My mother forces me to draw cats.
I draw them for her birthday, for my birthday, for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and that time I left home for university for the first time.
“Why don’t you get a cat if you like them so much?” I asked her once.
She shook her head. “Cats are too complex for me.”
I took it at face value at the time, but saw into her soul years later, on a drive to a restaurant, when she started showing the cat drawings to relatives who couldn’t have cared less.
“I call this one lao hu,” she said, pointing to a cat with stripes in its fur and teeth as sharp as a fishbone comb.
Lao hu, tiger in Chinese, the symbol of war and strength.
It wasn’t the complexity she feared, I realized.
It was the attachment.
Cats are complex, even more so when they die.