Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (71)

It was evident from the look on both men’s faces that there was something terribly wrong.

Sunday evenings at the family home were generally relaxed affairs, with very little ‘shop talk’ over what would commonly be a traditional meal of rice and the usual mouth-watering array of local dishes. On the contrary, the family’s light-hearted banter would generally cover the topics of the day – whether politics, the arts or, particularly in the case of the men, sport. But tonight would be different. An uneasy atmosphere had descended upon the gathering, stifling the casual exchange of views, as the extended family awaited the return of their host and his heir. For it had been obvious from the moment the guests arrived that Daman’s wife was deeply upset about something. Something her sisters-in-law had subsequently tried to tease from her, without success, despite their persistent coaxing. A problem, they consequently surmised, which must relate to her marriage. Fussing around her, the worried sisters had been swapping sympathetic glances all evening. No-one suspected that the anguish she was harbouring related to ’Pak Bambang himself.

But now, as the old man and his son finally entered the room without offering the customary greeting, it was clear that some kind of grave announcement was about to be made.

In the silence that quickly fell, the old industrialist sidled slowly across to his wife and placed a hand upon her shoulder. Daman, meanwhile, stared down at his feet, looking up occasionally to check his wife’s expression. “My dear wife… Everyone…” ’Pak Bambang began with notable solemnity, as the quiet in the room seemed, somehow, to gain latency. “It’s good to see you assembled here as usual, and I’m delighted you could all make it. It’s through these regular gatherings that the foundations of our values are reinforced. I want you to promise that you’ll continue to meet like this, long after I’ve gone…” Across the room, one or two quizzical glances were shared. “But tonight, I’m afraid I have some bad news.” His wife gazed up at him, a look of bewilderment etched across her face. Silently, the old man patted her shoulder. “Truth is, I’ve not felt one hundred percent for a while now,” he continued. “And at my recent check-up, the doctor confirmed my worst fears.” There were a number of gasps from among the women present. ’Pak Bambang looked down into the eyes of the woman who had stood by him resolutely for over fifty years. The expression on her face seemed to beg him to go no further. Gripping her shoulder more tightly, he nonetheless pressed on. “Look, there’s only one way to say this… And it’s not exactly easy. I’ve… It’s kanker.” He felt his wife jump. “The big ‘C’.” The old man tapped his ribs with his free hand, as if to make light of his condition. “In here. Throughout the lungs. Inoperable, I’m afraid. I’m sorry.”

He looked down as his wife slapped both hands to her face, a low moan escaping from somewhere deep inside her. ’Pak Bambang rubbed her back, slowly, attempting to comfort what had become a shuddering parcel of grief. Presently, she made as if to stand, but through his eyes the old man entreated her to remain seated, to breathe deeply, relax. “It had to come some time, dear,” he whispered, acknowledging his own mortality. “At least we can plan for it now.” Across the room, Daman gestured for his wife to stay put, as her instinct told her, too, to go to the old man and offer comfort. Eventually, it was the younger of Daman’s two sisters who broke the ice, rushing across to embrace her beloved father: “Oh, Papa!” she cried, the tears streaming down her cheeks as she buried her head in his chest. The old man wheezed, narrowly avoiding the cough that, had it materialised, would have resulted in a series of bloody splutters. “Look, I don’t have much time left,” he finally managed to exhale. “But I want to enjoy it. So please: no tears. Come on now, I want everything to be as it’s always been. I’ve got to live a day at a time from here on, and this has always been my favourite day of the week. Please don’t deny me that pleasure this evening, my sweet. It’s your beautiful smile Papa wants to see.”

Around the room, the sucking in of air was almost audible, as those present took stock of what they had heard. Then, taking turns to approach him, a procession of close family members paid silent tribute to the old man’s courage; some clasping his hand, others embracing him fully, while some simply nodded their acknowledgement.

Just outside, on the table in the hall, the notepad upon which the word “Lurah” had been scribbled lay dormant, and quite forgotten…With a feeling of utter exhaustion, Detective Adi climbed out of his battered Toyota and kicked shut the door. Let them have it if they want it, he thought, walking away without bothering to lock the car. Wearily, he climbed the stairs, his body aching in places he did not recall having. Shit! I promised the Tukang Warung that I’d be going back to the hospital later, he suddenly remembered. But what the young Detective needed was rest – lots of it. Pushing the key into the door to his apartment, he began savouring the thought of lying beside her again: Lulu, the girl who was fast becoming the centrepiece of his life.

Sayang? Honey? I’m home,” he called out, on entering. Nothing. “Sayang?” Adi walked briskly across the hall and pushed open the bedroom door, to look in. Empty. Now in a state of mild panic, he raced through to the bathroom, where he was met with an equal absence of the warm, living thing he so craved. The apartment was clearly empty. Where on earth is she?

Retracing his steps, he rushed back through the bedroom to the hall, where he noticed for the first time a note on the table by the side of the entrance door. Snatching it up, he shook his head in dismay, on reading its simple message:





Fuck! he thought, now realising that the day’s events had consumed him to the extent that he had forgotten completely about his regular Sunday liaison. Shit! She must’ve been lying there in bed… When ‘Sunday’ arrived… Fuuuucckkk! Summoning all the energy he could muster, Adi slammed the door behind him and descended the stairs two-by-two, before pelting across the uneven pavement to his car, half-stumbling along the way. The old Toyota’s tyres let out a rare squeal as he then raced away, speeding downtown as fast as he dared, in the direction of Endang’s.

posted by Kirk at 10:34 pm  


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