Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (77)

He saw her the instant they descended the steps that led down from the hospital’s Casualty Department. For a split-second, it felt as though time stood still. Daman’s heart leapt into his mouth, leaving a hollow cavity where it had been. Twenty-five years had passed since he last set eyes on her. And as she stopped in her tracks having caught his gaze, he saw that those years had been kind to her: she had aged little, it seemed, across the same span of time in which he had become notably less agile, both physically and mentally. Ramani… Ramani… he mouthed, silently. “Son.” The old man was tugging at his arm. “This is not the time. Come – we’ve got to get back to your mother.” Reluctantly, he followed, as ’Pak Bambang headed off in the direction of the car, craning his neck until the last moment, as the sole love of his unremarkable life disappeared through the same doors from which he had just emerged. She was accompanied, he now saw, by a familiar face – his father’s most loyal servant from the plantation. And it was clear that the old man had a hand under one of her arms, as if she needed support.

Daman stopped again, suddenly. Jaw slightly agape, he stood frozen while the damp breeze began to lick around his ears. He felt an irresistible urge to run to her and tell her how he had felt all these years; of the crushing emptiness that had never once really left him. Wave after wave of emotion now flooded his mind, crashing through his senses. He needed desperately to hear her say that she, too, felt the same – that a flame had been kept burning for him throughout the long nights that followed their enforced separation. And more than this, he simply had to know – selfishly – that she had sought the comfort of no other. Daman wanted to reclaim her, this lost prize – to hold and caress her; to explain, perhaps, what she should expect when next laying eyes upon her son. Their son. Paralysed by these insatiable cravings, he now stood immobile: rooted to the spot.

Sensing his son’s hesitation, ’Pak Bambang barked a further instruction from across the parking lot: “Daman! Come on, let’s go!” he yelled, a little coarsely. Saying nothing, the dutiful son turned to trudge without enthusiasm in the direction of the Jaguar, where his father was already counting some grubby, low denomination Rupiah notes into the hands of the cheeky urchins who had looked over the car during their absence.

“I’m sorry, ’Nak,” the old man said, once they were both inside the car’s luxurious passenger compartment. “I had a feeling something like that might happen. I can imagine how you feel.” He turned to survey his son’s expression before looking back out through the windscreen, while pulling smoothly into the sparse evening traffic. “It’s been a hell of a day,” said Daman meekly, and after a considerable pause. “I think I need another drink.” His tone was flat, like his spirit. “Son, I’ve been thinking,” ’Pak Bambang resumed, in a manner that made it clear he was about to embark upon something of a prepared speech. “Look: I think it’s time for you to meet the boy and his mother. Properly, I mean. Decide on what arrangements you want to make for the future.” There was a brief silence while he waited for a response that never came. “When it’s finally time for me to go,” he continued, “I don’t want to be lying on my death-bed with this issue unresolved. It’s a quarter-century since we shook hands on our pledge and I think it’s now well and truly past its sell-by date… rather like me!” Daman could not find it within him to laugh at the old man’s gallows’ humour. He felt confused, sad and angry all at once. Why had everything suddenly reached this point, so… so catastrophically? Why could things never work out as planned?

Because I betrayed love, he found himself repeating what were, by now, familiar words.

“OK, ayah. Agreed,” he said, finally. “But I’ll need to be careful. I’d never want to hurt my wife.” “Yes, I’ve thought of that. Why not tell her that I’ve asked you to go to the plantation next week, while I have some further tests at the hospital?” said the old man, somewhat manipulatively. “I’ll make reservations for you, the boy and his mother at the Bogor Country Retreat – do you know it?” Daman nodded. His father turned again to look at him. “Sorry. Yes – I mean yes,” said the son. “Good. You can spend a few days together. Make your peace, as required. Take it from there in the manner you see fit. You’ll soon be taking over the business, son. It’ll be good for you to start making important decisions without any influence from me. Is that OK with you…?

posted by Kirk at 2:50 am  

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