Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (40)

It had almost broken Daman to be sent away, to be wrenched from his love and the life he thought he had been building – banished once more to the familiar territory of a university campus in a foreign, if hospitable, place. It felt to him as if there were a scratch in the record, that the needle had bounced back a number of grooves to re-run the previous few bars of a song. Early on in the course of his second degree in economics he had contemplated quitting, disappearing silently to elope with his heavily pregnant child bride; taking her somewhere – anywhere – in order to make a fresh start and live the life upon which his heart insisted, however simple or poor. But ultimately, his head had held sway and his devotion to his parents – in particular his father – kept him at the university until graduation. At first he had tried writing to her, but he knew of no real postal address and there had never been any reply. Eventually, he accepted that his father had once again been right: that the only way to deal with the crushing sadness he felt was to obliterate her memory from his mind. He knew she was being taken care of; that was his father’s side of the bargain. All he needed to do to keep his was stay away from her and get his degree, killing the pain he felt in the process. And so, with a heavy heart, this is what he had tried.

Forget her, forget her, forget her.

Upon returning to Jakarta after this, his second graduation, he had been greeted as if coming home from a war, still alive, and a number of parties were held at the family home in his honour. It was at one of these that he had first met his wife. She was an elegant but plain woman, well-educated and faultlessly polite: the ideal partner for any aspiring young man, as his father had been quick to point out. Pretty soon, he had deciphered his father’s message, and begun regularly to date her. He thought of her as pleasant if a little dull and although they shared a common social background he had never loved her, no matter how hard he tried. Their wedding was celebrated six short months after they had first met and Daman had then settled into a steady routine in the city offices of PT Bambang Edible Oil. For most, his comfortable lifestyle in the heart of an adoring family would have been everything they had aspired to. Even his sisters – the spoiled princesses who as a child he would taunt – enthused ceaselessly about their smart kid brother without the slightest hint of jealousy. Positioned as he was beside a devoted wife, and with an assured career already beginning to blossom, Daman was the role model that many set out to imitate but commonly failed. His was an ideal situation by any standards, and a firm platform on which he could build the rest of his life.

And yet the emptiness in his heart would not go away, had persisted throughout the years despite the healing qualities that time was meant to offer. Perhaps if they had managed to produce a child, he would have been better able to close the book of his past and move on to a new chapter in the present. But for whatever reason this was not to be and she had never been able to produce him an heir. Why has fate treated me this way? he would often ask. To which, in the darker moments, he would provide his own, poignant answer: Because I betrayed love. No, it was impossible for Daman to forget Ramani, his only love. And whatever his wife did, and however hard she tried, she could never satisfy him. Her unswerving devotion would never suffice to deflect his soul from the woman he dreamt of in the night. Every night.

After a few years of working his way through the ranks at the firm’s city headquarters, and now a little over thirty years old, Daman eventually gained the chance to be groomed as his father’s successor. Before long, he was reunited with the plantation and its loyal workers, most of whom he still recognised from the time he had spent there, before the incident. It was now some six years since he had visited and his arrival was greeted with much enthusiasm by the staff, all of them privately relieved to see that the relationship between father and son had endured, despite the events of which no-one spoke. They were keen to see him eventually succeed his father, establishing the dynasty, because it was obvious to all that he had inherited many of his father’s traits. But whilst all was progressing well on the surface, Daman continued to suffer inside: an emotion exacerbated by a pledge he had given his father: that he would never again venture into the Kampung. For although they had told him the girl had gone – had left the village long ago, with her boy – he knew this to be a falsehood and could sense their presence, close by.

posted by Kirk at 11:25 pm  

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