took out my dinner from its paper bag, placed the opening of the bag in front you, and without any hesitation, you meowed your way into my life.
I hesitated twice.
First, when I put you down among the plants as I entered the condo compound. How could I have another cat when I already have two cats who make me the happiest human in the world? But an inner voice dissuaded me from leaving you there in the mercy of darkness and this cruel world. Your meowing got me. I took you home. Mimi and Tumi were playing when we got home. They didn’t notice your entering their life. I dragged you to the bathroom where you will be quarantined for a week. Seeing that fleas were feasting on you, I boiled water then mixed it with some water in the pail. I washed you with it using Mimi’s antifleas soap. In no time, some fleas were being carried away by your brown-colored bath water. Of course, your being a domesticated cat meant that you’d fight to the death to escape being bathed, but I prevailed despite the thrashing. I then clipped your claws and fed you.
Second, when on the next day I deceitfully called you to enter the paper bag I carried you in the previous night. You innocently got in thinking I might be taking you somewhere sunny and better ventilated. You were wrong. I took you to the basement and left you in the garbage collection area of the condominium. You were crying but I did not look back. Two hours later, unable to concentrate on checking the essays of my students, I saw myself pressing the B2 button on the elevator door. I saw you hiding at the back of the big plastic trash bin, meowing, crying, your face brightening up when you saw me. I was so disgusted with myself. How could I betray you?
I carried you home for the second time. As if to appease my conscience, I hurriedly walked to SM and bought two bags of cat litter, cans of kitten food, and a mini blow-dry (I read heat can be devastating to the exoskeleton of fleas). I bathed you again as soon as I arrived home. Your fleas infestation was still bad. I knew you were horrified when I pointed at you that pink-colored device that blew hot air on you, but you stayed calm knowing that I would never do anything to endanger you. You slept quietly after.
You have been with me for two weeks, and at the start of the second week began to mingle with Mimi and Tumi without much aggression except for an instance or two when Mimi hissed at you. But they have gotten accustomed to your scent in the house even though they never saw you as you were in the bathroom the whole time, rubbing your bulging belly on my ankle whenever I’m seated on the toilet bowl. The two bigger cats were like your big siblings. Tumi was always kind and gentle to you, letting you play with his tail. Although I noticed several times that he’s irked by it he never made you feel you were unwelcome. Mimi was your teacher. She taught you how to go around the house as if you owned it and that I’m in there to provide the two of you my service. Mimi, I suspect never served a good model, but I think she’s teaching you life skills whose value you will figure out once you’ve gotten bigger.
Just as you’re beginning to become a legitimate member of the household, your incarceration in the bathroom (due to my fear that you’ll pass your fleas and intestinal worms to Mimi and Tumi) getting less frequent, your playfulness increasing as the days go by, we needed to say good bye to each other.
I know my sister will be able to provide you a better life. She and her husband will give you a love that is as much if not more than the love I’ve given you.
Coming into my life, you’ve taught me that making a choice to love someone or something is a responsibility.
The moment I choose to care for someone I automatically assume a responsibility that I cannot betray just as easily without feeling the worst kind of remorse.
Priya, I wish you a healthy and happy life.
Mimi and Tumi are missing you, that’s for sure. I will miss you, Priyanka. But I’d rather call you Priya.
At 6pm, we were in a rickety tricycle rushing to the nearest vet clinic in Pioneer Center. I was holding you as if you were a baby. You were crying, barely able to move, your usually pink nose turning orangey, then light brown, until it became almost white. I was supposed to head to the airport for my flight to Saigon before 7. It would have been very exciting to go to that city, after all, we named your best friend, Mimi, after that tragic bargirl Gigi Van Tran in Miss Saigon.
But there you were, looking exhausted, almost dying. Tumi, I still want to celebrate your birthday, spend happy time with you and Mimi, give you a happy cat life, cook food for you, take more pictures of you and Mimi.
Hang on there, baby.
I look forward to coming home every night because I know my cat patiently waits for me.
Upon turning the knob to open the door, I will always see her without fail doing something that seems very important, pretending she doesn’t see me. Sometimes I suspect that she purposely hides under the couch whenever she hears my footstep approaching so I will see only her face peeking from the bottom of the sofa, her face giving me the cutest face of nonchalance I know.
I will put my heavy back pack on the couch and call her. “Mimi, Mimi!” “Come to me, Mimi.” I’m always exhausted after spending 13 hours or more out working, but I forget how very tired I am when I see her or hear her purr. She ignores me at first, makes me feel I am but a rogue, dark rock aimlessly floating in her vast galaxy of stars. As soon as I begin to feign doing other things, like taking off my shirt and pants to shower in order to remove all the grimes I collected on my way home, she surreptitiously brushes her cheeks against my leg and lightly engulfs a narrow patch of my skin within the fullness of her small but gaping mouth until I can feel her fangs exerting enough pressure to make me notice her.
Without warning, she’ll mercilessly bite me. But owing to the smallness of her milk teeth, Mimi is only able to successfully do nothing but tickle me with that attempt at recovering her wildness she and all the other domesticated cats have relinquished thousands of years ago in exchange for access to grain silos that housed those delicious and protein-rich mice that competed with man for agricultural surplus.
I will hold her two front limbs, carry her toward my face and declare with so much love in my voice the extent of her evilness. I wonder how it will be when Mimi becomes bigger, when those canines can already do enough damage, when she’s gone too big and strong to be able to stage a committed resistance against me whenever I drag her to the shower. I guess this is the same fear parents have while staring with love at the infant they hold in their hands.
She had her first visit to her vet last weekend and took her deworming meds and vitamins on the same day. This Friday Mimi will have her first antirabies shot. I’m still thinking whether she will be spayed or not. My life has changed since Mimi came.
Cayetano is going to be my vice president.
While the rest of the world is awhirling, my Mimi is napping quietly in the corner. I hope I can be as oblivious as she is to the world.