It was in a mikrolet, one of those Suzuki’s designed to carry eight but in which eighteen can be crammed, that we first met. We had little choice in noticing each other as she was half perched in my lap, albeit side on. I looked at her profile. Smooth skin, a somewhat western nose and a whitish complexion. This may have been a reflection from her Victorian style blouse, white, buttoned up to her throat with long long sleeves accentuated by the embroidered ruffs which covered her wrists.
Being a gentleman, I looked to my right trying to peer at the road ahead whilst she stared at the collection of uniformed workers, schoolkids and the odd ibu perched to my left. Most seemed pre-occupied with their handphones, but she wasn’t. When I glanced back, to ease my neck strain, she was gazing at me intently with no expression on her face or, it seemed, in her eyes.
She just looked, so I did too and it wasn’t uncomfortable. I wondered what she saw in me.
We reached the toll gate where cross-city buses pick up and drop off, and I clambered out after her, sprinted slowly through the traffic and across the road, and paused. Was she following? I couldn’t see her; perhaps she was headed for the nearby apartments.
Some time later my air-conditioned bus arrived and, oh joy, with an empty seat in the back row which I always seek out for the leg room. We waited awhile and then the seat just in front of me was taken by .. her. We looked at each other for longer than really necessary but again without expression, and she sat, again, almost in my lap.
Once we had set off, the peanut vendors and bottled water carriers having descended to base, we were left with our thoughts and a lone busker. He was, perhaps for a change, quite melodious and could play his guitar sufficiently well for me to forgive the intrusion. Perhaps he was singing romantic melodies but, as usual, the bus engine drowned out any subtleties of note.
So it was my turn to gaze, at the top of her head with its clean straight shoulder-length hair, her long slim bejeanned legs and her slender left arm. I wondered where she had learnt her style, from which magazine or era – mine? I couldn’t overhear her phone conversation, and didn’t want to, but her voice was young but knowing. I liked that.
Was she a student? If so, where were her books? She didn’t seem to be going to or even from work. She wore her clothes well: they were smart, but certainly not expensive. She was also going a long way, reasonably comfortably in public transport terms, but not by the greatly more expensive taxi. I saw an educated confident young lady who knew where she was going.
For once I felt grateful to the musician. I took a Rp.1,000 note, a clean one, and carefully folded it in half, and again, again and again. Four times, but would five be enough? When slipping notes rather than coins into a pengaman‘s (busker’s) pouch it’s usual to make small money very small.
Then she did the same, four folds or five? I watched as she tried both, and then, having settled on five as I had done, she donated to his trust fund. I felt really good as I did the same and wondered – wanted? – if she would be getting off with me.
It was time for the next unofficial stop en route, mine, but would it be hers? We slowed, I rose, she stayed – ho hum – and I thought of choice farewells.
Without a word, but a swift glance back for a mutual remembrance, I telepathed sampai jumpa – until next time.