No matter how far you go
My wife and I had made a plan after seeing Borobudur and Prambanan temples on the Thursday, that we would upgrade our room to one with a shower for Friday night. Included with this plan, was the idea to buy a package that consisted of a Saturday morning mini bus to Mt. Bromo, a room at Cafe Lava guest house, a wake up call for 3:00 a.m. where, consequently, we'd hike up to the top of the mountain to watch the sun rise over the Mt. Bromo's dormant volcanoe at 6:00 a.m. After our descent and breakfast, we'd be put on a chartered bus taking us to the island of Bali, specifically the town of Lovina where it has beaches of not white, but midnight black sand and waves, allegedly, perfect for beginner surfers. This was going to cost us roughly, $35 CDN each.
Having all of friday with no plans, Jennie and I decided to sign up for a silversmithing course in a community completely devoted to silversmiths and their beautiful homes. This idea seemed to fit us perfectly due to the decision we made to leave our wedding rings in Canada. We were afraid of them getting stolen or losing them in the sand or while snorkelling. I was afraid of attracting scads of women if I were to fail to wear my ring, but Jennie assured me it wasn't a problem. At all.
So with this grand idea of somehow pouring scalding, liquid silver on my face (because that is the most probable outcome) we set off by taxi (taksi) to another neighbourhood of Jogyjakarta to sign up.
Then, idling at a red light in a comfortable air conditioned cab, counting bills in my head, calculating costs, playing with my brand new video camera, watching Jennie play with her digital SLR, it happened.
First I watched an old man start at the first car, they were stopped like us at the red light. He was holding out his arms to the drivers window (right hand drive vehicles). His elbows and wrists barely extended but his disabled fingers couldn't. I assumed at least arthritis but it had punished and invaded his entire body without compassion. The tinted window of the vehicle lowered and an immature, indefectable arm extended out, holding a few coins. With comparative precision, the young hand stretched, without pain, and slid the coins between the old mans contorted knuckles. He tried more than twice at least, while hobbling to the next car window to slide the coins into his pocket. His face was submissive and he wasn't even frustrated that his fingers weren't doing as they were told, so he used his lips instead.
The next car was the same, and so was the next.
He made his way to my window and, pathetically, I bowed my head. I pretended that my video camera had a problem and that that problem was more important and was owed more attention than his. I didn't look at Jennie, I couldn't. All I could think was, damn man, you are a gutless prick.
I kept my head down, and only lifted it because of a sound on my window. The man had passed, I thought, I had watched him move onto the next car down the line. I looked out the window and a face looked back at me. Not the old man's face of which was wrinkled and leathered; but both had the same eyes.
These eyes were young, not old like the last, but they possessed the same look of surrender. I studied them and they studied me. They were large and intensely brown. Around the eyelids had already began to form wrinkles and caught in these wrinkles was a yellow colored crust. I told myself they weren't dried tears, and I hope I still beleive it. I was frozen. The boys eyes haunted me instantly. I looked at his hands and they were cupped together, bowl shaped, resting just beneath his chin. I looked back to his eyes and they terrified me. My fingers twitched as they held my camera and I fought the urge to be gutless again. I told myself that I'd better make a decision and I'd better stick to it, whatever the decision may be. He called out in Bahasa and my throat tightened and my body found a way to sweat in my comfortable air conditioned taxi. As I sat up, looked down at my bag to find my wallet the light turned green and the cab began to pull away. We drove through the intersection and around the corner. With every metre we drove I hoped that the boys image would fade.
I doubt that's going to happen no matter how far I drive.