We’ve had snakes at the compound before – a speckled (red/black/yellow) one and then a pitch black one a few weeks later, which an encik confidently affirmed could spit lethal venom up to 5m. But it was quite a strange moment when I strayed into the enlistees’ bunk (this was after I’d left the Ops Room to cut short a conversation with my orderly about the business he was in which sounded suspiciously like MLM, which had gone on for much longer than I would have liked), a labyrinth of tall metal lockers (they don’t have beds), and found a white-and-brown cat staring at me. I wonder how it’s managed to survive so long – the goodwill of NSFs or the mess operators? or maybe it’s a newcomer who for some reason found himself scrounging on the top floor.
I’m a dog person even though I never maintained any (my parents liked reminding us that keeping pets was unwise because you’d get too attached to them and their lives are pretty short. I’ve only ever had a handful of hamsters). They embody characteristics that I’m still trying to incorporate into myself – undying loyalty and enthusiasm, (almost) unconditional love, with every emotion uncontrollably represented in their features and posture, directing the wag of their tail and the curve of their grin. I’m not as enamoured with cats and I think this one knew it. From a distance it stared at me, almost diffidently, before soundlessly exiting the bunk. Later, I saw that it had gone down to the Ops Room. It took a last, fleeting look at me and pranced off. I haven’t seen it since.