Have I ever told you about my one true love?
He was actually the one who said it's okay to move to Indonesia. Based on the terms that A) I had him nearby at all bedtimes and B) He had his meals served on time. Every day. For the rest of his nine lives.
Simple, no? Yeah, cats tend to give that deceiving impression.
At the beginning, we lived on my slowly-draining savings, in a rented 3x4 room, in an indifferent city that is too big to care about small fries. I don’t remember how many times I regretted coming to Indonesia then, probably a lot more often than showering.
This was a time when I didn’t have anything else to wake up for. Even self-recognition.
In the mean time, my cat didn't care about the dingy, small room, or the fact that we were practically illegal in Indonesia. My cat didn’t care how I felt, or how I looked or smelled. My cat just wanted his meals and the occasional conversations.
To me, to have someone to need me for those simple tasks, was all that kept me afloat. He needed to eat, and I needed to be there, at least, for him.
So he, in turn, stayed. He was loyal. He was there when I turned home from lonely meals or futile job interviews (that kept on getting stuck at my citizenship). He sat on my chest if I dared oversleeping his breakfast. He sniffed and judged all the friends who visited.
I loved having him around. No, I loved him. Even when he was saying, “Woman, I didn't know anyone could suck at serving canned dinners until I met you.”
One evening, while making for bed, I opened a brand new bottle of cajuput oil; and poured some into my palm.
The smell of it, a warm zest that contrasted with the meaty dinner he had just had, made my cat convulse with curiousity. C. Van Vechten once said that kittens ask more questions than toddlers. And this was one curious cat. He nudged, sniffed, pushed and disrupted my oil application. On a whim, I responded by tapping him on the forehead with my hand.
He took a sharp gasp. I watched my cat topple backward and fall off the bed; wheezing and shaking his head. To my horror, I realized that the cajuput in my hand had touched directly with his eyes.
I held and took him with me to the bathroom, washed my hands and carefully ran water in his eyes to dissolve the cajuput.
The thought that tap water might worsen his pain made me stop. It didn’t work. Nothing was going to work. I held and watched him, tearful and gasping from the burning pain in his sensitive eyes. I was begging forgiveness, and crying with lonely panic.
Then, almost too scared to reconsider, I brought his face near my mouth. Forced his eyelids open.
And licked his eyeballs.
His eyes tasted salty. And a bit hairy.
But, for what it’s worth, it worked. I felt him relax. My cat took one, two deep breaths of relief. Blinked a couple of times. Then, he looked at me with his moist, beautiful and appalled eyes.
“Don’t you EVER do that again. But..thanks.”