Nipi picked up his phone, it was a message from Tubing.
“Pak Suli’s condition suddenly deteriorated. He fell and it took a lot of effort for him to breathe. He became unconscious and blue. We took him to the clinic, they helped him with his breathing. We have to rent an oxygen tank. They said we must take him to Pontianak. We’re on our way now. Please, can you help us?”
He placed the phone into his left hand, and with his right hand grabbed the cigarette pack, opened it, shook it a bit, and fished out one cigarette with his index and middle finger. He put the pack back down on the seat, grabbed the match, leaned his body towards the front seat, and pressed the roller which came into contact with the charcoal. It happened simultaneously with the pressure of the gas when the lid was depressed.
It gave birth to fire.
He sucked the fire through the cigarette, activating the entire arsenal of poisonous substance. He inhaled deep. Held his breath for five seconds, leaned his body back on to the chair, and exhaled.
Pak Suli was a 54 year old man. He sat close to Nipi on the boat that they took when they visited the mines upstream. His eyes were cloudy, when the ray of the sun fell on to them, they shone like fish scales. The left eyes didn’t seem to be willing to cooperate with the right one. When he gazed, the movement of the left eye was limited. There was a kind of deformation somewhere behind his right ear down to his neck. Occasionally his hands shook, sometimes rather violently. Nipi caught something peculiar about how he responded to conversations. Sometimes Pak Suli listened to the conversation and made confirmations using short affirmations. Sometimes, he would suddenly detract, with his gaze wandering around. When he started explaining about something he would stop without ever finishing his sentences. Then he seemed to be struggling with his mind, finding something to say.
“Mercury” Mathew said while shaking his head when they talked about it later that day.
Nipi smiled “His nervous system is fucked up, but you can never say that mercury has any contribution in it. It is not politically correct, everybody here will take it as an assertion, it’s not popular, it’s against what this people believe in…”
“Or made to believe in, we have scientific evidence, research was done. It’s illogical to deny it.”
“Fuck logic, how long have you been here?”
“Besides, he sent his daughter to study at a certain university, I forgot the name of that bloody institution, in Germany no less!
“Perhaps this is the kind of generational sacrifice that they should make.” Nipi’s gaze wandered through the motel’s window.
Then he looked forward. The front side of the car looked like a stage of a theater, with every curve of the road revealing new vistas, sometimes of merriments, sometimes of loneliness, sometimes of terror. The road was layered by new and old asphalt. Its size was such that drivers coming from opposite directions must take extra care. A little bit to the center, and they might lose their rear mirrors, or worse. A little bit to the outer side of the road, the car might flip over. The surface of the asphalt was around five to ten centimeters from the dirt by the side of it. It looked more like a precipice rather than a gradual slope, with the occasional dents. If a driver should fall in to one, it might be a bit tricky to get back on to the asphalt when you got small tires. Nipi shuddered thinking about the effort of balancing the car when a truck with full load should come from the opposite direction.
Bataknese songs were filling the cabin endlessly. Sometimes it was one of those traditional types, sometimes it sounded like a song that drunkards would dance to. Nipi looked at the thumb drive that was plugged into the audio player in despair. The air conditioner was on full force. The back of the cabin acted as a wind trap with all of the windows open. The smoke from their cigarettes whirled around. It was romantic.
A series of wooden houses lined up beside the road. They looked empty save for a man in worn out clothing, sitting at the terrace of one of the houses, staring towards the road with his empty gaze. Up the hill, there was a wooden church with dusty doors, and further down the road there was a small mosque with an aluminum dome. The places where people tried to find meanings and justifications for their existence.
Nipi sucked his cigarette. Those were the places where people tried to find solace from the pain inflicted by lies. He smiled at the paradox within his mind.
Suddenly Eben turned his body and looked at Nipi “Anyway, have you remembered me yet?
“My brother married your cousin, that’s why we can call each other lae.
“What do you do by the way?
“What are you going to do in Mandor?
“Shall we stop by for a cup of coffee?”
Nipi had lost track of their one way conversation. Eben had been blabbering about his bullshits since they left the gate of the school.
“Ok” Nipi replied.
The man who drove the car, the one whose name Nipi had forgotten, was silent.