He was back in mystical mode. He had taken me the back way. He wanted me to visit his brother. I was on the back of his motorbike on the way to the airport.
‘We go back way, avoid police first, and second, show you remote village surrounded by rice fields.’
I passed on seeing his brother. Why would I want to visit a complete stranger? I pulled out my phone. Battery nearly flat. I checked the map, and we were still 33 kilometers from the airport. I wouldn’t check google maps again.
‘So phone has GPRS on them now?’ asked Mr.Butuk. You bet. He knew I was sussing out his route. I still had four hours before my flight but I needed to know if he intended on taking me to a quiet place and finishing me off for telling the owner of the hotel that he was no good.
Many things go through your mind after a massive Tramadol hangover. And these were a few.
Stop at the mosque, I barked. I needed a piss and I needed one last prayer before he finished me off. I also needed to sound out Mr. Butuk’s sanity.
His eyes weren’t dilated. But I’m sure he’s taking me on a wild goose chase.
The prayer went well. I got a good stretching and was able to wash out the Tramadol with a face wash before prostrating myself before Allah. I needed all the luck I could get. Even a safe flight would be a godsend.
The tramadol purged from my system, I felt great. And I had more witnesses if I were ever to disappear. The police could trace me back to this mosque.
‘Yes yes,’ the witness would confirm. ‘He was wearing a pair of tracksuit pants with the Malaysia flag on it.’
Mr. Batuk could see the inner glow.
‘The angels have visited you again,’ he said.
He wasn’t going to kill me. But I wasn’t 100 percent certain.
‘Without Islam I’d be a dangerous man,’ he said, moments before I jumped back on the bike.
A motorbike with a side car got very close. And bang. The bike grazed my foot but only grease on the side of my foot and a little bruising from the collision.
Mr. Butuk was seeing red and he wanted blood. I said Allah had performed another miracle and to leave the asswipe alone.
‘It might look disrespectful to Allah,’ I said, ‘after he saved us, to beat the crap out of the driver.’
‘It was deliberate,’ he said. ‘He really wanted to hurt you.’
I had reservations about taking a motorbike to airport, but I was growing fond of the Mystic Muslim. If my funds could help him get back on his feet, then I’d throw the last remaining Indonesia currency at him.
‘Lucky you stop me,’ he said, over a meal break at a warung with pink painted walls. ‘I would have killed him.’
Better you kill him than me, I thought, as I repacked my bag and gave him the spare one, packed with old shirts I didn’t need, a Nokia smart phone, a pink battery charge pack, and some cheap sickening perfume.
The rain came on hard and strong.
Work your magic, I said. Make the rain stop.
He put on his best prophet posture and prayed to Allah earnestly for the rain to stop.
A few minutes later it started again. I really should have asked him to pray again. But in a period of two days he had done the ‘stop the rain’ prayer and I really didn’t want to push our goodwill with Allah. I’d be needing it for the last leg of the trip. Either down a quiet dirt road into a muddy paddy, or into the airport, I’d be invoking Allah’s help.
It was the last leg and raining and the rice fields past us as Mr. Butuk took me deeper into the countryside.
I couldn’t see any planes. I couldn’t see anything but muddy rice paddies that would be more than accommodating for a middle aged fucker who liked fleeting around extreme Muslims in the badlands of South East Asia.
Mr. Butuk stopped to ask for directions.
He took a right turn down another quiet paved road. A few oncoming bikes and trucks gave me hope. More witnesses.
Now this is the moment. He must have a knife concealed on him. He’s going to stab me to death for slagging him off at the hotel.
Then the road reached a major highway that led straight to the new airport. ‘Allah Akbar,’ I yelled. And then Mr. Butuk would reply with an ‘Allah Akbar.’ And I took out my camera as the rain came on hard and strong. I just didn’t care about the rain getting on the camera lens and I snapped away. I didn’t care about anything except that Mr. Batuk was a man of his word.
We were both screaming to an unseen god ‘Allah Akbar’ before we stopped at a cafe near the airport where I offloaded the rest of my cash over a hot sweet tea and a few cigarettes.
Then we walked catacomb of the airport in silence. I broke it by giving him a hug and heartfelt thanks. I couldn’t feel any knives under his jacket as sentimental thoughts threatened to flood out the rest of the Tramadol residues sloshing around in my blood system. I was going to miss Medan Madness.
Enough of this shit, I said, as I pulled back.
‘See you next time,’ I said.
‘Yes, Mad Butuk see you next time.’
‘Alhamdulillah’ was the last word I said as I waved goodbye. That would get him. He’d be thinking and dreaming about that one for a long time.
I texted him Malaysia. ‘Missed flight.’
He said he’d be praying so that it doesn’t rain when I fly out.
He really was a Mystical Muslim. They do exist. And Sumatra, and island West of Malaysia is a good place to find them.
But do tread carefully and respect them.
‘Otherwise, I’ll fucking knife you.’
He was the nicest of men.
‘If you don’t fuck with me, I won’t fuck with you.’
And he was the perfect guide for a place like Medan that can get under the skin even of the most seasoned traveler.
‘If they fuck with you, I’ll fuck with them.’
Luckily it never got to that stage.
I missed my flight to Australia after a delayed flight from Medan.
I bet Mr. Butuk was praying for it to rain.
‘Then I could have milked you for a few more weeks.’
I really must ease up on the Tramadols. I think I might flush them tonight.
A text comes in from Medan.
‘Still looking for crazy tourist. But I think only one of them in the world, and that’s you.’
I really had to take that as a compliment. The Batuks use them sparingly. He was a hard-nosed bastard with a heart of gold.
Medan Madness available on Amazon.