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To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: All progress depends on
the poet. He persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, rather
than the more reasonable opposite. Which was fine for those who
liked progress. Yak was not one of those people.
“What is this we’re eating?” Roy asked, pointing to the thin
skewers on his plate.
Sate jamu. Sateis a barbecued dish and jamumeans medicine.”
“Oh,” said Roy, tearing through stick after stick. “Best medicine I
ever ate.” Yak did not inform him that what he was eating was dog
meat, a dish the Javanese considered highly medicinal.
A mangy pup sidled up beside them and Roy tossed it a piece of
the meat. It snarled and scarfed it up.
“These mutts look so pathetic, I figure they could use some
medicine too,” Roy sympathized.
Now that’spoetry, Yak thought. Aside from the occasional
innocent haiku, he no longer had much use for it.
“So how did you end up here, in Java of all places?” Roy asked.
“How does anyone end up anywhere?” Yak replied.
“On the other side of the world?” he laughed, “I think usually
they’re running away from something.”
“Oh?” Yak said, “So is that what you’re doing?”
“I suppose.” Roy stared at the plate of bloodied bamboo spears
spread out before him.
Roy gathered his thoughts. Here, no one could touch him. “I
guess you could say that I killed the woman I loved.”
Yak’s eyes grew suddenly wide.
“Don’t judge me,” Roy snapped.
“I’m not,” Yak protested, “Believe me, I’m not.”
Roy examined the carnage on his plate. Flecks of meat still clung
to the bamboo fibers. “It was an accident,” he admitted, “But still, the
fault was mine. It was all mine.”
Moving unsteadily from darkness to light, Roy found the Sultanate of
Solo a piebald place, alternately dim and illuminated, felt in that
filthy, inadequately whitewashed city a disorientation found only in
A few times a week Yak took him to visit the temple of his
spiritual teacher where hours of meditation, kungkumand other
traditional remedies helped to pull Roy from his opium addiction.
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