Wednesday came fast tonight. Time for some more microfiction.
This one is part of a mosaic narrative I’m working on. It suffers from the lack of past tenses that French would provide for it. Proust got lucky in that way. I hope you can make some sense of it.
Riau in the Eye of the Day
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair — Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats
I’ll love you forever, she never said. In richness and in wealth, for better or else. How could we speak the law we live? Truth is Ugliness and Ugliness Truth; more than we imagine. Keats, you are salt to wounds. Yes, all I do is quote. At a banquet, do you pass the plate that is offered to you or vomit up your own half-digested thoughts?
Kinski says [the jungle] is full of erotic elements. It’s not so much erotic, but full of obscenity, Werner Herzog spoke from deep in the jungle. Nature here is vile and base. Asphyxiation and choking, fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. The trees are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing; they just screech in pain. It’s the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder. It’s not that I hate it. I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.
I can see you are in pain, she might have said but didn’t. You need someone. That someone cannot be me. Come to bed. Of course I went — an infinite amount of times. In the absence of love, the silent freeway is less burdensome.
The warmth of the sun, the waves on the pier, Tiger beer on my tongue and the innocent orangutan gnawing on my fingers. It’s over now and I’m sitting on a pier in the Riau. The purring archipelago yawns and stretches out toward Indonesia, where somewhere there is a hut with the girl who couldn’t be. Inside the hut, under mosquito nets, with her long legs and saltwater, she is sleeping. She is not dreaming of me. Meet me in Bali, she said. Of course I went.
Bintan lies in the heart of the Riau, an island no more than an outrigger reach from Singapore. Yes, ship to Surabaya, I take you, the withered man assures me. He shows me his pistol and grins rotted teeth. The warmth of the sun, the wailing of prayers, the bite in my mouth from the heat of the peppers of Nasi Lemak. It will be three days on the Java Sea to Jakarta, then a bus on a boat to Bali. And then…? And then…?
I did not crash in Kuala Lumpur for her. I came for Malacca, for the Hikayat of Hang Tuah, for the blood-soaked keris of Hang Jebat and deadly betrayal of his closest friend. They dissipated like heat mirages on the Straits and suddenly meant nothing. In KL, I wrote to her from an internet café. Love to see you again. Could not put the word “I” in my own sentences. Meet me in Bali, she wrote.
Long before, we had been sitting too long in a café in Copenhagen, her flight waiting, snow and wind against the glass, spiced wine between us. That and the smell of her hair. Hot places are happy places, she said. Ring me if you drop by my neck of the woods, hey? The freeze in the air, the shuttering glass, the dull of the wine, and her walking away. If we disappear into an infinite moment when we die, this is where I will go.
On the tanker to Sunda Kelapa, the ghosts won’t leave me alone. They take my sleeping to be a desperate cry for attention. They want to shake my hand in the toilet. Longnose! Where are you going? Three aeons on the tanker to Sunda Kelapa.
The sun is now rising over Ubud. Bali is dancing for matahari, the eye of the day. Children play soccer in the graveyard. Carnivorous lizards writhe up from the marketplace. It is always morning in Bali. I am always drawing back the mosquito nets.
Indonesian friends who treated me well, no I won’t tell you about them. Not now. Not with her lost to me for the rest of my life. How can you love a thing that brings you only pain? I’m losing all the countries of the world.
I don’t want to hear about it, she said. The maddening wind and snow outside her bedroom window, the trembling candlelight, the hyggelig Danish gløgg. You jaw on your past like it’s some kind of kino. She pulled her jumper. It’s not cool, hey? Nick off now, my shof’s gone wonky.
What the hell are you even saying? I laughed.
I quieted and held my mouth shut.
I’m still in the Riau. Even now on the pier, in the warmth, with the Tiger. I’ll always be there if you need to reach me. I don’t believe the orange ape child will ever stop chewing down the remnants of my hand.