Cats

Day 2 of my 31 day writing commitment. Trying to tune out the competing sounds of a Muslim man’s call to prayer and Yuna’s recent album, “Nocturnal”, blaring in my living room.  Still sorting out whether complete silence works in my favor, or having some kind of ambient noise in the background keeps me good company.

Of course, I’m never actually without company. Nearly my entire time here in Malaysia thus far, I’ve been joined by my two cats, Miles and Madu. Miles is named after Miles Davis, of course – though my wife and I also agreed it’s just a good name for a cat. He’s a grey and white and boasts and incredible coat of fur and a surprising belly that sags to the ground. Part of his appeal to us is that he’s almost always so aloof-looking. Needless to say, Miles doesn’t exude the “cool” the other Miles did, but maybe he’ll grow into it.

Madu, meanwhile, is the princess of our house. Her name, which means “honey”, couldn’t have been more appropriate. She’s a calico cat with fur that features blotches of black and orange covering her slender frame. Her small face wears such a sad expression for a cat that’s so beautiful. Had Miles not been around, it’d be easy to assume she’s just lonely, but she just exudes an inherent melancholy that we’ve since come to appreciate. Madu also loves me unconditionally, and for this I am very grateful.

Each of them carry their own distinct personalities – which to me, is testament to the genius of God’s handiwork permeating through all living creatures. I never paid much attention to animals growing up, and it hadn’t really occurred to me until now how, on any given day, they can be just as complicated as we are. Maybe.

To dismiss Miles as merely fat and lazy would do him a disservice to his own unique brand of charm. The way he takes his time to lounge and stretch out on the floor is a sight to behold. He’s confident in exposing his big belly, inviting us to stroke it thoroughly until he’s satisfied. The opportunity to run our fingers through his impeccable fur is just too hard to pass up. There’s no denying the boy of affection, and as oddly as he may pine for it, we oblige him nonetheless. He’s the sort of cat that meows in an empty room that only he is in, expecting that the rest of us join him for the party. And the strange, quizzical look on his face seems to question us – as if to ask why we’d ever refuse. He’s right, we wouldn’t.

Madu, who once was prickly and protected, has since become a surprisingly affectionate cat, quick to curl up next to me on the sofa or climb on top of my wife’s stomach and lie there, perfectly calm. With her though, as is probably the case with most cats, it’s best to let her to come to us on her own accord. She still enjoys her independence – it wouldn’t be surprising if we found her, unlike her brother, peacefully looking out the window of our spare room, all alone, as if she’s musing about the meaning of her little cat life amidst such a big, frightening, human world before her.

Someone once told me that having pets is the first step couples take in preparing for having children. I’m not so convinced the experience of rearing a child deserves the comparison to raising a cat and teaching it not to destroy your house. Or, maybe it is.

Before parents out there consider this all ridiculous, I can only say that having Miles and Madu around is helping me appreciate, and anticipate, the wonder, and the wreckage, that is to come with kids. For all their quirks and their complete dependence on us as the sole providers for their meat, it’s been worth it, having them around – as they lick our toes and rub their faces on our feet and meow incessantly in the morning to signal to us the dawn of a new day, and that it’s time to eat.

Much like, kids, yes?

The best part is really seeing my wife dote on the two cats like they are her own children. She tells them they are beautiful, constantly – even Miles, who could afford to lose a few pounds. To Shuli, he, too, is a beautiful, weird-looking cat.

She scolds them like children too, which almost always ends in laughter, and I imagine this to be far from the case in real-life parent-children  conflicts. But I can appreciate her commitment to raising them well – even though in their case, nature will still trump nurture. Cats just do what they do.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

The whole, unconditional love thing? That’s the gift, here. I feel it from Madu when she insists on inserting herself in the tiniest of crevices around me just so she can put her tiny little paw on my body, as if to tell me, “It’s gonna be ok.”

And I see it in my wife, who loves and forgives and cares and disciplines and feeds and pets and let’s the cats roam freely…

With a harness and leash, when they are in the balcony. We are on the 15th floor.

There’s a line from the movie 50/50 wherein Anjelica Huston’s character explains to Anna Kendrick’s character, who plays Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character’s therapist (did you follow?): “I smothered him only because I love him.” Huston plays his mother.

All to say, my wife will one day make a good mother, too. Even if a smothering one.

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