WE CONTINUE THE TALE OF THE FIVE ADVENTURESOME EXPATS IN JAKARTA
Once again, the dramatis personæ:
- Droll Paul, very tall and very droll, a crooked English entrepreneur on the run from the authorities in Perth. A very leisurely Australian run actually, having to do with an awkward misunderstanding, one which could conceivably be interpreted as “fraud” were it unfortunate enough to be brought up in a court of law. Snooty, elegant and condescending, as well. Has a long bule nose and a management firm striving to impart mysterious advanced western corporate techniques to unsuspecting Indonesian start-ups [aka ‘marks’]. Looks down that long nose on the whole wide world. Basically a useless fuckwit selling useless shit. A ‘character’ (these are common in the East – particularly in Seminyak, where they are always trying to one-up each other). The others tolerate Paul, in spite of his manner – or rather, his lack of them). Why? Only God knows. Maybe just for fun.
- Alan. Fresh, sweet, smart, fun Alan. He survived an insane Chinese-Indonesian gambling addict who attempted to have him killed for insurance money and a grinding ESL-teaching job at Bank Qabur. After that trial by fire he’ll do fine, rolling with the punches.
- Lulu is knocking them back. She is what is known in the trade as a ‘serious drinker’. However, she is a solid citizen who pays her own way, tips the waitress fatly is entertaining and an all-around rewarding customer who knows how to hold her grog. She’s been married and divorced in Kuwait and married and divorced in Kazakhstan and married and divorced in California to a serial line of [immensely wealthy] dummies, lambs she has shorn neatly in divorce court. Is she on the lookout for a new hubby in blissfully unaware Indonesia? Not likely, as by now with the alimony she’s scraped off the hides of her various exes she could buy and sell just about all of the candidates. Watch her when she folds her folding money and stashes it in her purse: it’s frightening. So what’s she doing here? Oh she loves Indonesia. And it loves her (duit).
- Brett is bad and he knows it. He grew up in a bad family living in a bad part of town. He likes Indonesia because folks here just assume a grumpy whitey is a bule gila and tolerate his moods. He actually tries to put a hold on ‘the Bad’ because otherwise sooner or later he’d be grabbed by the collar and given the bum’s rush out of Indonesia toot sweet. But he’s bad. Nobody likes him. Secretly, he envies everybody else, because they’re happy and he’s not. But don’t expect him to show it. Brett is currently >ahem< ‘out of work’ (but everybody knows he’s a notorious Remittanceman) (‘stay-away-for-pay’).
- Hiroshi. First import-export… then ‘event organizing’… then ‘management consulting’ for shady Japanese companies… no one was quite sure what purpose the smooth, handsome Japanese man, 40 and looking 14, served in life. Hiroshi was always expensively-dressed, drove a luxury European car, and was a polite and careful listener. He met personal questions with a beaming smile, and not much else.
PART ONE OF FOUR
Alan: ‘It’s my turn.’
They all looked at him, puzzled.
‘But first the carburetor cleaner. Waitress!’ he bawled.
Waitress was one of those extinct or near-extinct beasts, like the Javanese rhino. Or the sasquatch. Loch Ness Fish Sausage I mean Loch Ness Monster, aka ‘Nessie’??
The others joined in the mournful chorus.
‘Miss! Hello? Fräulein! NONA! Señorita??’
Descending slowly, majestically, out of her Dreamland, where they are lost in fantasy and contemplation, a waitress oh-so-slowly turns their way. Can they catch her dreamy-eye?
No, alas not. She is lost in reverie.
‘Hurry dear, this man is in danger of death from dehydration!’ squalls Lulu, pointing at the swooning Alan, her piercing divorce wail finally cutting through the misty void. Lulu uses her ‘pointing-and-shrieking-at-the-bum-she-made-a-mistake-marrying-and-wants-to-be-rid-of-after-taking-50%of-his-assets-including-the-fucking-half-a-million-smackers-he-has-squirreled-away-in-a-Nassau-bank-courtroom screech’.
The waitress, alarmed and fearful, finally pops to.
‘So here comes the industrial solvent’ growls Brett, a solid beerman of the old school.
Paul draws himself up haughtily. ‘Sir, I will have you know that this Hatten is no longer to be despised with those undrinkable foully fermented Balinese elixirs of yore.’
They stare at him. He lifts a glass of white Hatten theatrically. Our Paul is a theatrical fellow. In order to succeed in business he has to have an actor’s dramatic [bullshit] poseur pose.
‘It is on the way to the stars. It is more than “drinkable”. This Hatten is truly to be enjoyed. Asian Winery of the Year.’
Brett yells ‘A toast to Bali!’
They are all impressed by Paul’s revelation. ‘Asian Winery of the Year.’ Impressive.
‘No shit!’ bellows Brett, GLUG GLUG GLUGGING another Yaudah Bistro Weißbier. This has followed the Euro- and Japan-table’s guzzling of a Prost, an Erdinger [ACHTUNG!], a Guinness and now I’m too drunk to go on >hic<.
‘Please’ frowns Paul. ‘You are truly an offensive fellow ofttimes.’
Brett smiles modestly. ‘I try my best.’
Alan (annoyed) ‘Well God-damn it. May I please continue my fucking story?’
Lulu (sympathetically): ‘Alan you are a jewel. You belong in a tiara. Please ignore these ruffians and poseurs and proceed with your narration.’
Alan sighs and drones onward. ‘Everybody figured Hank was a faggot. All the other teachers watch him to see whether he was making googly-eyes at male students.’
Hiroshi (puzzled): ‘Why? Was Hank, well, “effeminate”?’
Alan: ‘No, Hank was dry as a bone.
‘I figured he was one of those rare “asexuals”, a category that a lot of folks simply refuse to believe in.’
Lulu: ‘I for one. I don’t buy it. Human beings are fuckers. Everybody has a “sexual quotient” at some time in their lives. It’s just a matter of tickling it to open them up. Trust me on this.’
‘Ah!’ she exhales with finality. ‘Beer is the answer. No need for the question’
Alan darted her a dirty look. Was she trying to derail his story again?
‘Anyway this Hank was an adequate ESL teacher if something of a drip. Boring guy, boring in the class. Just what you need for the TOEFL or IELTS grind.
‘I can guess where this is going’ Lulu snickered. ‘Somebody awoke his erotic zone.’
Alan looked around, eyebrows raised. ‘See? It’s only a woman who can divine where such a thrilling story leads.
‘He fell for Ayu, a little dark-skinned girl buried in a jilbab. She broke his heart.
‘He looked at her. She avoided his glance at first… then, piercingly, stared back at old middle-aged pot-bellied Hank. Like she had never looked at a man before.
‘The two of them were hungrily entranced with one another. What she saw in this faded, mild-mannered whitey is beyond me. What he saw in this quiet, serious, overly religious teenager is equally beyond me.
‘No accounting for taste,’ Lulu drily notes. ‘How many times have I been introduced to a husband-and-wife only to think to myself “This is highly unlikely”. But there you go.’
Alan sighed, and sipped his delightful Hatten red wine, thinking to himself ‘Nowhere else in Jakarta do I get to drink wine for Rp 72,000 a glass. And a full glass at that.’
He continued his doleful tale. ‘School had a strict policy against fraternizing with the customers. No can do. No romance. Hands off. No secret trysts outside of classroom hours.
‘Bad for business. And old Hank had been warned.
‘He was frankly frightened,’ Alan sighed. ‘This little chickie in her hoodie was stirring emotions in him he’d not felt since Marilou Perkins grabbed his dick at the age of twelve.’
‘On they studied. Class after weary class persisted. Hank droned on with “Tricks for TOEFL”. But every time his glance happened to stray to Ayu – that was her name – he saw her staring at him. And not the way a student pays attention to the teacher either.
‘He says he felt a twinge in his dick. Can you imagine? Thirty-seven years old, almost a virgin – like Cyndi Lauper – and his passions suddenly surged. BUT he was the teacher! He was in a fix.
‘Enter Walter Weller, old fat Walter they all called “Wally the Walrus” because of his heavy mustache (that he refused to shave off, in spite of the school’s scolding).
‘Wally was a “barracks lawyer”, the guy who will happily share advice and counsel with you about anything: money, romance, legal matters, medical issues. And the advice he gave was unremittingly bad advice.
‘So all you had to do was ask “Wally, what should I do about this cute girl who keeps staring at me? She makes me, well, uncomfortable. Hot and bothered.’
‘Don’t call me “Wally”’ the other growled. ‘This is Indonesia. Indonesia is a serious place with serious people. Are you serious about her?’
What a question. Hank blinked. He had never thought this through – never thought about how serious he was willing to get.
He suddenly felt like he had stepped into a dark elevator shaft and was falling, falling into a warm darkness…
TO BE CONTINUED