Dying. A father worked for his children was dying. A couple that loved each other and thinking that they had the most blessed life were dying. Or even a newborn baby with his first crying was dying. Everyone was dying if dying means a process for approaching death. And so we were. We were all approaching death. Included him, he had been dying too.
And in this term of dying, some of us pretended to forget that we are dying and I never knew someone who tried to do that as hard as Mr. Sambas. I usually called him Om Sam. People who know them dare not to say him Kek or even Pak to him even though his hair almost all white and his wrinkle all over his skin. I expected he was about 66 years old or even more.
On that day, the Warteg was quite busy because it was about 5 o’clock in the evening. Our Warteg was located in the slum of the Jakarta suburb, among the offices and the factories buildings. Some workers from the banker, taxi driver, the salesman, and laborer or the other, finally having time for relaxation before going back to their own family or continuing their overtime work. It was the time when the smell of coffee and the smoke of cigarette full-fill the room and covering the worst smell of the working class sweat here. At the one corner of the room, the chair sets half-rounded for about 8 men there who were sitting while talking about a news program on the TV informing the quick-count result of the Indonesia’s Presidential election.
“We still need SBY for the next five years,” said the first worker-man while looking to the TV screen.
“No. He is so tired to rule this abnormal country. Even his under-eye bags
has the other bags”, said his friend while laughing but still also looking at the TV screen.
“I don’t even care who will become the president.” said the other man
“Why don’t you care?” asking the first man who began the conversation
“If the chosen president is the ideal one, could I still have money without going to work? Is the difference will be that significant? Well, I don’t think so.” And no one responded that last argument. This chair set was set for them who didn’t bring the topics to the Warteg. The old, dusty TV screen became the central focus of their vision and talking without looking the listener was a normal thing for them.
In the right corner, there was also a full-round chair set surrounding the square wooden table. It was the group where everyone could talk about someone’s sin, about the national political and security or about the ghost that stealing money, true story, fake story—everything but a preach. There are no more the banker, the taxi driver, the salesman or whoever they were before—they were only the storyteller, the sinner, and the listener when they sat in this corner of Warteg.
But something had changed in the Warteg lately. There was an empty chair among the other filled-chair in this democratic-liberal corner, the right corner of the Warteg. The frail green plastic chair without the backrest that moors to one side of the Warteg’s wall where the Old Man usually reclined his crooked back to it lately lost its owner. This corner of Warteg was never as vivid as before since that Old Man left the chair alone.
I was not the one who sat there with him, I only saw and listened to him from my office, through the steam of the hot chicken soup above the or through the glass desk with white transparent curtain while listening to what they were talking about. And when the Old Man taking his part to tell the story, I began leaning my head to the source of the voice. I hated when sometimes the sound of the fan—the old, dirty, dying fan covered his voice. When I did this irresponsible habit, I left the business mostly to my co-worker, Surti—a quite beautiful, diffident Javanese girl. She wore the floral skirt with yellow, or blue or green Pollo shirt every day she worked like she had a dress code
“Nasi nganggo endog, tahu tempe digawe seporsi mas, ya” with his Jogja dialect, he ordered the food. After I finished his order, I neared to the right corner of the Warteg and I found that He had been ended the story. Well, I hate my customer sometimes.
The square wooden table in the Warteg seems becoming his platform to glorifying his wonderful past. He was the oldest person in the Warteg and as I could remember, he was the oldest customer in the Warteg too. It’s about six years since the first time he knew this place. And I think that’s the reason why people here having so much respect for him.
Sometimes, he told us every war that he was ever in as the ex-member of TNI-AD and my favorite story was when he told about the Seroja Operation, the biggest TNI’s military operation. For many times, I never reach the end of this story.
The Warteg itself for the Old Man is not only the place for he stopped by, but it is the place where he felt alive the most. In one conversation I ever heard him talking about his family.
“Just stay here a little bit longer, Bud”, the Old Man talked to his friend Budi, a Taxi driver
“I am sorry, my wife called me that I should go home right now” Budi replied.
“Well, go then. If my late wife was still alive, I’ll go home immediately too.”
“Well thank you, you used to be a good husband I guess.” “See you!”
“Well, it’s you and me again, Karso” He talked to me like he knew that I was looking at him for the first time.
“Yeah, Om. But, is this okay for you to going home this late?”
“Why not? No one cares. I live with my cat now and I think my cat would never care to me as long as I feed him well.” He answered without looking at me. He looks down but I can see his smile in his face trying hard to cover his wrinkled skin all over his face.
There was the time when I had so much sympathy for him, and so people in the Warteg does. But not until that night was coming.
It began when Surti and I were going to close the Warteg. As the other night, our last customer was the Old Man and he seemed to enjoy his last coffee that night. I left the Warteg for a while to buy a pack of cigarette to the mini market across the street. That night was quiet and the wind was blown so hard and cold. Maybe it was also the reason why I need the cigarette. When I was back to the Warteg, how surprised I am when founding Surti was crying on the floor.
“Surti! What Happened Surti? Are you all right” I asked her in a rush
“Mas Karso, That Old Man molested me, He hug me from behind and kissing me,” her crying even louder than before, “I asked him to stopped, I cried and cried but he still didn’t let me,”
“Are you sure that it was him, Surti?”
“Yeah, I am sure, but he looked crazy, he seems didn’t see me as Surti, even he called me Surinah, he said that I am Surinah, his wife” Surti still crying. I could imagine how shocked she was that night. A good, coy maid like her was never imagines that kind of thing would happen to her.
When she stopped her crying, I accompanied her to her rent house and I give her support as I could to make her relief from that unexpected, strange accident before.
Since that night, I never see The Old Man again. People in the Warteg asked us about his condition. But, Surti and I had been agreed that we would not talk that accident to everyone to keep Surti’s honor as a young maiden.
For next days since that night, there are so many questions on my mind. Who is that old man, actually? Perhaps we know that he was an ex-member of a soldier who felt lonely because his members of his family left him. But, that’s all I know about him. For six years he came to our place routinely but is that all about him? We don’t even know what is his name and where does he live?
I was very sad that day. But, I recognize one thing that no one can hide that they were dying, and it would be getting worse day by day, included the Old man. Included you and I. The old man gave us the lesson for you and me.