"Couldn’t 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 can’t you ever do that?"
    "Don’t 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 "couldn’t 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 mouth!"
    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 by her companion's relentless harassment...

    "Would you please come under here? You’re jeopardizing your health, wallowing in that pool of childish self-pity."

... 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 can’t be happening!"
    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 babbling?
    "Please, Sweetie! You have to let me know how seriously you’re hurt. Talk to me, Yayuk. I can’t do this alone; I really and truly need your help."
    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 of who-knew-what?
    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.
    "I’m 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 impaired. 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 reparations.

 

"... Thy kingdom come...

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