It's 6:45 p.m. and the sun has set. But the dark doesn't dispel the heat; it's 36C and the humidity sits at 67%; perspiration tickles my brow and trickles down my back. It feels like I'm bathing in thick vapour, surrounded by a warm, damp cotton ball.
The longer I stay, the more the heat exerts itself, intensifying despite my motionlessness. Within minutes I'm drenched in sweat, having barely lifted a finger but to type these few lines.
My discomfort is great; sometimes I find myself thinking that the August sweltering heat is just unfair, just too much to bear.
But don't pity my plight.
For I am the pampered cat.
Nobody's forced the heat on me; it's a self-inflicted painless pain. No forced labor or toiling for hours on end in the sun. I live indoors, and can come and go as I please. I'm out here by choice, a victim only of my desire to sneak in a smoke outdoors as I blog. The a/c will be waiting for me once I've exhausted my sweat reserves.
Once my low threshold for pain has been crossed, I will retreat to the cool, and stay there until my 1st world addiction lures me back out.
As I sit here typing and smoking I'm trying to ignore the two teeny tiny stray kittens begging me with their painful meowing to be owned.
Stray cats ... a dime a dozen here in Qatar. Sometimes their prevalence makes them fade into quasi-inexistence; they desensitise those around them to their plight by their sheer numbers and seemingly insurmountable circumstances.
It becomes almost easy enough to forget about them when they're just a part of the crowd. Even when they're right there in front of you, hot, and hungry, and thirsty, and begging to be acknowledged. The reality is, the guilt that comes with acknowledgement is almost too much to bear; sanity hinges on turning a blind eye.
But always there are moments like these, when you suddenly find yourself face to face with one, maybe two. When you see them as individual little creatures who weren't lucky enough to be born a house cat. When they actually try to befriend you. When they stare you in the eye, and sneak their way closer to the doorstep, trying desperately to soak in the little bit of cool seeping out from indoors. When you picture yourself battling the matted old 20 lb stray that you know is just waiting around the corner to pounce on one of your new little buddies.
There are those moments where you find yourself sitting out there with them in the sweltering heat, stuck smack-dab in the middle of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. The one telling you that you can't save every single stray in Doha - you're not the Cat Lady after all. The other one dreaming up cute kitty cat names and thinking that feeding them 'only this once' wouldn't make them 'yours'.
But you know the truth. You know that the second you open that door, even for a moment, there's no turning back. The second you open that door, you and only you will be 100% responsible and accountable for those little lives. Opening that door a fraction will mean opening your heart fully.
I stay outside far longer than I should tonight. I stay until sweat pours freely and I literally feel light-headed. I tell myself that I can comfort them by staying out there just a little bit longer with them; by showing solidarity. I encourage them to drink from the little fountain in the back yard. I tell myself this will give them some relief, which is better than none at all.
But when the heat becomes truly unbearable, I go back in to the cool indoors. And I close the door behind me.
And the little kittens are exactly where they were before I ever entered their lives - on the outside looking in.
And I will be a little sadder for a while; a little more thoughtful. I'll be more grateful for what I've got and a little more thankful.
But in the end, I am where I've always been.
I am the pampered cat.