It is not the same anymore. Time has run its course on it, just like it has on me. Philodendrons have snuck out through the two darkened window sills above the crescent hollowness of the wooden wall. As I look in the calm water from this end, a terrified skull looks back at me; a ghost of something yet to live. As twilight descends he carries me on his rigid arms like a couple of adolescents in love. I catch a glimpse of his hoary face. Time has not been kind to him either. But his eyes have the spark of a young man. A passionate man.
There was no other way into the log house front but through the pond. He could maybe use a decaying plank as a bridge, but Anwar liked to keep the cabin a secret. Mystery has always been my aphrodisiac. Anwar has been careful to tell me just enough, until I’m at the fine edge between arousal and paranoia. Even after all these years, he has not lost his enigmatic charm. Time moved slower with every step he took while my loins ached for his rugged touch. I wish he would take me right inside the pond as our bodies entangle in grapevines on the mossy silt bed. But he makes me wait for it, seducing me with his virile stench and silence. My tresses, old but thick, cascade down into the black water. The rest of me remains dry and safe within the sanctity of his arms.
We finally reach the cabin. It is darker than I remember. Anwar gently places me on the cushion and lights a scented candle. Wild mushrooms have paved their way between the framed pictures on the walls, protecting them from rain through the ceiling pores. I wouldn’t have guessed he would keep these pictures. They were taken in Bali. One has to agree that I did look particularly ravishing in the polka dotted bikini. Anwar walks towards it and pulls out his shirt. Water runs from the tip of his hair through the valley between his chiselled back. Of all people I know that he has been busy with his spades and rakes. And it clearly shows. Apart from a little bulge on his lower sides, he is as taut as he used to be. I cannot take my eyes off of him. He knows that. He pushes his hair back with his fingers and leans forward. I feel a little tingle between my legs. Anwar holds the frame from both sides, his brawny arms flexing enticing curves, and licks the glass- first my legs, then my buttocks, ending at my face. The tingle caves in deeper. He rattles the picture off the wall and slowly places it behind my head.
“You haven’t aged a day Fitri!” he says.
There he stands, the perfect man. Frizzy hair glides down his chest bush and into his pelvis. His face holds the scars of battles he fights every day, hiding a once handsome face. He slowly palms my cheeks and strokes it with his thumb. The tingle burrows through my insides.
“Why won’t you just take me?!” I scream in my mind.
But he has other things planned. He brings a mouldy towel and dries my hair with it. I look into his eyes and realise that his love has always been pure. Unlike the man I was forced to marry- Farrell, the curse of my youth. I had wronged Anwar. I wish I could tell him how scared I was back then. I wish there is some way he could know that it was not his fault. It was mine. But it’s too late now. He has suffered alone. And accepted me despite everything. I promise myself that no one will come between us now. Not my father. Not my husband. Not god.
“Stay right here. I’ll be back” he says and disappears into the darkness.
I look through the broken wall to find the festive lights and chants being rumbled. It was clever of Anwar to elope with me today. I’m sure nobody noticed us. Everyone in Toraja, including my husband, is too busy with the ‘Rambu solo’ ceremony.
More than the beaches and islands, I’ve found “Ma’nene” to be the most fascinating thing about Indonesia. This tradition of excavation and reburial of deceased loved ones makes me believe in an eternal bond. An endless love. My mother called it teenage naiveté. But Anwar proved her wrong. And I right.
The festivities eventually fade in the distance and once again a soothing silence befalls. Dusk slowly dies and I am left waiting in the company of an intoxicating candle. Frogs croak in a meticulous rhythm while herons cry in harmony. The smell of fresh cypress and buttonwood reminds me of days forgotten. I could not have asked for a better day and time to be with him. Our reunion is a testament to the undying togetherness that this day is symbolic of. Only the two of us, against the world.
“Look what I have”
I find him holding a ceramic box with engravings in blue. He sits close to my face and allows himself a coy smile. The box says Fitri. He opens the box and shows me its contents. At the very first look I recognise it. My array of makeup accessories and herbal oils are in it. Anwar brushes off what seemed to be spider appendages from the rose lipstick and applies it on me. He proceeds to paint my face with items whose purpose he is ignorant of. I do not stop him. The child-like innocence in his happiness is too precious. As his face moves towards mine I feel his hot breath. The tingle will eat me whole.
“There….. So beautiful!”
The sun, after slowly immersing into the water, draws a white dotted curtain over the cabin. His eyes sparkle even more brilliantly against the moonlit radiance and I fall deeper in his well of love. He and I both sense that the time has come. The time to quench the long burning fire. I lie there still, wide-eyed and awestruck, as he reveals his natural self. The aroma of his manhood seeps into my senses and leaves me begging for his taste. But I cannot, for he is in control today. He gently opens my mouth and slowly plunges himself in. I let go in sweet surrender. The tingle has ruined me.
I am afraid that this moment might be taken away from me. I moan, partly in pleasure and partly in fear. The speed of his thrusts steadily increases. The fullness in my mouth distracts me from the figures I think I see, lurking outside the log house. My heart races as he plummets deep in my throat, and then it stops, abruptly, at the sight of a hurrying silhouette on the mushroom walls. It races and stops, and then races ever so swiftly, to stop again. Faster and faster, it pounds and pumps and fills me with warmth elapsed, to stop again at whispers I swear I hear. I want to tell him that I am frightened, that we are not alone. But he looks at me, reads the dread in my eyes, and reassures me.
“Don’t worry dear; it’s nothing, probably just a feasting snake. Trust me; even cooked those frogs aren’t easy on the jaws.”
And so I give into him. He commences with his invasion. The thick hair at his base smells of hard work. I try to drift away in his raw flavour, but I fail to focus. The thump of footsteps hides beneath his moans. Not one, but many. Yes! I hear them clearly now. I try to pull back, but he seems to be enjoying too much. Besides, nobody knows about this place. We weren’t followed either. But my instincts have never been wrong. There is someone, or something out there. And I need to let Anwar know. As I decide to stop him, his motion reaches a point of no return. He shoves himself deep and holds my head steady as he empties inside my oesophagus.
I lie there, ecstatic and disoriented. For a moment I forget about everything and yearn for more. His semen oozes through the corner of my rosy lips. I try to utter words that I previously wanted to say, whose meaning is obscure to me at present. But I choke on them. And eventually embrace this balminess. As he turns his back to me in order to recuperate, an icy thought expands in my brain. The footsteps are actually real. Perhaps Anwar is involved with them, and that’s why he doesn’t want to acknowledge their presence. Maybe he hasn’t forgiven me and all of this was his plan to extract revenge. They’ll use me to fulfil their sadistic desires and then drown me in this pond. My heart doesn’t want to believe it, for his eyes don’t show hate. Only love.
“Your turn” he says as he parts my legs. My mind hesitates whereas the tingle seeks relief. He gradually pushes inside me and releases a rushed moan. I tremble at his might. I attempt to be strong with every fibre of my being. In the end I grow feeble to my toes. He rests his weight on mine and leans onto my mouth. With his eyes, unflinching, gazing back in mine he softly says,
“I love you so damn much”
I eliminate the thought of his betrayal. Those eyes could not have lied. I’m certain that there is something out there. But I don’t care anymore. I palpitate at every thrust. My heart grows weak. My pupils roll back for I might go mad at the sight of anything unusual. He throbs and throbs as I lose power over myself. There is not a thing I can fathom, yet there’s nothing I can complain of. I explode from within beneath the pangs of this ethereal pleasure. This might be the sin I’ll gladly return to hell for. My hell is other people. And I’m used to burning.
He wears down, gasping for breath. He reaches my lips and kisses me. I let him rest on my breasts while I play with his hair. The candle weakens. I wait for it to go out before we can retire peacefully in each other’s arm. The pictures bring back a lot of good times. I browse through them across the wall. There are the ones from when we went to Bali after we graduated. And Sumatra and Java. The right side of the wall were of Misool. A cool breeze blows past the philodendrons and clears the way for moonlight. The glass surface of the pictures catches the subtle glimmer of moonshine and shows me my face. The gorgeous face of a girl in her 20’s and a wrinkly oldie exchange glances. I squint to inspect my face. But I witness my fear taking form!
Behind me stand two men. One of them seems to have a rope and the other an iron rod. Somehow I try to warn Anwar. But my throat feels dry and limbs numb. Before I can do anything one of them raises the rod and cracks his skull open. Blood gushes out on my face and inside my mouth. The warm liquid flows down and coats my parched throat. Blood regurgitates as I try to scream. Anwar doesn’t say anything. He sits on his knees with a confused look in his eyes. He doesn’t understand this cruelty. He only feels pain.
“Bastard!” the man with the rod screams.
He found us, that wretched man! I promised I wouldn’t let anyone come between us. But I couldn’t keep it. Farrell, that unholy swine has come to separate us yet again.
“Let’s take him outside” the other man says, “We’ll take care of her later”
The two men drag Anwar through the backside. I sit there lifeless- my body bound in an invisible shackle. One holds Anwar still while the other pounds on his skull with the rod. His screams are muffled underneath the force of the bloody object. The rod sinks deeper with every blow, until there isn’t anything left to pound on. His insides slowly meander into the blackness of the pond. All I see is a shrivelled lump where his face used to be. They throw the body into the water. I stare back at a little shape of mass on his shoulders drowning. “You failed me” it seemed to say. I will never understand the reason of his suffering. I want to tell him that I am sorry. But he is gone now. I couldn’t even tell him how much I’ve loved him. And how much I still do.
“So….what now Farrell?”
“I’ll take her, you get rid of everything.” my husband answered.
“Be careful with her Farrell, nobody can find out about this. It’ll tarnish your reputation.”
He ties me and picks me up. He knows I won’t fight it. I’ve nothing left to fight for. He has taken from me my most treasured possession. He takes me to his cursed mansion and puts me in my bed. He cleans the blood off my face and wipes it with a warm cloth. The look in his eyes reminds me of the devil. Caressing my forehead he whispers dark incantations. His smug face reeks of pleasure. Back in our cabin, our photos, the only sign of Anwar and our love, are being burnt. Somewhere at the bottom of the pond his body is being eaten by algae, and his brains slurped by hungry toads.
Perhaps there’s more left for us in an afterlife- a lovely wedding, beautiful children and a cabin over-looking the sea.
“Forgive me for what I did and for what I could not prevent” Farrell says.
I do not retort. I know he’ll pay. I’m certain of it!
“I know I could never say this to you, but I loved you, more than you ever knew” he says.
His love is a joke to me. My heart belongs to Anwar. It always has. It always will.
“Good bye Fitri”
He puts one of my old pictures inside my bed. He calls a few servants and instructs them to arrange all my things properly for the ceremony- my books, my watches, my shoes and my soul. I think about my love, my Anwar, before I see the light for the last time. They sprinkle perfume over my decade old corpse before shutting my bed from the top. Rambu solo awaits.