I can hear my sister crying in her room across the hall. Her sniffles, in addition to my own, provide for a very sad atmosphere within my household. It has been a horrible day for everyone living here, one full of tears and hopeless cries.
I had a cat whose name is Skittles. I found him one summer long ago, perhaps three or four years back. It was a quiet night, I remember. It was the third night in a row that I heard meowing from the backyard. That one fateful night, I was destined to look out and down from my upstairs bedroom window to discover much to my pleasure a tabby cat staring right back at me.
A cat, I thought with such happiness I couldn’t contain myself. It was exactly because I couldn’t keep my composure that I called up my youngest-but-older-than-me brother from his room in the basement. I told him, “There’s a cat in our backyard.” Was I excited then? I don’t recall, but I hope I was because that cat was going to be my best friend for the next few years.
My brother and I deactivated the alarm, something we seldom do in the dead of night. Who was it that opened my backdoor to allow the cat to enter? I don’t recall and I hardly think it matters now. I just know that we let this cat (which was legally stray due to no official registration, as we found out later) into our home with open arms.
The cat began wandering around the main floor, demonstrating with undeniable clarity the curiosity of felines. It made its way to our laundry room. I don’t know if it scratched our garage doormat or if it meowed or if it simply rubbed its head against the edge of one of the walls in the room. I remember I called my other siblings to the scene at some point and the four of us watched in awe as this new creature roamed our house.
It walked over to the staircase, which is only a short distance away, perhaps five or six human steps. My siblings and I instantly blocked its passageway up because we wished to avoid parental confrontation so early in getting to know this cat. I remember we set up laundry baskets across the first few steps up to the higher level to prevent this cat from venturing forth. How silly we were!
“We’ll ask mom and dad if we can keep it in the morning,” I remember hearing. Now, though, I don’t know who it was that proposed such a bold idea. It went as whoever said it proclaimed and we indeed asked my parents to keep it in the morn.
The next day, when my parents finally awoke, we showed them the cat. It was released back outside prior to my siblings’ disbandment before we slept and, fortunately, it stayed where we left it. It took shelter under our deck and to this day, I have no idea how it survived out there.
One time, too long ago for me to recall accurately, my family decided to dig holes in the soil at the corners of our backyard deck. I believe it was the start to a failed gardening project. The holes are still there, just as they were however many years back they were dug. They’re filled with rainwater, the source at which I assume the cat met its hydration needs.
We fed it strips of chicken (literally chicken peeled into strips) and gave it a bowl of water. Although the cat didn’t eat the ripped up chicken, I do believe it appreciated the water. That, and it probably knew we were going to be its new family.
At first, we didn’t think too deeply about owning this cat as our own. We bought a small bag of cat treats. Our logic was that since the cat wasn’t going to stay with us, a small bag of something edible for it will do. Little did we know—and thinking back, we were foolish to not have known—once you feed a stray cat, it practically becomes your pet to care for.
Some time passed. My neighbour, Paula, posted pictures of the cat around the area. When no feedback returned, the cat was offered up to be adopted. Someone did in fact call in to adopt the stray, but on the day they were due to come, I couldn’t separate from this cat. I was in my backyard with this cat and we were just chilling like best buds. We had only known each other for a while, but I knew from the moment I saw it, this cat and I would be friends.
My family took it to a pet centre where it was deemed stray and registered as part of the Nguyen family, my family. An ID chip was placed somewhere near its shoulder blade. It was also announced to be a five-year-old male tabby. The age was a mere (and dare I say inaccurate!) estimation. His gender was a tad confusing at first since he was abnormally chubby and we assumed he was a pregnant mother cat. Again, our foolishness shines through the cloud of high expectations and standards.
We named him Skittles for no particular reason. His fur was brown, black and white. When people ask about the reason behind Skittles’ name, I say, “Well, he’s colourful, I guess?” My brother just randomly started calling him Skittles and the name stuck to him like super glue. Though, God forbid a cat encountering super glue!
I remember, before we registered Skittles, a peculiar summer day. Despite the season, it was hailing outside and Skittles took cover under the benches lining our deck. I recall letting him inside the house where my mother allowed us to use a towel to dry and warm the poor thing off.
Skittles was a playful cat. He was the type that wouldn’t bite you unless you stuck your finger in his mouth for longer than he could keep it open. When you sat down (anywhere!), all you had to do was tap your lap twice and on there he would come. When you held your hand out in a fist, he would walk over and rub his head against your hand as affectionately as he could. He was, I now realize, a bright bundle of love.
We had him sleep in a cage we received from our neighbour (I think?). It was the cage we used to bring him to the pet centre. When he first entered our household, the cage base was his bed and in it was a blanket.
We bought him a box of toys, I remember. The box as well as one toy was yellow. I do love yellow. I remember the box had a bag of dried catnip (which proved ineffective to Skittles), a yellow tail stringed to a stick, and a brown pillow in a questionable shape of a mouse.
I don’t know what happened to the catnip bag. Perhaps it was thrown out due to uselessness.
The yellow tail stringed to a stick was played with to a point of separate components and was also probably thrown out.
The pillow, however, stayed with Skittles the whole time he was with us. He loved that pillow and would often sleep wherever we placed it. It was absolutely adorable the way he would, in an adorably human fashion, rest his little cat head on the mouse. He also had an obsessive habit of licking the mouse, particularly at its head.
Skittles would sleep everywhere! He slept a lot on the piles of laundry, folded or unfolded. He would sleep beside the fridge where a warm breeze would waft out from beneath the whole contraption. He would sleep in an area near the basement door where the furnace room was situated under and thus making a spot on the main floor evidently warmer than all other spots. Recently, he developed a habit of sleeping on piano benches, of which we own two.
My favourite spot he slept at was at the top of the stairs leading from the tiled main floor to the carpeted top floor. I like this spot the most because it was right outside my bedroom. When I slept (past tense because I’ve been sleeping with it closed ever since May) with my door open, Skittles would poke his little head in and lean it against the door frame.
Another reason I liked when Skittles slept at the top of the stairs is that he would be there when I needed someone to talk to. I like to consider my mentality extremely unstable and sometimes, I get so depressed I break down. Skittles was always there for me to talk to. In a way, it was good that he couldn’t respond. It made me feel like I could say anything and everything and he would be there to listen. I would have liked to hear his opinion on my life, though.
“Skittles, I don’t know if you can understand me, but I am so sad right now.” What familiar words.
Sometimes, I would even go so far as to lay down there with him. I would rest, not necessarily sleep, in his company. I felt like he didn’t mind my presence and I loved being in his. I would pet him gently from the top of his head to along his back. Sometimes he would roll over so I could pet his tummy. He was, by far, the friendliest cat I have ever known.
I did mention my mental issues, yes? I was once prone to hallucinations. It was usually visual hallucination, from seeing shadows here and there to getting glimpses of horridly vivid faces. Sometimes, I would hear voices, footsteps, unexplainable clicks and creaks throughout the house, the worst of which was when I heard my name being called repeatedly over and over. Other times, I would experience tactile hallucinations which would send shivers up my spine. I was scared of this house because every weird thing was... weird.
When my family adopted Skittles, his sheer presence eased my mind to a point of less violent visual and tactile hallucinations. As for the auditory problems, I could just blame the noises on Skittles. Footsteps? Skittles. Scratches? Skittles. Something landing on my bed? Skittles. He was my salvation from insanity.
Oh, yes, I mustn’t forget to explain his fur! Skittles was asymmetrical if you paid close enough attention. His back had tiger-like strips of black against a background of brown. His tummy was mainly white but for a few random spots of brown and black. My parents always teased him for a pattern he had on his tummy. It was an area of brown with six patches of black lined in two columns of three. It was his famous “six pack.” The vets commented on his unique face pattern as he had a beautiful outline of white in a diamond shape around his eyes and nose. I liked all of him!
He had a load of peculiar traits for a cat.
Like a dog, he used to wait at the door (front or back) in attempts to sneak outside. He was, after all, an outdoor cat. When I came home with or without my family, we would be sitting behind the front door when I walked in. He would sometimes greet me and I found that irresistibly cute.
Of course, it also posed a problem when I was inside the house and was attempting to leave. On school days especially, Skittles would stand by the door. Of course we couldn’t let him out because no one would be home to let him back in. He would stubbornly stay at the door and not let anymore leave unless he was allowed to leave as well. However, he seemed to forget that we are several times larger than he is. My mother would usually be the one to push him off to the side. He would meow obnoxiously when this happens. Perhaps it was a form of defiance?
Eventually, it got to a point where he would still stand near the door, but he wouldn’t attempt to escape. He would patiently sit and bid us farewells as we left the house to attend daily things, like school and work. He wasn’t completely obedient, though. Whenever someone rings the doorbell, Skittles knew he could escape when we opened the door. He did this nearly every time.
When he was outside when he definitely should not be, my youngest brother would carry him back inside. He would whine like a child being forced to do something he didn’t wish to do.
Oh, and one mustn’t overlook how my brother would carry Skittles. My brother is considerably good with young kids. Or rather, he’s compatible with babies. He doesn’t seem to enjoy toddlers and up very much. Anyway, my brother holds Skittles like he would hold a baby. It’s a cute sight to see. Or rather, it was a cute sight to see.
We used to let Skittles out on a daily basis. He was found outdoors and he belongs outdoors. He is, without a doubt, an outdoor cat. However, due to his aggressive territorial behaviour, he was grounded for an indefinite amount of time.
My neighbour, the one on the side opposite to where Paula (my other neighbour) resides owns a small dog who I believe is named Cesar. Apparently, though I have never seen any proof, Skittles attacked Cesar while Cesar was on a walk. I don’t want to believe it since the side Skittles showed me was a docile and loving side. The neighbour who owns Cesar threatened to call in animal control if he ever saw Skittles outside again. I mean, I feel like that’s an overreaction, but I don’t want to pin my neighbour down anymore than he is already.
I have witnessed Skittles fight before. I remember one day, I heard an exchange of meows from our backyard. When I came to check, Skittles was talking with another cat which was much skinnier and had spots of orange scattered about its fur. I called to brother so he could admire how social Skittles was being. Shortly after my brother arrived at the scene, Skittles launched a full-on attack and the two cats battled it old gladiator-style. When Skittles and the other cat were finally separated, there was blood and tufts of fur all over the backyard deck. It was a mess, the kind you’d expect to see on a small-scale war.
But Skittles isn’t always rude to other animals. He has a fondness for another cat, a black and white Persian cat with a beautifully soft coat of long fur and a bushy tail of the same quality. This Persian cat, dubbed in my family as “Skittles’ friend,” moved extremely slowly. I suppose one could say this cat was overtly graceful. It didn’t seem to like Skittles very much, but there was a point of time where I would constantly run into it on my walk home. This cat growled when Skittles came to close. On my first phone, I captured (in potato-quality) films of Skittles mimicking the Persian cat’s slow movement. It’s quite a sight! Or rather, it was quite a sight.
There was another time when Skittles showed violence in the company of my parents. Yoda, a cat of a friend of my mom, was in my house as my mom’s friend was considering us to take care of his cats while he went on a trip. Yoda and Skittles hated each other right from the get-go. When Yoda was released from his cage, he instantly fled and was chased by Skittles who, what with his brute strength and speed of being an outdoor cat, could have killed the Persian cat if my dad didn’t intervene. Skittles seemed unfazed by the incident, but Yoda never did recover from the trauma. The last time I saw Yoda, he was afraid of everything that moved. Poor thing.
Skittles used to play the piano. He would jump onto the keyboard and walk across it. I was usually there and I took it as an opportunity to train him. I would put his treats on one end of the keyboard and after he walked across to eat it, I would put another treat on the other side. Back and forth he walked until it was in his habit to play piano whenever someone was seated at the piano bench.
When my studies were piling up and I was falling behind in my piano progress, I decided to practice hardcore. I didn’t have the time to deal with Skittles on the keyboard as I needed it myself to play. Skittles would jump onto the piano bench and wait until my arms were far enough away for him to climb on the keyboard. I would, at this point, hold him back in a hug-like position. I would tell him, “No, Skittles, I have to practice,” and he would obediently sit beside me.
It became a kind of routine. Whenever I practice piano, Skittles would sit beside me on the piano bench. Sometimes his position would crowd my playing, but he never meant to be an obtrusion to my practice. Sometimes, when his height got in the way of my arms, he would lay down.
The piano bench isn’t that big, mind you. In fact, we (Skittles and me) sort of exhibited a symbiotic relationship. I would scoot over to one side to make room for Skittles who would subsequently lay down to avoid getting in the way too much.
Eventually, Skittles became weak and developed a breathing problem. Due to financial circumstance (according to what I was told) we couldn’t bring him to the vet. He coped with this problem for month, each day getting progressively weaker and weaker.
When this downhill health began, rather than sitting on the piano bench, Skittles would follow me to the piano and lay down nearby. My parents teased him because they thought it was weird for a cat to like music (especially my piano playing~!). I didn’t mind. I thought it was a nice gesture for Skittles and I took it as Skittles’ form of support.
Oh, in times of his good health, I recall racing with Skittles up and down the stairs. Well, really, we raced down the stairs. When going up, I would dash up first, and only after I reached the top would Skittles follow my lead. When going downstairs, we ran together. I’m pretty sure our wins and losses are tied. I’m surprised I lost so many times, haha.
Of course, with his deteriorating health, these occurrences of these races dwindled down to a grand total of zero times per day.
Skittles also had phases of what seemed like depression. I have a brother who lives in a neighbouring city for educational purposes. We often visit him for a few days. Whenever we begin packing for our short trips, Skittles would mope around our luggage. One time, we left for three days. We left Skittles sufficient amounts of clean water and ample amount of food. When we returned, he had eaten none of the food. I’m not so sure about the water.
Whenever we returned from such trips, Skittles would be awaiting inside the door. When we walked in, he would launch into a huge speech about what was on his mind. Perhaps he was complaining about how lonely he was or how cruel we are to leave him or how scared he was being alone. I have no clue.
I would talk to him a lot, though. You should hear my cat impersonation. It’s spot-on, haha. Skittles and I would have long conversations, most of them playing out with him saying something and me replaying it with my own vocal cords. People may have thought I was crazy but that’s okay. Crazy is pretty cool sometimes.
What I couldn’t copy were his cries of pain and agony. In these last few days, Skittles has been crying every few minutes. He would get up, cry loudly, and then collapse. At first, it was plain strange that he would fall over so limply. You see, prior to these last few days, Skittles would normally lay down like that. However, what made these past few days odd was the fact that he did it so frequently. He stopped eating and stopped drinking as well.
I proposed he was too hot, because he was. With a full coat of a fur and the scorching heat of summer, Skittles was overheating. My brother put ice into a Ziploc bag and Skittles used it like a pillow. I put ice into his water dispenser (as I used to do on unbearably hot days) and the other day, he rested his head in the water just so he could be in contact with the ice.
We moved him to the basement where he stayed for two or three days. We moved a bowl of water and a bowl of food downstairs so that he would not have to walk upstairs. He touched none of it. It was apparent that something was very, very wrong with him.
My mother and my oldest brother left on a medical aid trip to Vietnam. A day after they left, we scheduled Skittles an appointment to the vet. That appointment is later today. However, it seems we cannot make such an appointment because, as of the morning of July 4th, Skittles passed away.
It’s a horrible feeling, dear readers. In writing this journal entry, I did cheer myself up. But now that I’ve gotten to the point where Skittles dies, I’m crying again. I have been crying for hours. Hours before Skittles died, I was with him as where two of my siblings, my youngest brother and my older sister. We talked about Skittles and my brother said that we have to be prepared if the vet had to put him down. And then he started petting Skittles, who was lying so still in the center of us.
“It’s okay, Skittles,” my brother said to him. “Only one more day.”
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I knew he wasn’t going to make it. Perhaps my brother knew, too, and his message was somehow delivered in the tone of his voice. I don’t even know. My eyes watered at the thought of Skittles being gone and I excused myself. The three of us went back to our rooms, leaving Skittles there, alone.
I came down a while later to talk to Skittles. I didn’t say much, actually. I don’t know if I regret not saying more. I spent a long while just petting him. I had school in just a few hours so I did need to sleep and wake up. So I said to Skittles, “Goodnight, Skittles.” And for the first time, I said “I love you.”
I returned to my bed and I just sobbed. I said, “Dear whatever powers lies out there, please don’t take him away. Please don’t take him away. Please don’t take him away. Please, Please. I am begging you. I’m not ready yet. Please don’t take him away.” I cried myself to sleep that morning.
I woke up late for summer school. I was brushing my teeth when I came downstairs. Skittles was in his cage, the one we used when he first came into our family. He was laying on his beloved pillow. My dad, my youngest brother and my older sister were surrounding him. My siblings were in tears. My brother then informed me, “He’s dead.”
“When?” I asked in a voice not yet cracked up by cries.
“Just right now.”
And then a part of me died. The hole it left was eating away at my being and soon, I felt hollow. I went up to Skittles who was still warm. I pet his head and along his back, just like I used to. His eyes were open, as was his mouth. I tried to close them both, but it wasn’t possible for some reason.
I grabbed a tissue box and left for summer school. It was the longest day of my life. I was surrounded by strangers since I was not attending the school I attend during the school year. I wanted someone to talk to, but I couldn’t say anything. When it got too quiet, I would think of Skittles and tear up. I nearly cried at school several times today. I carried around a tissue and I’m glad nobody asked why.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to just... let it all out. I wanted to yell and sob and collapse on the floor and curl up and just let my body act the way it feels. But I was at school and felt I needed to maintain some level of professionalism.
I got on the train with a former classmate. I wanted to tell him about how I was feeling but I couldn’t! I couldn’t say anything. I feared I was going to cry and I don’t want to cry in front of anyone. However, when I got off the train and was waiting at my train stop, I couldn’t hold it in. Slowly, tears began falling. By the time I sat down on a bus, I was sniffling and constantly wiping my eyes. When I was walking home, I allowed my voice to whimper all it wants. When I got home, Skittles wasn’t in his cage.
When I got home, he was instead wrapped up in a box covered by the top part of his cage. I lifted the cage portion off to see Skittles lying there, his eyes and mouth finally closed.
He looked so innocent and young, just like when I first met him. The way his body was curled up made him appear a lot smaller than I remembered. It could also be because he neglected eating and has literally decreased in size. I petted him and gently place my hand under the paper towel wrapped around him. He was warm, as if alive, but he was so incredibly still. There was something under his head. Even without checking, I knew what it was, but I checked anyway. At the sight of his pillow, I snapped. I started bawling and I couldn’t even sit. I was on my side beside his death box, drowning in tears. I don’t know how long I was there for, but I eventually got my backpack and went to my room.
When I got to my room, I closed the window, made sure the door was shut, climbed onto my bed and yelled into my blankets. I cried and cried until my eyes felt swollen. I don’t know why, but I decided to visit Skittles again. There, beside his corpse, I cried. “Does it still hurt?” I asked him. I talked to him through my sobs, nothing was heard but I spoke speeches.
I regret not staying with him through the night because I missed the chance to be with him during his last breath. I regret not telling him I love him more than once because, truth be told, he probably couldn’t even hear me anymore when I finally said those overdue words. I regret doing anything that ever harmed him physically or offended him mentally. I regret not being able to make him live longer.
I was talking to a friend about it finally just a few hours ago. I said:
“It's a lot quieter around the house, now.
No one greets you at the door anymore.
No one will sit with me while I play piano anymore.
No one will listen to my troubles by the stairs anymore.
No one will knock on my door and lay on my bed anymore.
No one to hold when I'm sad anymore.
It feels like there's just no one here anymore.
And I don't like it.
Not one bit.”
And that’s the end. I miss him. Goodnight, Skittles. I love you.
b. ? d. July 4th, 2014
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