Does good karma bring kittens back?

We have  a way of resorting to abstractions when it comes to talking about the things we care about: hero, Pinoy, freedom, virtue, “doing your best”, imperialism, colonialism; railing against the system rather than fixing the small components on which it runs. My current favourite: “reality”, a word that assumes we can sweep all the small things under the same rug of collective experience.

The more we speak of these big things that concern us, that inform our practice as realists and adults, the more we are separated from the smaller things, convinced of their insignificance and lack of consequence in light of the bigger picture. As if the only way to understand life is in light of a grand scheme. As if the only way to live is to grasp the bigger picture or at least keep up some pretense of understanding.

My cares are small. Then again I’ve always cared about small things–plane tickets, the few hours I’d spend at a concert, deadlines, words–I’ve been crying for two days over a kitten.


I had to take her to the vet yesterday because her breathing had become rapid and belaboured, exhausting her tiny frame with every moment her suffering was prolonged. It was an emergency, so I took her to another vet, a few blocks away from my house. I was told she would be put on a drip, forced to drink water. Something was wrong with her intestines. A prolapse from the deworming, or maybe her diet. “I don’t know but I’ll keep you posted.”

“You’re in for very good karma,” said my vet. I couldn’t answer because I was sobbing so hard at the time. Now, I would gladly trade any amount of karma for the chance to see my kitten grow up to be fat and obnoxious, and learn to play the keyboard. I can’t believe I’m even able to type right now, as I just had to go back and re-type “right” about half-a-dozen times.

I found my kitten while I was sitting in traffic on the way to the gym. I should have been in a hurry because I had a meeting after lunch, it was starting to rain, and the light had turned green, but there was this scraggly furry…thing…that was so heavily coated with grime that it practically blended with the sidewalk. It caught my attention when the wind hit its fur, so I pulled into a nearby gas station, walked back, and peeled it off the cement; named it Strawberry because I’d been listening to Ryan Adams “Strawberry Wine” on account of the suicidal weather.

That was probably a bad move? Also, the protagonist’s name was Claire, but who the fuck names their kitten “Claire”?

All of that is irrelevant now.

“Before you get old you’d better break out of it
My old friend.
Cause its getting winter and if you want any flowers,
You gotta get your seeds into the ground.
And I worry about you,
Why? Because you want me to.

The last time I saw Strawberry she was curled up in her carrier. The vet said all the picking her up and checking-in would do more harm than good so I’d better leave her alone for the night. I had to go to an artists’ talk at the Lopez Museum with Louie Talents and Alvin Zafra and I COULD NOT CONCENTRATE and ended up babbling on MS Word:

“Once God becomes instrumental to the interests of an institution, does that god stop being God? Featureless, faceless, open-ended God of potential and possibility and certainty all at once? Whether that institution is religious, economic, cultural, or political? What becomes to our idols once they stop being abstractions?

“What I hate about so many street artists is that they’ve already gone this far to make their voices heard, they’d might as well work on having something to say. The poverty of ideas is striking. A discourse formed entirely on space, that once space is legitimised, the discussion turns into nothing.

“It’s great when an artist has the facility to articulate the content of his or her work.

“Texture is a descriptive feature but the thing about texture is that it’s impossible to describe, just like everything else we experience at the sensory level, but texture holds a special place. How am I supposed to describe smooth—smooth sailing, running smoothly—and then rough. You just can’t know these things until you get in there and yet we perceive these terms with such an intensity and fixed framework, a bias informed by our notion of “the bigger picture”, smooth sailing is meaningless when viewed in hindsight or from a distance—you need to get in there and stop cheating yourself of the things words are not able to provide.”

This morning I got the news that my kitten had died at 8 am from a gastrointestinal infection of sorts. A tummyache. I think about the awful things we do to animals, and their resilience which makes us question their suffering. I think about the petty ways we manage to neglect the things we’re supposed to care for and all the garbage we feed our “pets” and how little sense it makes that my kitten had to go. I think about how little sense it makes that I even had a kitten and why the fuck I’m still crying over it. I got home around this time (5:35) yesterday and have not left my bed since then because part of me saw this coming. Another part kept hoping I’d get a call that she had stabilized and would be doing her last round of tests and I could take her home and hate her forever for costing me an arm and a leg in veterinary bills, but that didn’t happen. And now here we are. I didn’t even like cats. Most of the cats I’d met before this…sucked (sorry friends).

I’m sure Strawberry would have grown up to suck the way other cats do: her poop would grow bigger and smellier, she’d grow bigger and smellier, her demands would change, she’d start fighting with my dog and wrecking my stuff, so I can’t convince anyone that she was special. She was tiny. And the time I had her around barely merits a footnote in the so-called “grand scheme” of things. I thought about that grand scheme again on my way home, and the deals we make with fate because beginnings and endings seem to hold so much more weight than everything that happens in between, the things that confuse our didactic understanding of large and small. Isn’t that the logic behind “This too will pass” and all the other garbage dumped on @ilovequotes? I don’t know. I just miss my kitten. Rest in peace, Strawberry.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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