Brown Waters Pt. 10

She walks across the room, with determined steps. Nine or ten years old perhaps, with the thermos hanging on her left hand and a stack of rantang on her right. She walks alone. Where are her parents?

Perhaps she is here to visit one of them. Hopefully one of them. I just can’t bear to think of the possibility that she is here for both of her parents.

People are everywhere, filling seats along the walls of this great hall. Busy talking to each other, busy minding their own business. Busy with emptiness.

And she strides as if she were the only animated life in this cold building. I can’t really assess her emotion, she shows none of it. Chillingly it crept into my consciousness.

Has she been groomed by pain?

She passes in front of me, alone, purposeful, and then disappears behind the alley.

For some children, the hospital is a school. It’s a crash course where you learn how to react and adapt towards the development before you. It doesn’t really matter whether you understand the lesson or not. What matters is how you can function within certain particular circumstances, the promises behind hopelessness, and the death of loved ones. On certain days, you’ll also learn about recuperation, endurance, and the hardiness of souls.

The children become sages. Sometimes, the adults around them rely on them for comfort, for assurance, for a tiny hope for tomorrow.

My wife is still talking with those people, our distant relatives. We have said our parting words ten minutes ago, but being an emotional person herself, I’m afraid she will tell them that she will stay here, accompanying and consoling them. I need her today, the only day where I can have respite after spending the entire weekdays swallowing other people’s nonsense.

The mother of the family is in one the room. I saw her hooked up to the machine that seems to force her to breathe, sustaining her life. We can see it in everyone’s eyes, she doesn’t have a lot of life left in her.

Her husband is sitting against the wall of the room where his wife is being kept, patiently accepting guests and words of encouragement, some of which were dryly expressed without the effort of concealing the obvious. He is old, and weary. I’ve never met him before, but exhaustion is clearly visible.

Their son is in the family room, opening a package of Padang rice, ready to eat. A young man in his twenties, I heard that he is still struggling with jobs. My wife said that they had another child, a daughter who married a man of low status in some random places far from this city. I heard that the marriage was against their will, and the the daughter fell sick and died soon after. I heard that the grandson is kept away from her family, and that the husband is about to marry another woman.

I can feel their pain, but I need my wife now.


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