His was the Swiss Army knife of accoutrements. He could pull off many tricks like state-of-the-art routines with his tool and his cutting edge technology. It had the blades, the cork screw, the screw driver, the pliers and more embedded in it as proof of this. This was an achievement a man could be more than proud of and he used it to good effect whenever he visited the houses of comfort, as they were called over here, the ‘Rumah Tumpangan’. He was drawn to them ever since he had the good fortune of reading ‘The Philosophy of the Boudoir’ by Marquis de Sade. It changed life as he knew it.
Of all of the women he met in these places, he loved the doe eyed beauty from the South East who had been more than just a provider of sexual pleasures to him. She was his companion, enjoying every bit of what they both conjured for each other. She reminded him of similar beauties he had encountered on his many trips to whore houses overseas.
The owner of the place didn’t know what was going on between them. Had she known she would have put a stop to it the very moment she found out. The girls belonged to her and no one will take them away from the establishment which she had founded with great care and pain. She was their mother, father and everything that meant anything to them. No one else was to take that place.
The place was tucked away a few hours down the highway away from the city. A steady but winding staircase lead you to a hide-a-way that greeted you with a pot of water filled with white flowers and a closed door. When you rang the bronze bell that hung by the entrance a mysterious hand would open the door for you to enter upon declaring your name for having made a prior appointment. It was a fool proof arrangement. No prying eye had so far penetrated its sacred privacies and the place had stood the test of time. Even the members of the secret society which most of its clients belonged to vouched for the prestige of the place.
Once you were inside you were transported to a different world. The wonderful ambience was created by the burning incense and the soft background music with a very Asian note to it. The lights were dimmed and orange of hue. There were props of bamboo and paper umbrellas decorating the walls along with opened out silk fans of various colours and chop sticks. It was a beautiful place to be in. In the inner sanctum was the spa of utmost glory, providing the most exotic of massages and baths. The soothing liquids and oils used for the purpose were of the nectar of tropical fruits like the Passion Fruit and essential oils of flowers and spices. They were administered by volcanic and river stones to the rhythm of cascading water spilling into a pool set outside. The soft moss that surrounded this pool matched the softness of this maiden’s touch. She was so adept at what she was called upon to do. It awakened him and she gave into his beckoning and they made love the whole day long. The sense of doing something that he was not supposed to do in the eyes of society gave the whole experience a strange immediacy. Challenging society to dare him was straight up his alley. Living on the edge of life had always been his second nature.
This time however he was caught. She was like no other that he had ever seen and possessed the finest of qualities. He wanted to give up his modus operandi and become what he never thought he would be. He was also thinking of the Blue Zones of this planet, where longevity rules and for that as he had read, his kind of risk taking in life was a hindrance. When he was studying for his degree he had scored ninety nine marks in a paper which was marked by his blind professor and he had said that he had made him see what he had yet been unable to. Now he had given up all of that and was focusing on his music and he aimed at making the deaf hear this time around. That would be a milestone. Such was his ambition, always beyond proportion. But now he was going to make that irreversible gesture and give all his attention on this oriental beauty that he couldn’t seem to get out of his mind. Before he knew it he was writing songs for her and about her. He, the rocker, was now listening to love ballads from the olden past. So what if he did. Ozzy Osbourne admitted to Retro music being the inspiration for his dark notes once. He was going to make an entire album dedicated to their love. That’s much to ask for. But he was going to achieve it and then the end of it will mark the beginning of their life long relationship.
He had always thought of his birth as having been an accident of nature but in fact he was the love child extraordinaire completely unplanned and unexpected. That may be why he lived life the way he did always with a sense of freshness and urgency.
He would appear at this nameless sanctuary of a place, the spa, with his guitar strapped to himself. His friends fooled him saying his guitar was his woman. Now he really had one. He couldn’t believe it himself. The subtle music was playing in the background as usual and he was ready to see her once again. Every time was a new time unlike no other. She was dressed in a bright red and gold Ao dai. Just the kind of colours that he dug, the colours were also those that brought luck to the Vietnamese. She was lithe and lissome. He picked her up and took her across the threshold.
His crossing this threshold he considered as crossing one of the big thresholds of life! It was gravity itself and the gravitational pull of everything that possibly mattered to the formation of their world in its right proportions. Not too much or too little. The right balance of matter and energy. This was their relationship in a nutshell. The nutshell that was rolled around by the possum, was it Sid… in the animated movie ‘Ice Age’. It went rolling right through the cracks of the ice and fell into another vibrant world.
They snuck away from the spa and ran away in the middle of the night to the bustling night life of the city centre. The clubs and pubs were bursting with the Friday night fun lovers, dancing to the blaring music with the disco lights shining down on them. Nobody knew who they were they danced their cares away into the early hours of the morning. It was time for them to make a move if they were to keep their anonymity and enter the house without being noticed.
He made a promise to himself that he was going to live a long and happy life together with this wonderful girl who was his. No need for ostentatious parties. Their wedding will be one of meaning in every sense of the word, an intimate ceremony with a few people who meant dearly to them. That would be a good start to a meaningful partnership, a true friendship.
Being the part protector, ultimate survivor and expert that he was he didn’t want his wife to go out to work anymore than she did. She had worked all she wanted in the short life she had spent on this planet. The rest of her life was going to be spent looking after herself and for that she had to look after her man and the kids they were hoping to have. Their life was going to be one that was different. Men and women no longer had time for each other or for their kids but were enslaved to their work. These thoughts were spinning in his head as he thought of what their blissful future would be like together.
The strange fragrance of the white flowers filled the air as she packed her bags and bid farewell to the place she had worked all of her tweenage years to make ends meet. He had come to her in the form of a savior untold. She had written to her family thousands of miles away, living in destitution, of this marvelous new turn that her life had taken while the fragrance lead the way…
A story from the collection, Offspring Romances and Others by Sharmini Jayawardena.