6:12 pm

Dear J,

You said you walk the same paths but come to them a stranger every time. To me it is the other way around. The paths are strangers every time.

The cats in front Meister’s come and go. When I first came here, the clowder occupying that space consisted of a petite calico and two tortoise toms—one big, one small. I wrote a story in my head that the clowder was father, mother, and son. Like most toms, the father was the first to go. Eventually, the calico also left (I would later see her twice: once along Bulusan, still near Meister’s, and once along F. O. Santos where it could’ve scavenged in several eateries).

The little tortoise tom, who was just a kitten when I first saw him, grew by itself, often resting inside an electric meter cage shielded by the bosky branches of bougainvilleas. I fed him as often as I can and even thought of adopting him have not my vet discouraged me from doing so. She said adopting another stray cat would disrupt and bring disease to my own clowder back at home, which consisted of only two strays I catnapped from my old apartment.

I never brought the tom home. But I named it Franco after the musician.

Later, a new gray cat began showing up every time I fed Franco. I started feeding it and did so in months. One day, when Franco was out on one of his adventures, I dropped the pellets in front of the gray cat but it didn’t even smell the food. The following day, Franco was back but the gray cat was gone. I will never see it again.

Weeks after this, a calico started living inside boxes left outside one of the stores in front of Meister’s. She approached Franco and I during meal times and Franco didn’t mind, so I too fed her. Soon, her belly got bigger and later gave birth to four orange and white kittens inside the box where she lived in. Still weak, I gave her food and brought some water.

When I returned the following day, the calico was outside the box feeling weaker than ever.

Inside the box, no life was left.

The paths are strangers every time.