Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (73)

They drove through the rain in silence, father and son, nearing the hospital with every passing second. Having excused themselves for an hour before dinner on the pretext of some bogus ‘company business’, they knew they would not have much time with the boy. But they were hoping at least to gain some reassurance about his condition. Passing stretch after stretch of kampung dwellings, the private thoughts of both men remained compartmentalised, unspoken. For while there were a hundred things they might have discussed while weaving their way towards their destination, they would swallow the words each time they formed on their tongues, unsure of whether small talk was appropriate for such an occasion. And because of the gravity of the situation, neither had any real desire to tackle the thornier issues that were playing on their minds.

Sitting in quiet contemplation, Daman came to realise that for him the journey would lead to the beginning of a new chapter in his life. And whilst full of trepidation, fearing the possibility of rejection, a feeling of excitement gripped him in equal measure. After more than twenty years, he would finally be given the opportunity to make amends for his absence, to whatever extent the boy desired. So long as he wants me to enter his life, he reminded himself. Dismissing this uncomfortable thought, he began instead to reflect on what might have been had he stood up to his father all those years ago, rather than playing the part of the dutiful son he still was. And this led him to contemplate the other tantalising prospect that this particular journey had in store: the reunion with her – Ramani, his one true love. The boy’s mother is on her way to Jakarta as we speak, the old man had informed, back in the golf club. The hairs on Daman’s neck now stood up at the notion.

For ’Pak Bambang, the journey was, conversely, the beginning of the end, he knew. The start of the process to tie up a lot of loose ends, but the initiation, too, of the procedure to shut down the plant that was his life – bit by bit, machine by machine, until the last switch was finally flicked to the ‘off’ position. But at least, the old man silently reflected, while finally steering the Jaguar into Rumah Sakit Medika’s driveway, it will represent a righting of the wrongs I inflicted upon my son and grandson, and perhaps even the woman, too…

Climbing out of the car into light drizzle, the two men began searching for someone to watch over it, while they visited the boy inside. It would not be safe to leave the Jaguar unattended, even within the confines of the hospital car park. Noticing a couple of street kids who were sheltering from the rain beneath an awning, ’Pak Bambang beckoned them over. “Want to earn some money?” he said, placing a five hundred Rupiah note into each of their hands. “Half now, half later… But only if we find the car is still in one piece… And without so much as a scratch!” he concluded, his somewhat playful manner not entirely appropriate under the circumstances. “Yes sir! Tentu!Of course! one of the urchins screeched excitedly, rolling his ‘r’s with extreme affectation. The two men then walked to a pair of doors above which a sign read ‘Darurat’‘Emergency’ – where they paused, a knowing look exchanged between them. “Come on, let’s go find your boy,” said ’Pak Bambang eventually, while trying to force a smile…

Two shadows seemed to form between the slits of his burning eyelids, quite agreeably blocking out some of the harsh light that was illuminating his surroundings. No: not shadows, he now reflected, dreamily. But silhouettes. Backlit, like the wayang kulit puppet shows in the village of his boyhood. Those were extremely rare, happy days, he now recalled, as he continued floating through the seas of his semi-conscious mind. The times when the fairground would come to town and the tukang wayang would steal the show as dusk settled into night. And now the silhouettes were conversing – addressing him, on occasion. But he remained too weak to understand, or conjure a response. Yet there was something about one of them that began, oddly, to strike a chord. Some kind of subtle movement of the head…? The deep tenor of the voice…? It seemed almost as if some kind of biorhythm was sending him a coded message. Here I am… Here I am… it said. And then, a promise… Slowly, Anath began recalling the man who, as a small boy, he would watch riding his bicycle, back there on the edge of town. Back in the days when he was still developing, still exploring with wonderment the rich sensations life was promising to offer…

Daman gazed wordlessly at the semi-conscious boy, noting the facial resemblance in spite of the battery of equipment that surrounded him. An intense rush of guilt swept over him, followed by a sudden feeling of anger towards his father, which he managed quickly to suppress. “I’m not sure I can bear this, Papa,” he remarked to the old man, who by now was reading the charts that were clipped to the end of the boy’s bed. “Try not to worry, son,” ’Pak Bambang replied. “From what I can tell by these, his condition’s improving.” Then, touching his son for the very first time, Daman laid the back of his hand on Anath’s forehead, before choking out the words: “Son, it’s me. Your father. Here I am. I will never, ever leave you again. That’s a promise.”

But now, quite suddenly, Anath felt himself slipping down the greasy pole at the fairground… Falling once more into the hot, black abyss… And the silhouettes were gone…

posted by Kirk at 7:13 pm  

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