I’ve stopped catching the local Medan busess. Bob took the 5 am flight to Thailand. The night before I visited him at his apartment. He was upbeat, sad, and relieved.
I don’t think he’ll come back. He’s had enough of Medan. He loves the place but it has consumed him.
He’s $8000 poorer. He was fucked over by an Indonesian friend. The reality of it was just sinking in.
Bob’s sponsor also won’t sponsor him anymore. She’s had enough. She won’t tell me why but I can only guess. Bob wasn’t paying out. She adored him. And he wasn’t prepared to be her lover.
‘There’s nothing in it for me.’
Bob could easily find another sponsor. He is glad she refuses to sign the papers.
‘My money is running low. And it’s time for a change.’
He even admitted she has done well for herself.
‘She’s a gold digger and has a house in Australia and Jakarta.’
She is quite pretty, slim and in her forties. She was chatting to an old man from Turkey the other night on her phone.
‘Yep, she’s still in the game,’ says Bob, who has packed up his computer.
‘I’ll carry my monitor.’ He’s pulling out bits of computer from the casing.
‘It’s as mobile as a laptop if you know how to pull it apart.’
‘It was given to her,’ said Huggy Bear, who is sitting with me at Mac Donald’s.
‘She’s a whore, nothing more, nothing less.’
She’s done well for herself. And hanging out with Bob gives her cheap thrills.
She is upset with me. I called her crazy. Gila. Crazy. It’s used a lot in this town. She’s crazy. He’s crazy. I’m crazy. We are all crazy. She doesn’t think she’s crazy. But she thinks I’m rude. I thought I was just being funny.
Our last night together was over a meal at the food court. She invited Bob’s other female friend. And she gossipped about him the whole time.
‘The toilet was so filfy.’
‘Yes,’ said the other girl. ‘He refused to buy any chemicals to clean it.’
Bob was always cutting costs and I can see why he didn’t’ want to pour chemicals into the sewage system. Medan was poluted enough. And most of his days were spent outside.
‘And any time I was in my room, I was editing photos.’
Don’t worry, I’m backing you Bob.
‘It’s called environmentalism, ‘ I said to the hen picking ladies.
Everyone who lives or visits Medan must have a touch of craziness. It’s really that kind of place. And it wasn’t hard to feel part of that craziness.
Huggy Bear has spotted me. He’s arrived just in time. But I haven’t even spoke about the Dutchman, a man on a mission to save every cent he can at the expense of his sanity.
Every cent he saves, a piece of sanity is chipped away.
‘Drop him,’ says Huggy Bear. ‘He’s long gone and never returning.’
He means now I can start spending money on him.
Huggy, my motorbike driver, in his early 50s, and as skinny as a rake. He lets out a wholesome laugh. It rattles his light frame. He hasn’t eaten for a year, by the looks of things. He’s one fucking lean and mean Southern Bakak.’Besides,’ he adds, ‘he’s been screwed of $8000. He needs time to let that sink in.’
But I want to write about him, he’s too good not too.
‘Write about me then,’ he says ‘the crackhead Muslim mystic.’
I’m not sure if you are on speed, I say. But you have moments of clarity then you seem under the influence.
He nods. He’s taking it well.
‘It’s the angels,’ he says. He’s in mystic mode. ‘They can visit me at any time. Don’t confuse a druggy with a mystic. One is of this world, the other is the world.’
I nod this time and the conversation moves back to Bob.
He had redeeming qualities, I said. ‘He was just burnt out by Medan Madness.’
‘He was consumed by it,’ says my driver. ‘He left at the right moment. He had many enemies.’
He was his worst. I could see that.
I was minding my own business at the outdoor eating place. It is run by three brothers and a sister. The coffee is really good too. They aren’t individual satchels. I can see Huggy Bear hiding behind the post outside the mosque. He’s moving in for the kill. He preys on tourists.
‘I’ll get fed, clothed, given a phone and other gadgets and get paid a daily salary for doing nothing.’
Now doesn’t this sound nasty? I’m a realist and Huggy Bear would be the first to agree with me.
‘Continue,’ he says. He’s smoking clove cigarettes. And I just can’t wait for his sales pitch.
Surprisingly we agree on most things. We both agree that the president is useless. That Sumatra is being short changed by Java. He wasn’t just your average Huggy Bear. He was a wealth of local knowledge. I bought him a coffee. There were no promises. But I had his mobile number. We’d do business. I was waiting for him. He was a gift from Allah.
‘I like that one.’
As I said, he’ll also get cigarettes and meals and pretty much run his own show. He’s lucky he has a motorbike otherwise he wouldn’t be getting any business from me.
‘Now that’s not fair,’ he says. Nothing is fair. I totally agree. This guy intrigues me. Who is studying who is the question.
That’s exactly right. I take one of his clove cigarettes. I paid for them. They burn slow and high nicotine doses. The cloves crackle and the tar and nicotine bubble and splutter as I take a deep drag.
He doesn’t like the Taliban driver at the hotel and for that reason he can’t go there. He also doesn’t like Eddy, who sells rings.
‘I had a big fight with him three months ago. He’s a spy too.’
It’s slim pickings for a motorbike driver in Medan.
‘There’s just not the tourists like there use to be.’
He’ll need to move me to another hotel where he can play hum bugger till his heart’s content. But at this hotel, he’s not allowed here. He must be that good. No one likes that kind of competition. I look at him as he sits down next to me. He’s not. He’s playing me well. Gentle gentle, win him over, then I take him for a ride. I wink. I don’t care. It’s my last two weeks here and I’m heading home. I need someone to write about and some transport around town won’t hurt either.
‘But you’ll have material for your book.’
He doesn’t like the hard core Muslim driver at the hotel. And I can see why. Huggy is banned from the hotel.
It’s slim pickings for him. He’ll need to move me to another hotel where he can play hum bugger till his heart’s content. But at this hotel, he’s not allowed here. He must be that good. No one likes that kind of competition.
‘Get over your paranoia, sunny.’
I’m working on it. But I can’t just whitewash my first impressions of you.
Huggy Bear is sitting outside an Alpha Mart. He’s well dressed for someone who is dirt poor. ‘They are hand me downs.’
I know about your ‘hand me downs’, I say.
My room is basic. It has a television and air-conditioning. It has no toilet spray in the cramped bathroom. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.There’s going to be shit every where. A basic sprayer in the bogger takes out all the complications of keeping hygene up.
I have a bucket and a scoop for wiping my ass and flushing the toilet. It’s basic. It’s perfect. Perfect my ass.
The wifi only works out in the restaurant. I’ll be spending many hours out there drinking coffee, chain-smoking and writing. It’s an ideal writer’s den and the stories will come to me. They always do.
The internet only works out in the restaurant. I’ll be spending many hours out there drinking coffee, chain-smoking and writing and ordering nasi goreng. It’s an ideal writer’s den and the stories will come to me. They always do.
I’ve got my music courtesy of my Malay driver. It features heavy with the album of Jason Derulo. It’s basically top forty music.
It’s perfect to drain out background noise.
I’m sleeping around the clock. No problems. I’m popping a few valiums to get synched with the rest of the world. I’ve been away nearly a year and this is my last month so I’ll just relax and make the most of it. I’ll add some staff from the restaurant on my social network and delete or block them, depending on what is going down. That Chinese looking cleaner looks dodgy. He speaks English too well and he must be an informer. But I add him on another account. Soon I’ll be blocking him again. He must be spying on someone, right?
I’m writing up a few reports and posting them. The mob at the warung want me to add them too. But then they’ll see my posts. And one of the family members is in the military.
I don’t think it’s a good idea adding them. People are easily offended like Customs who just didn’t like the look of me. Why give them my head on a platter? And nor do I want my thoughts getting into the wrong hands. I’ve already been slagging off Andrew the Customs officer. He won’t be impressed what I’ve got to say. He could even find me and make sure the next time he searches me, he finds something.
I’m always staying near or next to mosques. The one next door is the grand mosque. That explains the grand noise coming out of it, amplified by cheap crackly speakers.
I’ll pay it a visit soon. I walk past it every day on the way to the shopping mall across the road. There’s always a bunch mujahideen in their white frocks and flowing beards hanging out in the side alley that leads to the main road. They just stare at me like I’m some kind of intruder on Allah’s territory.
Just this morning I caught the light reflecting off its crescent moon on top of one it’s domes. It was cloudy outside and the light was filtered. I’m impressed. And I took it from my window. Intrepid travel writer. Yep that’s me.