Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (66)

The Jaguar’s tyres scrunched on gravel as ’Pak Bambang swept up the manicured drive, coming to a halt directly outside the golf club’s entrance. Gleefully snatching its keys, the valet slid into the luxury car’s plush interior before pulling smoothly away in the direction of the parking lot. “Selamat sore, ’Pak.Good afternoon, the pretty receptionist greeted him. She was standing beside the bag drop counter, waiting patiently for the afternoon golfers to arrive. “Your son’s already here. Ganteng sekali, ya?” “Yes, he’s good looking all right,” ’Pak Bambang replied, “like his father once was…” But although he tried to convey a little cheer in response to her playful banter, his mood was anything but sanguine. “Not playing today?” the girl continued. “No – the weather.” Putting on a difficult smile, the old man looked skyward. His heart felt leaden, like the clouds, and apprehension was eating away at his insides.

Saying nothing more, he walked slowly through the wide and open space of the reception area, where the warm breeze reminded him, for some reason, of his youth – of a time when there was more time; an infinite amount, it seemed. He wondered if it would keep on accelerating, whether death was rushing towards him, in ever quickening strides. But his doleful reverie was interrupted as he saw his son rising from his seat at a nearby table. He was in their usual spot, a quiet corner where they often held their tête-à-têtes, commonly discussing business issues, but occasionally taking on more difficult subjects. None more difficult than this, ’Pak Bambang now thought to himself, approaching.

Papa! Hi! Apa kabar?How’s it going? “Everything OK with you? You had me worried there, on the phone. Thought something was up, but you’re looking great!” Daman smiled, relieved to note that from his appearance at least, his father seemed fine. “Sit down, son,” replied ’Pak Bambang, laying a hand on his boy’s arm. Instinctively, he took a deep breath, aware that his news would now be even harder to convey. Sensing the sudden presence of a waiter, who had appeared soundlessly at his side, he turned to address him: “Two large cognacs, please. Your finest. Oh – and two cigars. The usual ones.” “’Pak,” the waiter simply nodded, obediently. But the nature of his order had surprised Daman: “Ayah? Something is wrong. You don’t normally drink in the afternoon. What is it? What’s up?” “Just a moment, son,” ’Pak Bambang appealed. “Let’s drink a toast and then I’ll tell all. I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, and I want to shake it off.” He smiled thinly, while his son began to fidget nervously in his seat.

Soon the waiter returned and, with a flourish perfected over many years, swirled the cognac in the glasses before lowering them so that they came to rest silently on top of the table’s surface, the bronze-coloured liquid still swishing around inside. In the quiet that returned as he once again disappeared to fetch the cigars, the old man raised his glass. “To your future, son.” Daman chinked his against his father’s, while a quizzical expression formed on his face. “My future?” ’Pak Bambang knew that the moment had finally come; that he could put off his revelation no longer. “Son, you’re going to have to promise me that you’ll take what I’m about to say like the man I know you are,” he began, solemnly. Fearing the worst, a knot had already begun forming in Daman’s stomach. “Ayah?” “Look, we’re all aware of our own mortality – that someday we must die, like it or not,” his father continued. “Well, I’ve just had my date confirmed.” There was a brief pause while he gauged his son’s reaction, before going on: “I’m terminally ill, son. Cancer. The big ‘C’.” He paused again, searching into Daman’s eyes, where he met with instant grief, and confusion. “I’m sorry, son. There’s just no other way to say it.” “Oh God, no… please? Dear God…” Daman buried his face in his hands. It seemed for a moment that he would break down completely. Pointing a gentle finger of instruction at him, just as he always had whenever there was a difference of opinion between them, the old man quietly counselled his boy. “Listen, Daman,” he whispered. “That won’t help. Your tears are the last thing I want to see. I need you to be strong, if nothing else than for your mother’s sake.” Daman looked up, the tears welling in his eyes. “No – she doesn’t know,” his father confirmed. “And I want you to be there, when I tell her. Be strong for her. She’s going to need a lot of comforting, I expect.”

’Pak Bambang lifted his glass once more and raised it towards his son, before taking a large gulp of the cognac. He winced as the burn seared his throat, his eyes watering while he stifled a cough. He knew he could not afford to begin hacking up blood, here in the club, in front of his son. Daman played with his glass, meanwhile, spinning it in his fingers while his mind, too, whirred. My poor ayah… Why him? Why not some heartless criminal, rather than a good man like Papa? Why? “Drink… son…” his father spluttered. “How long?” Daman said quietly, looking not at his father, but down at the wooden tabletop, and beyond. To which, raising his glass once more, the old man would only reply: “The future.” Daman slowly began shaking his head. He was about to say something, when, having regained his composure, ’Pak Bambang cut him off. “Now, as if that isn’t enough, I’ve some more bad news – and something much more important, in fact.”

posted by Kirk at 11:26 pm  

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