It was daybreak, & there was a slight drizzle when
we drove to Talayan Village to bury our dear cat –
a family member for 14 years – who had a seizure
at the clinic 24 hours after I won a two-digit lotto prize
(as though he had sent the numbers for his medical bill).
The shower lasted briefly, & we
thought to ourselves: Did the heavens bless this
gentle creature of God? Dutifully. we dug a hole
in our cousin’s garden which was a virtual cat
cemetery; the spirits that congregate on that sacred ground,
we felt, were angelic companions for Bugsy, a tabby,
who endured surgery when he was young.
I had thought of texting some friends, but decided
against it – they would have probably smiled at the
ceremony, & at the small wake in our garage the night before,
with MB & La silently taking turns in watching over
his small, chubby body wrapped in Ba’s pink shawl
& lying inside a corrugated box while a solitary
candle burned like a palace sentinel.
Word was hardly passed among the mourners.
Memory was too fresh to be retold.
Kayenne, his brother, probably had an idea of
things: He simply observed the ritual from the
solace of his basket.
Bugsy was ours, had made life bearable
in this country of dead & dying loves by being
simply himself, pure spirit of universal goodness
in a time of savages & criminals.
Verily, the death of a cat rarely makes news.
The few who knew him were equally crestfallen.
The others, of course, would shrug it off as though
it was as natural as day that cats die. Would
the universe truly bother with such a trifling event?
How explain then – silliness & all- the tears
that dribbled from our eyes, as though the earth opened
beneath us, swallowing us into its dark, infernal belly?
You pass by his cage – his virtual house to insulate him
from the territorial imperiousness of Kayenne – &
realize he is forever gone, his absence heavier than
the molten lava on your mind, & the sight of his empty abode
shocks you like a slap in the face. In such fashion,
summer gets to you in all its resplendent terror: So
many had gone ahead of him (my father who had flown
into the light; Lola Pacing, who, at her deathbed, would
gasp, “kapayapaan, kapayapaan…”; Elbert, who never knew
in his crippled mind he had lived at all; friends
whose departure was sudden & intolerably puzzling),
as though the four horsemen had galloped back,
striking us down – speechless, inconsolably stupid.
Time was when we would text his Ba for his
feline c/d in Singapore; & she would turn supermarkets
inside out for his prescription diet. He grew fat that way.
But why would we not fuss over him?
Middleclass ethics demands that we assure him
of a painless existence: & after all, unlike those pestiferous
state bureaucrats, his integrity was beyond question.
& when his eyes caught yours, you knew it
could have been the other way around: us behind
bars; & him problematizing us, humans whose kind
has made animals suffer hell, so that
we could live well, & justly.
As for the mourners, if they say the customary words
loss, gone, whatever, what do they really feel?
Are these utterances sufficient to tell all?
Will this meaning of pain duplicate itself
among those who only hear of this minor disaster?
Can we reserve the right of truth only for the sufferers?
Some testify there will always be kindred souls
who share that which compassionate hearts lament.
But is this true? Or an imaginary hand
that softly touches our back?
Loss is beyond words. You then keep yourself busy:
Drive the car as though pursued
by some ancestral demons, cut your hair to give order
to the day, go on a shopping binge to recover
what was forever lost…Refocus your heart to deny
the returning moments of Bugsy “living inside your head”
because there is no end to the terror of being alone.
The act of everyday living is the language
of those whose animal silence is the very innocence itself.
& I, who have always been inclined to write
an avalanche of sad poems as though life were a monochrome,
dare say a last word?
Nothing & everything. It would seem that in
keeping with the symbolic correlations of the world,
Bugsy’s life would come to an end in summer,
at the very cusp of the changing seasons,
when rain starts to fall on distant towns.
& I cannot be any wiser.
We know, anyway, that every ticking of the clock
is a beginning & an end, every murmur of the wind
a hello & a goodbye, every sound of footsteps
a coming & a going. I see the flow of memory
but I’ll never know why things ain’t so.
Most have gone to their separate peace –
losers & lovers, princes & paupers, prophets & profiteers,
heroes & hacks. & every absence leaves that proverbial
lump in the throat, tightening of the chest,
shaking of the head, because the cosmos can only answer us
in a language we’ll never understand.