Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Home with the Cats

I’m the only one who comes home now; which is quite ironic, because I’m also the one who will soon be going away. But perhaps, I am not going away at all, because I will be carrying this place with me where ever I go; and in that case, I would always be here even if I would be in strange cities like Manila.
I often arrive here towards sunset, with not enough time to catch the last rays of the sun after I make a roll call of all the cats. These days, I often find most of them missing but when they’re here, the cats, starting from the dear yellow-spotted black matriarch named Oreo—looking gaunt now because of poverty and neglect—would all come gingerly or with great hunger to greet me at the gate. Then, we would talk about the old times, when they were fat and there were plenty of food around, and we are not yet leading such diasporic existence as we are doing now. Our stories are full of longing. Sometimes, I would arrive when it’s already dark, and I would open Titing’s knot at the gate, which is very hard to untangle, and they’ll rush towards me, no longer in attack positions as if I were a stranger, but with great hunger for food and human company.  
Once, I’m inside, I’d put the keys into the doorknob and when the door opened, I’d grope my way upstairs as I enter the darkest room of the house, where I’d turn the main switch to turn on the light.  All the while, I would talk to the cats, silently wishing that I could spend the whole time here with them, so that they will no longer starve; except that, I’d be thinking in retrospect, if I’d do that, I’d be out of my wits thinking where to get the money to buy our food? So, I console myself with thoughts about my work, although my work increasingly scares me these days. 
I dream of the day when I can finally be free to read my books and write my stories.
I’d spend the rest of the night with the cats, sometimes, reading aloud some of stories from my old New Yorker magazine before the rapt inattention of my captured audience. In most times, I’d skip dinner. To tame down the pain caused by my stomach ulcer, I would bring along biscuits or oatmeal, because the point is, there are only two people who can make me cook dinner and I have left them in the city. (I’m referring to my boys, who are not with me.)
So, spending my time alone with the cats, I’d long for the taste real food, just like what I used to have when Mother used to be here. Mother, however, had ceased to be Mother; we were supposed to switch roles now, except that, I’m not really as financially stable as a daughter, which means, I might not make a good mother to her. A good mother should have milk for her children, a steady flow of cash to bring food on the table, has a busy kitchen, with reliable househelp buzzing about. A good mother would not have anxieties about money, she is already well-provided for, and cash always flows towards her direction. So, aside from being able to take care of her ageing Mother and sending her sons to very good, highly-reputable schools, a good mother always has enough food for her cats.

I don’t have them so I will have to go away for a while. 

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