May 02, 2008

Putu Wijaya Maya


IT MUST HAVE BEEN ALMOST DAWN when I heard the knock on the door. My darkened room was pierced, as if by tiny arrows, by the first call to prayer from the mosques in my area of town. But Maya was fast asleep, her mouth hanging open. I rolled over to the edge of the bed and sat up. The knocking became more insistent.

I tried to work out who would have the gall to interrupt my sleep at that time of the morning. Certainly none of my acquaintances; none of them hated me that much! I decided that it had to be someone I didn't know, someone delivering an urgent message.

I went out and peeked over the balcony off the bedroom and I saw standing below a man wearing a blue jacket. The shape of his head was familiar — I was sure it was Silur, an old friend from Singaraja.

I barked out his name, "Silur!"

The man below was thrown by that, but he looked up straight away. It wasn't Silur after all. This person was a stranger to me.

"Excuse me," he began.

"Yes, what is it?" I immediately asked.

"Does Maya live here?"


"Can I see her?"

"She's asleep."

"Well, wake her up."

What bloody cheek, I thought, but then told him, "She's pretty hard to wake up. Can't you come back later?"

"No, I've got to see her now. Right now!"

"It's that urgent?"

"Yes, it is."

"Hang on a minute, will you?"

"Okay, but please hurry."

I nodded an answer. "I'll see what I can do." Then I stepped back so that he couldn't see me from below. I needed a few moments to think. I looked around me. The whole world seemed to be still sleeping. At the same time, each new day brought with it some new oddity. Like this one... I couldn't believe that I had some stranger standing on my doorstep, determined to wake up my wife Maya.

I decided in a flash that this had to be a dream, but when I poked my head outside again to check, he snapped at me: "Well, did you wake her?"

"Hang on a minute, will you?"

"Hurry up!"

I retreated into the room filled with the steady sound of Maya's breathing. I watched her for a while and as she didn't move, I decided against waking her. I lay down beside her again. I listened, and sure enough, the stranger had started to pound on the door again. This time it was louder and more insistent, like a master trying to rouse a snoring servant.

I clamped my eyes shut in anger. If Maya woke up, she could deal with it. I would feign ignorance. But then, I thought, maybe it was urgent: a family matter, for instance, or something completely unexpected. Maybe a shooting call — Maya had just signed on for a film.

I think I then dropped off to sleep. When I opened my eyes it seemed like hours had gone by, but in fact it was only a few minutes. And there it was, that hysterical knocking. This time the man was calling out her name as well.

"Maya! Maya...!"

That was too much. I worried that the neighbors might wake up and wonder what the hell was going on. And so, for the second time, I dragged myself out of bed, even as Maya slept on. She was such a heavy sleeper that even after she awoke she was non compos mentis for a good fifteen minutes.

I went out to the balcony to find him still below and pounding the door as if ready to knock it down.

"Maya! What are you doing in there? Maya!"

Almost without thinking about it, I suddenly grabbed a vase, the heaviest one in the room, and pitched it over the rail. The vase fell right on the bastard's head but I was so mad I didn't care.

Nor did I wait around to see the result. All I needed to know was that he wasn't going to knock on my door and go on shouting "Maya, Maya, Maya!" anymore.

The only thing I could hear now was the low rumble of traffic on the highway. It was still dark and quite humid.

Maya soundly slept on. "Maya...." I called her name gently but got no response. I touched her lips with my finger. She sighed softly but didn't awake. I couldn't resist a smile, for the simple pleasures of a dark room and the comforting ticking of the clock.

For some time I sat on the side of the bed, smiling, before I lay down and fell asleep once more.

When I next awoke Maya was staring at me, straight in the face.

"My God!" she exclaimed. "I had this real scary dream that last night this guy was knocking on the door and you dropped a vase on his head! God, it was weird!"

I said nothing. It was what I had suspected all along.