Ain’t No Night Fair
By Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Chapter 2 (continued)
… My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.
I could feel a shudder in my chest and I moaned.
“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.
“I might be coming down with a cold,” I answered.
“Put on your coat.”
I slipped on the coat I had taken off previously after putting up our suitcases at Gambir station. After that effort I had felt very hot and the feeling of having a temperature added to the pressure of the fear that we wouldn’t get a place to sit.
I fastened the buttons.
“You catch colds quite easily,” my wife added.
Coldly I didn’t respond to her reminder.
Now in my mind there appeared the sight of a grave, the final resting place of every person, despite certain people sometimes not finding a place in the womb of the earth. Yes, sometimes sailors, or soldiers in times of war, often they do not find a final resting place. And in my mind I imagined that it was my father who did not find a place.
My eyes misted. But not enough for tears to fall.
“Ah, I do not want to listen to every thought in my head,” I screamed to myself.
And I thought. If only I could win the lottery. What a sweet dream that was. And that dream was ended by an old idea, the idea that at the end of the day every person passes away. Death. Sickness. And sickness brought my thoughts back to my father.
Once more I sighed.
“Hopefully your uncle should have waited before writing that letter,” my wife said. “Hopefully your father’s condition isn’t as bad as he described.”
Again I looked her straight in the eye. They were eyes that were now no longer of any interest to me. This time she lowered her head and rearranged her hair which was moved by the wind.
“Hopefully,” I said.
I turned yet again to stare out the train window. Rubber plantations chased each other. Small towns which I had often passed before I was once more going through again. And dozens of memories, some of which were bitter and some of which were happy, with a force I could not control assaulted my mind. And at that moment I became conscious. Sometimes people do not have the power to resist their own memories, and I smiled at this consciousness. Yes, people unknowingly are too strong and repress their awareness. I smiled again.
“What time is it, brother?” my wife asked.
I swung my eyes in her direction and again my gaze landed on her eyes, those once wonderful eyes that now held no interest for me. Just for a moment. Then I dropped my eyes to my watch.
“It’s almost nine o’clock,” I answered.
“Maybe he’s already received the telegram.”
“Hopefully he has,” I said.
And I swung my gaze to stare out the window again. The telegram now appeared in my mind. Just maybe the telegram which had said “Tomorrow arriving with my wife” would be of some comfort to my father. In fact this hope had not even been my own.
The previous night a friend had said, “You’ve been in prison so long. Two and a half years! And all that time your father was definitely wanting you to come home. And not only that. He was definitely worrying about how you were too.” And that is what had made me send him, I mean, have somebody else send him, the telegram. That friend had also said, “You have to go. Maybe you visiting him will make him feel better, help him recover.”
Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.