Sun, 26 Jan 2003


Teguh Winarsho AS

The bright, scorching sun temporarily blinded Busro, and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the house once he entered it. His dull, brown knapsack was still on his back, as he went toward the bedroom. His hand, poised above the handle, stopped short when he heard the sounds coming from within the room. His knees trembled and his breathing seemed to stop as his mind placed the sounds. Blinking in vain to adjust his eyesight quicker, he peeked through the open crack and caught sight of a man hugging his wife. As if the ground was yanked from beneath his feet, Busro grabbed the door frame for support. Somehow he was able to maintain his balance despite the terrible shock.

Busro had heard rumors before that his wife was having an affair with someone. Although he dismissed them, he didn't have the heart to ask Murni, his pretty wife, out of fear she would give him a sharp reply or throw a fit. He felt lucky to have such an attractive spouse who frequently drew looks of admiration from his friends. So who was that man in his bedroom? He could hear the stranger's loud gasps, accompanied by creaks from the bed and moans from his wife. Her body made intermittent jerks as if she were in pain. After he watched them for what seemed like a long time, he turned his eyes away. Summoning all his strength, Busro hurried out of the house.

Busro was exhausted from running down alleyways, his pace slowing as his energy ran low. Several neighbors called his name, but he didn't hear them. Once out on the street, he stopped for a moment, confused about which way to turn. A minivan suddenly came to a halt in front of him, dropping off passengers. Still perplexed, Busro got into the car and sat behind the driver.

Busro was lost in thought when they pulled into the bus terminal. He wanted to return to the city to join his fellow factory workers. His mind drifted back to the heart-breaking scene he had just left behind. He cursed himself for not going home sooner. He should have gone home after only two weeks, but this time he had left it for five years. Busro was on a two-day leave and he couldn't stop himself from buying a new pair of shoes for his daughter Pipin, who was in kindergarten. He wanted to watch his daughter's look of astonishment when she would set eyes on the shoes she had asked him for.

"Knives, knives. Buy kitchen knives, sir. Guaranteed to stay sharp. Stainless," said an old hawker who was passing Busro. His words brought Busro back into the real world. He looked at the old man, forced a smile and shook his head. After showing some knives in an effort to make a sale, the hawker continued on through the market.

Busro paused and stretched over backwards to relieve his aching back. His mind focused on Pipin again: She should be reaching home right about now, thought Busro, who unzipped his knapsack without realizing it. Inside lay its contents: a box in a plastic bag. As he opened it up, the smell of new shoes instantly made him think of the cute little girl.

Busro felt a pang of instant regret for not leaving the shoes at home. She would be dancing around the room with joy if he had done so. She might have phoned her friends in excitement to tell them. "I've got new shoes! New shoes, like the ones on TV!" She would have been so happy.

The hawker seemed to have appeared out of nowhere when he sat down abruptly beside Busro. He put his box holding the assortment of knives in front of him. The man suddenly broke out in a coughing spasm, and turning to look at him, Busro noticed that he was bathed in sweat and breathing with difficulty. The hawker fumbled in his pocket for a small bottle of red pills. He shook two of them out and downed them with his bottled water.

"Where are you going?" the man asked Busro when his coughing stopped. He turned to glance at Busro as he used a small towel to wipe the sweat off his face.

Busro was speechless, not out of shock, but because he wasn't sure if he was going home or back to the city. "Just taking a walk," he said, surprising himself at how casual he sounded. He hastily put his things back in his small backpack.

Busro collected his knapsack and rose from the bench. But he stopped himself from leaving when he caught a glimpse of the shiny steel blades of the new knives. His heart started pounding and something inside him seemed to awaken.

Taken aback by the intriguing sight, Busro decided to stay and put his knapsack down again. His eyes seemed mesmerized by the sight of the knives for no apparent reason. Some strange force seemed to make his hand reach for one of them. He picked one up and gazed at it closely, turning it around with his hand as he tested the blade's sharpness. Busro's long and peculiar way of scrutinizing the knife aroused the hawker's interest.

"How much is it?"

"Twelve thousand rupiah," he answered nervously, while straightening his back. "It's sharp and strong, don't worry. I've never sold knives that soon go blunt. People in this terminal know that. But there's another blade sharper than that one."

He pointed to a larger, shinier knife in the box. "It's only Rp 5,000 more. It's the sharpest one I have."

Busro nodded. In fact, all the knives seemed remarkable to him.

"It's up to you which one you choose," the old man said.

"Are there any other sharper ones?"

He frowned. The bigger blade he just mentioned was the sharpest he had. "Wait a minute, I'll take a look." He picked the knives up one by one from the heap he had been peddling for quite a while. He picked up a dull, blunt looking knife and straightened his back. After looking to the left and right, he leaned close to Busro and whispered: "This is very sharp. I know that, because I used it once."

Busro was curious to hear more from the old chap.

"I used it to cut my wife's body into pieces," he said in a low whisper. "That was a long time ago."

His words sent an electric shock through Busro. "Why?" Busro said, finding his voice.

"One day I came home and found her fooling around." His voice quavered for a moment, and his eyes gazed into space as he spoke. "I hadn't seen her for three weeks. When I arrived home, I caught her in bed with another man. I grabbed the knife and stabbed her there and then. Then I hacked her to bits. Unfortunately, the jerk got away. A husband has to be able to take these risks to defend his family's dignity. I've just been released from prison." He paused for a moment. "Sometimes I can still smell her blood left on this blade." He turned his gaze back to the knife he was holding.

Busro was speechless. He could not believe what he had just heard.

Busro smiled as Pippin came to the door to welcome him. The sight of her grinning from ear to ear helped him shake off the hurt. She started jumping around with delight knowing that a gift was probably inside his knapsack for her. "Hooray, hooray! Daddy's home! You must have bought me new shoes. You've got a lot of money now, right? Tomorrow let's buy a bag like Susi's. It's terrific. It has a picture of Teletubbies on it."

He nodded and stroked her hair as he laid his knapsack on the table. He took out the shoes and gave them to his daughter, who immediately ran off to show them to her mother. "Mom, Dad's bought me some new shoes!" Busro rarely heard such a cry of joy. His heart began to beat hard when his hand touched something cold in the backpack. He then remembered the object and slid his fingers gently along the blade's edge, feeling its sharpness.

Murni came out to welcome him and brought with her a hot cup of coffee. She hugged and kissed him, but she only talked to Busro for a while because she said she wanted to get back to her housework. Pipin had gone out to play. The house was quiet. Busro cautiously stepped toward the kitchen, holding the knife. He saw his wife washing dirty cutlery. Her hair was tied up in a bun to show off her clear complexion. Her beauty held him captive for a few moments and he grew hesitant.

His mind went back to the face of the knife hawker, though, and his breath started to quicken again. Busro paced the floor with the knife held tightly in his hand. His grip was so firm that the tip pressed into his left palm, drawing some blood. He stepped closer. His wife suddenly turned to look at him. She smiled sweetly, displaying her dimples, and he melted. Busro was distraught, almost dropping the blade. "Mas, why don't you take a rest in the bedroom? You must be tired." Busro took in her soft, soothing voice as if it were sweet music. He looked lovingly at her rosy cheeks, curly eyelashes and shapely figure, which always took his breath away.

"Umm, I bought a kitchen knife ... for you," Busro said, as he handed it over to her. He turned and hurried into the bedroom. He swore at himself. Just as he'd expected, he didn't have the guts to plunge the knife into her when he saw her face and let her charms work on him.

"Daddy, daddy."

The piercing voice of the girl floated into the room from outside. Although he was absolutely fatigued, Busro opened the bedroom door. Behind his daughter stood a muscular man who was neatly dressed. The man was obviously surprised to see Busro in the bedroom, but Busro was even more astounded. Busro instantly knew that this was the man that he saw earlier making love to his wife. But Busro wasn't able to hold his gaze.

Note: Mas = term of address for an older man/brother or husband.

Translated by Aris Prawira