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.

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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.

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Get well soon, Tumi

At 6pm, we were in a barely intact tricycle rushing to the nearest vet clinic in Pioneer Center. I was holding you as if you were my baby. You were crying, unable 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.

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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.

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