Brown Waters Pt. 6

Am I happy?

I don’t know, I’m not so sure…

Why should I be?

This new LED TV in a fresh box sticking up to my back, kept in place by my sister’s eager hands. Is this the reason for my happiness?

This new scooter, whose down payment I shared with mom, and now on its ninth installment, is this the reason for my happiness?

On this road now, near the outskirt of the town, bumpy road, a mix of dirt and asphalt and holes, half a kilometer from home.

It’s not a big one, but it’s mighty perfect to replace that bulbous tube that our mother had kept as her sole company. Black line has been covering the lower half of its screen, the remote works, sometimes, the buttons on the TV to replace the function of the remote are somewhere inside that damned. It has reminded us of how hopeless we are. It occupies the room… the living room that doubles as the kitchen. Now mother tries to sell it for its original price. She bought it, she came home one day with two men from the shop, she told us that she had sold a lot of clothes, and she wanted to enjoy her success. It was, and, I guess, still is, the materialization of her pride.

And so there it was. It wasn’t our first TV, but it was better than the second hand units that the old man had brought home and slammed after a few months because they were so bad. Even the repairmen shook their heads.

Will my mother be happy now? I don’t think she cares much, other than the fact that she will be able to watch again, she will be able to put aside all of those worries, those pesky distraction called painful life. TV, it’s the one and only form of entertainment, it’s like an immunity system that allows us to keep our sanity.

My sister on the other hand is delighted.

She has been working as a shopkeeper at a store near the market not more than a kilometer from our house. She is a spender, and I guess will always be. But the thought of replacing the old TV set has come to show that she too can be frugal. She readily agreed to share the payment. I thought it might take more effort to educate her about saving resources for another bigger purpose.

All is good I guess. They have this TV, they have this scooter, they are living a normal life like the rest of the people around them.

I will return to the plantation feeling content, I guess I am happy, for the time being.

Am I happy about my job? I don’t know. Besides all the paperwork, the neck breaking preparation for the meetings with investors, the nagging boss who is also my uncle, all is fine I guess.

The camp is not that bad, friends are there, friends who have become my sisters and my enemies. Nosy and inquisitive, with mouths as noisy a farm-load of ducks. Well I guess that’s just how it should be. All I can do is to keep my self from being caught in the middle.

The camp is near the edge of the plantation, adjacent to the office complex, and according to some people, about 2 hours from civilization, worse if it rains.

Do I feel lonely?

No, we have TV sets that are connected to satellite dishes. We have internet connection where we stay, the company’s facility I guess, we can do video calls with it. The guys always come to our camp, and I mean always. They bring food, the bring movies, they bring in the pastors, they even throw parties sometimes, those are for the girls they like of course. But they have to keep the rest of the camp happy if they want to get on with their business.

Nobody has come near me. Well. there were a couple of guys, but they backed off once they knew about my uncle. It’s everywhere, the notion that I am being kept here. He has a son who is working in a larger plantation owned by a huge national company.

I’ve seen that guy, a few times too many. Stocky built, too many nutrition I guess. Dandy appearance every time he makes an appearance. Tight, long sleeved polyester shirts with catchy colors, pants that seems like gloves around his fat feet, and shiny, squeaky clean shoes with long noses. I mean, he works in a plantation.

Graduated from Yogyakarta, I don’t know which campus, his way of speaking is noticeably different from the way people speak around him. It’s even different from the way the Javanese people here speak. It seems that he does it on purpose, to look different perhaps? To separate himself from the flock?

When he first came to the camp, he came with some of his men, invading the terrace. He spoke of standard things that men say to sway women. I remember some of the things that he said, especially the promises, promises that he made on the first day we met, of how I shouldn’t work again if we were to be together, of a big car for the whole family, of the trip to Japan and the Netherland, of opening a supermarket, my supermarket.

Women should remember the promises that men have made, said my mother, so you know whether you should suffer of be happy. I can’t say I understand what she meant. I remember her yelling at father too many times, perhaps she wasn’t happy, perhaps she has never felt happiness. I don’t blame her though. Something had to be done to that living corpse we once called father, yelling didn’t seems effective.

Yet he was my father once…

He was warm once. He was there, helping me with my homework, giving me advice, he was my friend. A quiet but funny man. He drifted away. Gradually, it seemed that he wanted us to hate him. I don’t understand.

Sometimes I think that mother had taught me to hate him, she taught us to to hate him. Until we believe that we hate him.The day we saw his cold body in front of the house. We weren’t sure what to do with it.

If only he was here right now, he might have something to say about this guy.

He smoked too much. I miss him.


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