"Couldnt you simply admit that the mirror got broken when you dropped my
backpack, instead of refusing to accept responsibility?"
These were Sebastian's fateful words, the terrible seeds of a
quick-growing quarrel that took root in Room One at Tukumbukeghe Motel... sprouted at the
Safari Lodge Restaurant... and spread into monstrous proportions in the town of Karonga.
"If sure, of course I say sorry. But I'm not sure I did like that.
Maybe broken on the bus ride, Sebastian."
Yayuk's defense, though plausible, failed to convince her accuser,
who was less upset about the nominal damage than about Ms. Kertanegara's
"personality flaw," citing the present instance as indicative of her
"often-demonstrated penchant for shifting the blame"—usually onto
him—"because she was pathologically loathe to admit her mistakes."
"Just for once, a simple, graceful apology would be nice. Why
cant you ever do that?"
"Dont push, Sebastian. Always you push me, make me wrong.
All I do is wrong. You never appreciate how I try. You never are satisfied unless I do
everything you want, everything you say."
Since when did paying a woman's expenses give any man the right to
dictate her behavior? Sebastian seemed to think that his niggardly cash-flow bought
Yayuk's loyalty, devotion, obedience, and acquiescence to being fictionalized in his
all-important book... while he cited her, in turn, for "chronic ingratitude."
Furthermore, she cast doubts on his ability to provide, a role he had taken on only
because her poverty left him no option. Within admittedly humble means, he was giving her
experiences most people would remember and cherish for a lifetime. The least she could do
was say "thank you" now and then—in lieu of "busting his balls" with
her "petty emotional grievances."
"So cruel, your tongue, Sebastian. Your words like thorns."
He had kept at her, reviving his psychoanalysis during
dinner—throughout which Ms. Kertanegara quietly wept. She was "spoiled"; she
"couldnt accept constructive criticism"; she "gauged everything
against an almost pompous standard, to which no one measured up, least of all
him"—said litany of complaints wrapping Yayuk tighter and tighter.
"Shut up!" she finally exploded. "Shut your nasty
By this stage they were back in their motel room, Sebastian under a
mosquito net, Yayuk preferring to cry herself to sleep on the opposite
bed—broodingly—feeling more alone, unloved, and isolated than ever before, confused
her companion's relentless harassment...
"Would you please come
under here? Youre jeopardizing your health, wallowing in that pool of childish
... frustrated by always being at a verbal
disadvantage, her English insufficient to explain, or even to defend herself properly...
"If life with me is so
miserable, go back to Indonesia."
... hating him, despising him for uttering that
ultimate threat, to send her packing like a piece of used-up garbage, dishonoring her
love, her commitment, insulting her very essence.
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" she screamed then attacked,
clawing aside the mosquito net, sinking her nails wherever—having lost all
control—striking back the only way she could by clutching Sebastian's throat as if
to throttle him, kicking, flailing, spitting foul invectives... as he tried to fend her
off... tried to pull back... tried to rise, steer clear of the bed, and put some space
between them... succeeding, finally, then making a break for the door... which instigated
Yayuk's worst onslaught yet, this one bent on really doing him harm, as she managed to
seize his index finger, bending it askew with such blind-rage force that Sebastian shoved
her backwards, hard, throwing her off balance, causing her to fall, with a
"THUD," to the bare concrete floor.
"Oh, pain!" Yayuk groaned instantly, as she groped the back
of her skull, then went limp in an unfeigned sprawl of semi-unconsciousness.
No sooner had Sebastian rushed to help her than he felt a huge
protuberance mushrooming from her scalp.
"Oh my God! Oh my good God, please no! This cant be
Gathering up Yayuk's twisted little body, Sebastian carried her to the
disheveled bed where he eased her down, with an empathetic grimace as her wound touched
the pillow, then off he dashed to the bathroom, returning with a dampened towel...
... which Yayuk rejected, shocked within her shock at the dimensions of
her disfigured pate, its angry throb connecting the point of impact with a noise inside
her ears—the left ear especially—rendering sound distorted, as if under water, her fury
suddenly transformed into groggy disorientation... through which she observed her
persecutor... his anguish almost comical... sobbing, as he was... embracing her
pathetically... and praying? Could the atheist be petitioning Allah Himself? Then, of a
sudden, Sebastian seemed far, far away... detached from the thick cocoon of Yayuk's inner
agony... her thoughts disassembling... her intuition predicting that death might be
near... was indeed toying with her... luring her toward the edge of some bittersweet
forgetfulness where one last step could plunge her, everlastingly, beyond this madman's
reach... this seducer and defiler... this liar and cheat... Sebastian's Fall, to
Yayuk, costlier than her own...
... kindred, in its consequence, to that of the Archangel...
... or was this Sebastian's subtext, marooned by Yuyuk's distance,
exiled to the very outskirts of Hell, where—having killed Love itself—he would suffer
infernal, unbearable isolation?
"You have to help me, Yayuk."
Was he saying something?
"I need your help. I need for you to tell me whether I should go
find a doctor or stay here."
She could see his lips moving, but whatever he was blathering failed to
filter through... or left her disinclined to comprehend... too tired to translate... besides,
hadn't she begged him to shut his mouth? Why did he go on, then, with his idiotic
"Please, Sweetie! You have to let me know how seriously
youre hurt. Talk to me, Yayuk. I cant do this alone; I really and truly need
Unable or unwilling to respond, Yayuk simply stared...
traumatically... indifferent to Sebastian's overwrought antics; let him worry...
let him cry and carry-on like a guilty child... the pounding in her brain was worrisome
enough... a strange "whooshing" sound kept time with her dull-thud
pulse... drowsiness settling in... sleep a choice she preferred to the symptoms
A massive cerebral hemorrhage!? Sebastian watched with horror as Yayuk
slipped into stupor, possibly into a coma, instigating his spate of penitential prayer:
wherein he vowed to atone, to correct his faults, to rethink his obstinate positions on
everything from disbelief in God to disrespect for matrimony, if only Yayuk would rally,
revive, and recover.
It was a rough night. Between Yayuk's intermittent moans and
Sebastian's constant ministrations, time proceeded in long-drawn drips and attenuated
drabs... until dawn at last shed light on the sweat-soaked couple.
"Im sorry," Sebastian kept murmuring, while Yayuk
looked no healthier than the dingy sea-green walls, her pallor ghastly, the bump on her
head gigantic, its ruddy flesh like an outcrop surrounded by matted hair.
After doing everything within his power to make the casualty
comfortable, Sebastian announced his plan to go for aid, first to the next-door pharmacy
where some sort of cold-pack might be available (plus some sanitary napkins), and then to
the private clinic they had seen near Karonga's bus station.
"I will always okay," Yayuk insisted bravely, none too sure
herself if her parts were fully functional. Weak, to the point of feebleness, she tried to
stand, to shuffle toward the bathroom. Sebastian hurried to accompany her, supporting her
halting progress, letting her lean against him as she settled down to pee... assisting her
off-kilter gait as she returned to the strangulated bedding.
Not in good shape, was the preliminary assessment—though Ms.
Kertanegara could walk, talk, even tender regrets for events none too clear...
Had Sebastian pushed her? Now that he was gone, she thought to herself
'good riddance.' Until, turned inside-out, her fears re-emerged. Would he abandon her? She
was hurt. How badly, was the issue. Enough for her to worry she might be permanently
Could she rely on him, then? Could he be trusted, after doing what he did with so little
provocation... knocking her down like that... using his superior strength and size to win
a measly argument? For surely they had argued. About what? About his acting like a bully.
About his driving her berserk with his unfounded charges. It was his unscrupulous
character that needed to reform.
Sebastian was a long time
returning, due to an attendant at the pharmacy directing him, by a rather circuitous
route, to the clinic, where—with typical mzungo presumptuousness—he had
ignored a long queue, knocked on an examining room door, and summarily barged in,
interrupting a consultation, unabashedly proceeding to describe his
"wife's" condition, then being advised to take her for observation to the
nearby district hospital... to which he repaired post haste, covering the three kilometers
with a determined Western stride, pulling rank again by virtue of being a foreigner—a
Caucasian foreigner—whereupon Doctor Mlotha was located and Sebastian led to an office,
interrupting yet another consultation, prevailing upon the good doctor to pay a
house call, no less, that very afternoon, then shaking the Black man's hand with genuine
gratitude, about-facing, exiting the hospital, spotting an idle bicycle, employing its Bau-playing owner (for five kwatcha) to pedal him back, impressing himself, despite an
avalanche of guilt, with his 'diplomatic' rescue.
"Serious but not
dangerous," was Doctor Mlotha's diagnosis. To be on the safe side, he prescribed
a five-day course of antibiotics—in addition to the Panadol Yayuk was already taking.
Immensely relieved, Sebastian asked about fees, and breathed another heart-felt sigh;
medical care at government-run facilities in Malawi was gratis, including the
forty tabs of penicillin delivered later that day by a staff assistant—to whom the couple
entrusted an envelope housing a thank-you note and one hundred kwatcha (intended to buy
the Doctor a well-earned meal).
Recuperation was next on the agenda—along with a one-sided stint of acute
"... Thy kingdom come...
BACK TO CONTENTS