Thursday, June 07, 2007

Janjaweed Cats...

I sat at the airport in Nyala with a friend under a tree where it was the only place we could find shade to escape the heat of the afternoon sun. There were no other planes but mine leaving so the place was virtually empty. She pushed the dirt with her shoe and I stared off into the bright blue hotless sky that radiated heat.

'Catso died,' she said.

I have perfected saying goodbye mostly from doing it so often. I think that goodbyes should be like amputations. Quick, efficient, slicing off the life you're leaving behind with one swift cut. No drawn out waving and crying at the bus, train, boat or airport. I had managed to get out of Nyala with only a few tears from staff and none of my own.

'How?' I asked.

Catso was one of my first and most unusual friends in Nyala. An inquisitive, thin tabby cat that had adopted two friends of mine and become a fixture in their compound. Before I knew anyone in Nyala I used to go over to their house after work and sit under their tree, eating Pringles and drinking Coke, waiting for them to come home. Catso would invariable turn up, hop up in a chair next to me and we would chat - literally.

'Want a Pringle?' I would say.

He would meow an answer and we would go on like this - me talking to a cat. Him, answering and eating Pringles on the chairs outside until my friends came home.

'Stupid Janjaweed cats,' she said and started to cry as she described how a band of other strays had turned up in the neighbourhood and began chasing and terrorizing him until the last night when they had beat him so badly that she found him in the garden dying of his wounds. I started to cry as well.

'We can't save anything here, I said. 'We can't even save a stupid cat.'

'You have to go,' she said finally. WFP airport officers had come out to find the stray passengers.

'I know,' I said and hugged her.

'You need to get out of here as well,' I said.

'I will,' she promised.

We both wiped our eyes and noses.

'Hey,' she said. 'You heard about Kalma?' Kalma is the largest IDP camp in Darfur and sits just outside Nyala.

'They burnt the MSF clinic to the ground,' she said.

'Stupid Janjaweed cats,' I said and we hugged again as I left for my plane.