It was a small place, like a center of a town in some old cowboy movies. A town which is consisted of scattered houses, standing miles away from each other, empty, with one or two bodies around them, basking under the sun, wet with sweat, grinded under the chores of life, with every movement, striving to assert their existence. I was half hoping that it was not for naught. I was half joking. I sensed sarcasm within my own thoughts. At the town center however, old wooden houses and stores gathered. I wasn’t sure if it was the remnant of what it was, or whether it was how it had always been. I heard stories of decay from people along the way, from other parts of the region. I was expecting the same pattern, augmented.
The notoriety of the places that we would visit usually reached us with every question that we had asked. It would be a lie to say that our heads weren’t filled with assumptions. We came in from a corner, with the riders, stopped right in the middle of an opening surrounded by those wooden buildings. They might as well served us on a stake to be butchered by some of those red eyed men in the coffee shops. It was a hot midday; I wasn’t feeling particularly happy about everything. We had encountered some sharks at the station and at the market in the nearby town. People with the insatiable urge to eat others. Not that it surprised or dismayed me; it’s just that it was bluntly expressed.
After multitudes of rejections, we began to lose our temper. The merchants, the government officials, workers, people, they hate questions, questions that might tickle the life as they know it. And then there was the bargain with the thugs… I swore a lot, I could’ve hurt someone. A hot day, filled with unfriendly faces, we had a uselessly lengthy argument, in front of a store, with the riders regarding their payment. A woman chimed in with her own version of wisdom, saying in the local dialect, that we were extorting the riders, and that they should be able to get more, since we were apparently there on a project. From the perspective of an ordinary Indonesian, project means money. Money means leakage. Lots and lots of it. Her voice was loud and irritating.
The crowd gathered, old men, bulky men, children, nosy women, it was infuriating. We exchanged heated words, the pressure escalated. We decided to silence them by giving them the chance to gain more by doing additional tasks for us. It was difficult to be in the middle, it was difficult to be someone who understood both perspectives while both sides were accusing each other. It was difficult to see, that in the end, we were all rats. We left the crowd. I walked to find the rendezvous point, through the clearing towards a row of food sellers, with quickened phase. Around us eyes staring. I looked straight towards their direction, murmured through my gritted teeth: “come and eat us, muttheads! We’re here for the ripples on your sullied river of gold.”