This is to the man who had loved a cat right until the very end. This is to the woman who had wept at his bedside with the sheets tossed aside, half expecting him to walk in and hold her and call her his child. This is to the small lump on her throat as the greedy men and women pile around the church down the street to honor the man who had loved a cat to the very end. This is to the memories that will clog her mind; to the heat in her silence.
Yue with her head all messed up and her hands shaky will find this in his room underneath the floorboards when they give a little squeak. Yue with a pink scarf and stocking feet will ease herself on a chair and call her boss. She will say, "That holiday you were talking about is still open right?"
And because there will be more left unsaid and a fear bigger than life itself, the man on the other end will reply in thick English, "Of course. I am sorry for your loss. Your father was really nice."
This is for the moment when Yue will look up at the sky and remember the inky-furred feline black cat who had loved the man with less anxiety. This is for the food burning on the stove as Yue, seated on the chair, opens the book and sighs with hurt. In the book, this is what she'll find:
Skinny looks well, it must be the food she just ate. She looked at me and laughed. I'm telling you, she laughed. But let's keep this a secret - just you and I and Skinny - I don't want Yue hearing this. She can be quite philosophical in a lot of things but not this. She might think I'm mad or blame it on the white hair I'm letting spread on my head.
I barely can blame her, alright. She never liked pets and Skinny infuriates her with each passing day. Skinny is a bit annoying at times but still, she is the only friend I have, the only friend I have loved enough to want continuously. Sure, Skinny is black and has some appetite, but she is reasonable. She loves me.
I am not sure I should be saying this, don't know if it will infuriate Yue more when she finds out but, oh, I need to say it. Today while watching Skinny eat, I started to compare her love to that of my daughter. It is mad, see, but I think Skinny loves me more. Yue will leave me- I can tell she is growing tired of my eccentricities- and move to an apartment overlooking busy streets and men in nice suits. But Skinny will remain.
This is to the girl that will laugh as she gets to the end of the third page because then it tells her about Skinny and how it hid under the kitchen sink in a simple game in which her father had laughed hard and called her while she was in the middle of a meeting to tell her, "Skinny is much like you. She is a drama queen, I tell you."
This is to Yue as she prepares dinner, excited beyond grief, waiting to continue reading the book of secrets. Her doorbell will ring and because she doesn't know what else to do, she will walk and open it. The first splash of rain will color her cheeks and her eyes will widen in disbelief. She will tell him to come in and he will.
"What are you doing here?" She will strive for politeness as butterflies dance in her stomach; act indifferent to the shameful coloring behind her ears.
"Sorry if I bothered you, Yue. I was worried about you. I know I let you take time off work but I needed to see you. Are you okay?"
"Yea. I'm fine. I'm cooking. I hope you're hungry."
He will nod and walk behind her back to the kitchen. He will lean over the cabinet and watch her with undivided attention and she will notice but say nothing. He will help her set the table and notice, with awe, the food on the dining room table. They will seat apart and begin to eat, a lackluster look on her face.
"What's wrong?" He might ask.
The windows will shake with the weight of the outside world and he will lick his lips as though nervous.
After an hour he will want to go. She will walk him to the door -her boss- and give her apologies for her messy hair and boring evening. He will hold her hands, bring it to his lips, and mark a single word on it.
"I care for you, Yue. I will always be here for you, you know that right?"
"I know, Brian. Thank you."
He will hug her and she will kiss him, gentle sweep of the lips yet ready to move mountains. She will bury her hands inside his shirt, touch the hair lining his tough chest, and smile seductively.
"Take me just this once." Yue will say to him.
He will want to, really. This is for when he pulls away and shakes his head. This is when he tells her no and walks away, for when she knows he respects her too much to lie with her because of grief.
Yue came home today. I told you she'll leave me and move away. She did. She is quite predictable but I can tell she misses home. Skinny sat on her laps, rested there and Yue let her. This is strange. Yue stroked Skinny with passion and interest and when I got her tea and cake Mrs. Penn had brought earlier, she took it with ease and said, "Skinny is putting on more weight. Have you noticed?"
I have noticed it too but I don't think its something we should argue over. Skinny looks fine enough, not to mention her exuberant take on things. I am writing this whilst listening to her simple purrs. She is happy, I tell you. She should be.
This is to the flipping of pages, of endless words and tear-shaped adventures. This is when Yue lights up a cigarette and calls Brian up. She will tell him, "I miss you."
And he will tell her to wait a while.
This is for when he sends her a message saying, "I am a little busy, Yue. I wish I was there though."
She types back, "Don't worry, it isn't really important."
"What did you want to talk about?"
He will still be online, waiting for her reply, and getting none. He will try to call her. She will not take the call. This is for when she types back, "I want to write a book about Skinny."
"Who is Skinny?"
"The cat that we had to put down. He loved her. It will be to all those who had to wait under a mango tree while their cats went through the euthanasia procedure."
"I will come over tomorrow and we'll talk about it."
This is for when she goes offline, takes a piece of paper and starts to write:
Four Ways To Die
A cat plays with you.
A cat plays with you.
A cat plays with you.
A black cat named Skinny stops playing with you.
She will show him in the morning as the sky turns to a shade of hope, bright with grace and sunshine.
"What happened with Skinny?" He will ask.
This is for when she takes up the diary and flips to the end.
Her failing health is fast and painful. She is constantly fighting diarrhea or constipation and has lost her appetite. I saw it, I swear, the blood in her urine and I think I will go insane. They have tried their best. I think the vet is right. I should put Skinny away with the euthanasia procedure and yet I don't want to. Maybe I still hold out hope for her, for my baby.
The vet injected her with something. I was outside, couldn't look at her, and what she had become. I know her blood circulation ceased, her brain stopped functioning and everything ended. I still can't go in. Skinny is gone.
Brian will hold her hands and tell her to write. He will kiss the top of her head and ask her, "What changed? You used to tell me you hated pets especially cats. Why do you want to write about her?"
"Skinny changed me. She was simple and she loved him. I watched the way she moved with him, saw the way she wanted to be close to him. My father wasn't the easiest man and he could be annoying at times. We fought a lot of times and I would leave. But Skinny? No, she stayed and loved him."
"You write for a cat that died?"
"I write for Skinny. I write for me. If there is one thing I learned from that cat, it is that we lose but we fight. We don't just give up. Brian, we fight until we lose."
"And what if we win?"
"We fight until we stop fighting. Skinny taught me that."
"What will you call it then? Your book?"
This is for when Yue will hesitate. This is when, two days later, she meets him in his office and tells him, "I call it The Soldiers."
He will smile.