Right now, Marceline (the kitten I picked up last weekend from the corner near Councillor Marcel Rillo’s house, before the floods hit full-force) is sitting up. I’m watching her closely. By closely, I mean I’m about a foot away from her, making sure she doesn’t knock over the bowl of steaming hot water I’ve placed next to her bed, as a makeshift vaporizer.
Parts of Metro Manila are still underwater. Last week, we had more rainfall than we typically experience in a month. I stayed in and made blankets from bits of fabric and unusable clothes, and I still haven’t donated any of them, as originally intended.
But I have read every article out there on kitten breathing problems, respiratory infections, and asthma. I have been losing sleep from sitting next to her, lightly tapping her chest until her breathing returns to normal and making sure her hot water bottle stays hot. Before that, she had an eye infection which just cleared up completely a couple of days ago after double daily doses of Erythromycin. Within a week of zero trips to school, we have been to the vet twice.
I now watch things like this.
And on top of that, I’m exhausted from preparing myself for the possibility of losing her. I don’t know how much more of these little heartbreaks I can take. But I’m just as exhausted from the little celebrations that come with seeing her sleep soundly (almost), or seeing her eat after a whole day of not touching her food. My heart does strange things for every hour of peace she gets, when she’s able to sit upright and breathe easily. I wake up and see that she’s still breathing, and I find myself praying for another morning like this one, for more resiliency, for normal kitten things, like playing with yarn and jumping and running without losing her breath. I find myself praying for the other eight lives she’s due, because dammit, she’s supposed to be a cat. The point is I find myself praying.
There’s a line in George Saunders’s “Manifesto” (2005), it goes: “holding the broken body of his kitten, a man felt a sudden kinship for all small things.” And that’s it, I guess. The possibility that Marceline will lose her life distracts me from living my own, but this is hopefully only for as long as it takes to get her on her feet.
And there’s that other point: maybe she isn’t distracting me from living my life, but maybe this is me living my life, away from the implication that devotion defaults to bigger, higher things – not a kitten that’s barely even the size of my foot.
Now I’m a little scared of how I’ll deal with raising a child.