Look, you don’t have to be such assholes about this. If you’re not coming back, you’re not coming back. You don’t have to mock me. You don’t have to be cruel. If I am truly abandoned, must I still see you in everything? Must I catch glimpses of your beautiful sneer, your elegant hands, your disdainful gazes wherever I look? I feel the ache of your absence with every fucking breath. I have no will to write, no energy to even summon a memory of you to keep me company in my suffering. Is that not punishment enough? Please, you don’t need to torture me. I’m a fool, true, but I get it now: everything I feared has finally come to pass. It’s over. We’re done. So just let me rot in peace, okay? I think you owe me at least that much mercy for my years of service. Trust me, this wound will never heal; I’ll suffer plenty whether you rub salt in it or not. So let me be. Please. I’ll even beg if you want. It’s not like I’ve got anything left to lose, right?
The sidewalk leading to our house, down to the corner that ends our cluster, is empty. We waited, just for a little while, although we know there won’t be anyone there. There will be no one there taking a sharp turn and running like wind to greet us, follow us into the house, and wait…
I’ve never been tempted by the idea of immortality (surely all those years must drag one into another at some point, who wants to hang around for that long?) and I’ve never cared much for physical beauty or youth (I prefer the anonymity of mediocrity and look forward with eagerness to my first gray hair) but housing prices these days are just outrageous, it’s almost criminal, and thus if I’m guaranteed a little cottage in the woods, all paid up and legally mine, then sure I could use my witchy wiles to lure a couple kids a year into my cauldron and cook up whatever spells you want, my singing’s not half bad, does the talking cat come with the cottage or is he extra?
They warn me not to put all my trust in the Morrigan. They tell me to beware Her wrath, Her fickleness, even Her passion which can so easily crush a little mortal life. Be afraid! they say. Be careful! Yet I have never been good at following directions and I have always abhorred the cage of good intentions meant to protect me. No wonder proud Lucifer appeals to me, as well as willful Inanna. Did Lucifer not crash headlong through fear and into freedom when he chose to fall? Did Inanna not cast fear off seven times to reach her own death and resurrection? How can we embrace the unknown of transformation if we cling to fear? How can we forge a true connection with our gods if we allow fear to alter our every interaction with them? I will respect and revere the Morrigan, but I will not fear Her so greatly that I bind our relationship up in clauses and legalese. I will offer Her what I can. I will accept what She offers in return. That will be enough. Her road leads to dark places and with my oath I am swearing to trust Her to lead me safely when I cannot see the path. I will not fear that She may abandon me in the darkness. I will not carry a lantern in case She leads me astray. I will trust – and if I get burned for that trust then so be it, no hard feelings. How else can we learn? How else can we change and grow?
There’s a lot of discussion these days about privilege – about what it means to be to be born into a certain place and time, into a certain gender, into a certain race or orientation. For most humans our whole lives depend on that tiny bit of chance and the luck of our circumstances can mean the difference between a long, happy life and a short, painful one. I therefore try to remain aware of my own privilege and use it to helps others who aren’t as blessed as I am – yet not until discovering The Whiskers Syndicate did I ever truly consider that the luck which makes such a difference for humans does the same for animals.
What I have learned from The Whiskers Syndicate is that the place where an animal is born makes just as big of a difference in their lives as it does for us humans. Even though my current cats were unfortunate enough to be born into a hoarding situation, they were also lucky enough to be born into a liberal American state where animal welfare is bolstered by laws, hundreds of local organizations, and a community of hardworking people who give their time, money, and love to the animals who share their space. There are of course countless animal rights issues in the United States (factory farming, environmental degradation, and backyard breeding to name a few) but at least here there is an ongoing discourse about the harm these practices cause. Many people speak out in the defense of those who cannot speak for themselves, and even if we’re a minority we’re at least a vocal one.
The cats born in Bandung, Indonesia lack even these seemingly basic privileges. There are no humane societies waiting to give them a chance at a new life, no laws protecting them from human cruelty, not even a veterinary community robust enough to diagnose and handle complex health issues. The people there who love and care for cats have no 24-hour vet hospitals, no PetCos, no free spay/neuter clinics, none of the things I take for granted every day. My cats have a good chance of living to be 15 or even 20 years old; street cats in Bandung last maybe 5 years if they’re lucky.
The disparity is so shocking I can hardly wrap my mind around it, and it highlights the stark need for an organization like The Whiskers Syndicate. Without Josie’s selfless dedication and her local and international network of supporters, the cats of Bandung would have nothing. A few kind hearts in the crowd, a few food scraps, but nothing so concrete. Knowing this, it makes me doubly grateful for the cats I’ve known and the ones I currently share my life with. Much like myself, they will never know what it’s like to live somewhere where you have no support, no safety, and only the smallest chance at happiness. I can’t tell my cats to appreciate how good they have it (though I try!), so instead I put my time and money where my mouth is. It feels like the least I can do when I, and they, have been so blessed.
o wicked winter, o sinful summer, let me curl up behind your ribs to slumber amid your shared madness, let me bear witness to the cacophony of your frenzied union, blood and sweat and insatiable hunger, you are a discordant melody shivering toward a violent climax, a dissonant hymn to addiction and adoration played out on bruised flesh by forceful hands
my heart is a tar pit full of asphyxiated predators long rotted to bone, i’ve got the skulls of canis dirus and the fangs of smilodon clogged in my chest, their hungry ghosts wailing in my head, and sometimes i want to crack open my ribs and let all that black goo spill out, a viscous waterfall of prehistoric sludge, and other times i want to sink down inside it and let it fill me up entirely so i too can decay and dissolve and have my skeleton put on display to frighten young children