Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Musician

I had kind of forgotten about a fairly new place down the street from my house - a collection of various food booths featuring all the classic Indonesian dishes - lalapan, bakso, mie goreng, nasi campur, babi guling, ayam betutu, and so on - but I suddenly remembered the place on my way home from Sanur this evening, probably because my stomach was rumbling from hunger. I've not been eating much at all lately - trying to lose weight, you know, and convinced that the loss would also help my back pain. But the thought of a nice plate of ayam lalapan was just too much to resist.

Now, these places are totally Indo places, open only at night and frequented only by locals. The entry of a bule - a foreigner - elicits an instant, keen interest - as if one has accidentally walked onto a stage during the course of a play. Everybody waits to see what this new character will do.

Finding the lalapan booth, I had a seat and was immediately joined by a middle-aged fellow who spoke some English. He was kind enough to order for me and make sure everything was satisfactory, although, by-and-by, he learned that I spoke Indonesian anyway. 

So we had an interesting conversation. It seems that he had lived for a time in Florida and worked as a guitar player in a salsa band. However, he suffered a stroke of some kind that left him unable to use his left arm and damaged his brain to some extent. Sound familiar? Well, it sure did to me, with my bum right arm and my own hazy brain. 

Sometimes I forget many things, he said. Just simple things. Like, I forget to lock the door when I leave the house. Or close the door. Or I park my motorbike somewhere, and then--

And then you can't find it again, right?


So we had some things in common. 

I can't walk well, and I can't use my arm, and I can't think quite right, but I do my best. I try to do whatever I can. 


I had a wife, he explained, but I lost her. She left me. Now we are divorced. She lives in Jakarta. 

Sorry, I say. Was it because of your health?

I don't know. And a child too. A boy. Five years old. That is very hard. Sometimes I feel depressed. 

I guess life is like that. It's the same everywhere, for every people, in every country. Sometimes we feel depressed. Sometimes we are challenged by difficulties we did not imagine or ask for. Sometimes it's good to talk, even to a stranger, for he may soon become no longer a stranger. 

Finishing my lalapan while my new friend went to help at another booth, I paid my bill and passed by his table. We clasped hands. I put my free hand on his shoulder. 

Semoga semuanya akan bertambah baik, Bapak. Tuhan berkatimu. 

I hope things will be better for you. God bless you. 

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