Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Girl With A Suitcase

The girl with a suitcase stands on Jalan Tirtodipuran; Ibus and Mbaks come limping out of tiny warungs, whose Monet-blue tarps flap in the wind, whipping up clouds of tiny thoughts blasted from volcano lids, like popcorn hitting the udders of docile cows, munching in mangers outside the ring road - Pop! Pop! Pop!

The girl with a suitcase waits and waits. Becaks flail past, wheels fall off, passengers tip out into gutters of slime, falling into murky memories or stepping into new smiles, new tandem possibilities of glamourous gliding, bicycle fashion and faux fez.

The girl with a suitcase waits and waits and when she can wait no more falls backwards and sleeps the moon hours in an old mans becak, brushing his leathery skin, hands hanging off his gnarled old knees, her head in his lap, snoring together, chests rising together, hiccoughing the night air in gulps, in glances, in guffaws, in grabs, in gripes, in great sighs of world weary wonderment, the girl falls into her place of sleep.

The girl with a suitcase shifts and wriggles, writhes and rolls, rabbits and ricochets off the sides of becak driver’s dreams as they toss and tumble their way along Jalan Tirtodipuran, Jalan Prawirotaman, Jalan Parangtitus, Jalan Mantrijeron,  Jalan Gading, Jalan Nyadi Suryan, Jalan Taman, Jalan Polowijan, Jalan Rotowijayan, jalan jalan, jalan jalan.

The girl with a suitcase takes out a map from her brown leather bag and with a click and clack and a shove of gold button to the left, to the right, she lays it down on the dreams of the Pak as he calls out the places and directions –kiri, kiri, kanan, kanan, tirus, tirus, tirus, tirus…
…. past the big hotel, the grand hotel, the small hotel, the love hotel, the divorce hotel, the gay hotel, the hot water hotel, the rude staff hotel, the my best friend hotel, the rip you off hotel, the make a mistake hotel, the laughing hotel, the weeping hotel, the last hotel, the murder hotel, the stuck up Dutch postcard hotel, the art hotel, the Padang hotel, the soft hotel, the too smooth hotel, the psychic hotel, the dukun hotel, the watch you sleep hotel, the never again hotel.

The girl with a suitcase drives the map and pedals the miles as the becak Mas, the becak Pak sleeps his leathery-long-old-dog sleep, curling his hide into the vinyl seat and drifting his snooze into mudguard landscapes, the ones he painted long ago when his sagging muscles were young and strong. The old Pak sleeps his dream into the blue green haze of the mountain scape; he snoozes his sleep by day, by night, by moon, by sun - into the cool green jungle plain that leads up the slope to the fiery lava top that spurts the blinding fog ash all about, that sends the pale gouache across the valley into his dream, like a cooling mist, hot and cold at the same time.

The girl with a suitcase pedals fast. She has the reins, she is the unctious rider, the peddelo, the panting proud pixie. She pedals, he floats; through the back streets, across the front streets, silently sweeping the sadness away, turning melancholy into a bliss bomb, blasting thru the sad sorry state of waiting, waiting. Exploding nongkrong, inveigling the murderous possibilities of past parochialism, not pining anymore for the one that got away…

The girl with a suitcase careers, carouses, carougles, calloigles, carrots, crayfishes, co-edits, co-imposes, co-opts her way through all the jalans, banyak jalans, gliding through the chinese quarter, the warung quarter, the batik quarter, the nong krong quarter, the kraton quarter, she flies, she flits, she flops, she unders the old Dutch gateway standing white like a Hansel and Gretel house, she overs the old Dutch gateway,  she enters the Kraton, she flies down the small streets, she floats along the big streets, like the queen of becaks she navigates, negotiates, neotates, nicobates, the home run, the last leg, the lost lump, the leonine line and arrives!  She arrives, he arrives at the proud gate of the water castle, the Taman Sari, the place of the royal blue water pools - the Sultan’s ponds, where from the tower he chooses with which wife he will spend the next day, the next night; from the thirty-nine wives in the big blue pool, who frolic and float and bathe and cool, collapsed in joy, in tears of love, in lasting bliss, in confusion, in craftiness, in competition, in caring, in consideration, in comfort, in gladness, for their lives, for their lives.

The girl with a suitcase wakes up in a blue green pool with thirty-nine wives and wonders; where is the Sultan?  Which one is he? Which era? Which year? Is he the handsome one, the artistic one, the gentle one, the cruel one, the fat one, the skinny one, the ugly one, the perverse one, the I like young boys one, the pious one, the overly religious one…

The girl with a suitcase, opens her suitcase wide, with a click and a clack and a shove of gold button, to the left, to the right, and like a magician’s assistant brings out gifts for the wives; lipstick and eau de cologne, eyeglasses, koala bear key chains and other useful things.

The girl with a suitcase lays it down beside the blue pool and while her old becak Pak sleeps at the castle gate, she dips and dives, floating front and back, she rolls into her place in the cool aqua blue, splashing and greeting and welcomed and smiled at, she wonders up at the sky with a new found feminine grace, and asks,

‘Will he choose me?’

(c) Jan Cornall 2012

 Glossary of Indonesian terms

Jalan Tirtodipuran - famous street in Yogjakarta’s hotel area.
Ibu - Mrs, mother respectful term for older woman.
Mbak - Miss, respectful term for younger woman.
warung - makeshift shop or restaurant.
becak - cycle rickshaw, with open carriage at the front, rider at the back.
fez - or peci in Indonesia - felt hat worn by Islamic men.
Pak - Mr, father, respectful term for older man.
Mas - Mr, brother,  respectful term for  younger man.
kiri - left.
kanan- right.
tirus - straight ahead, direct.
dukun - shaman.
nonkrong - hanging out, doing nothing.
jalan - street.
banyak - many.
kraton - royal palace district.
Taman Sari - the Water Castle, eighteenth century bathing quarters for the Sultan and his 39 wives, now a tourist heritage site.

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