Literature, personal

[CERPEN]: THE NOMADS OF THE EAST

paul-almasy-gruppe-von-nomaden-in-einer-oase-sahara-afrika-1343919171_b
credit: Paul Almasy: Gruppe von Nomaden in einer Oase, Sahara, Afrika (1955)

We were the Nomads of the East.

I always thought that Earth was the loneliest place in the universe. The roads we took on, all the trees had gone from their roots to the tiniest twigs, the burning asphalt in the summer, the piercing cold of the water in the river everytime we took a sip, the blazing sun although illuminating thousands of iridescent glows could never lift up the shadows within each of our heart.

Say, I had always been on the edge of my non-existent-wooden chair in regard to know the world before us. And what was beyond us. Since I was born I had wanted to set my feet to every inch of the land, leaving traces of wherever I was. But, then, was not that how were living our lives? Wandering her and there, not belonging anywhere.

Until it was later, I found out that if there should be one single thing my heart so desperately desired to obtain, it was a place called home.

One day, I looked up at the sky, the dusk was crashing down on the front door—we were abiding a humble tent. It was an ordinary twilight, a beautiful one though. Grayish cotton candies were pulsating on their axis, driven by the wind force. I wonder how strong the wind was—nobody taught us the mathematical aspect to rate the velocity. We only knew it by instincts, we had been on our own since we came of age anyway.

For mere seconds the earth went silent. Only the thumping of my heart against the ribcage like a rabbit hopping off the grass, the sighing of breaths, the writhing of fire outside, sizzling of the boiling water in the kettle. As if an invisible hand had put the whole place into giant breathing bubble that was consisting of me and the belongings came alive.

I thought, then, it was very lonely, indeed. I would not have to imagine if I was all by myself even though I was not.

And it was disquieting in the strangest manner of serenity. The wide horizon in the distance was painted by the Hands of God: diluted ink, smeared in without any penchant but never random. It was an abnormally clear night, such that thrust you sudden clarity of mind. By then, I encountered the paradox of wanting.

I had map of the earth, marked each place I had been into. With a single dot of my pen. I could spell and read, and write, even doing some math since Ma taught me so. It was not like any other children was granted the privileges, or even inclined to. I never knew my parents; the others mentioned that behind Ma; to me, that I was not hers. That was such an evil thing to do to a child. And to Ma.

I thought of Ma. We had been together since I could remember and I never knew anyone else but Ma. I never wished to be parted from Ma. But we were the Nomads of the East. So she went back to the east where our ancestors originated, to spend the rest of her life there until the grim reaper would say hello.

I really wanted to say that Ma was that place I could call home. It had been a heavy burden on my shoulders for worrying about her everyday, wondering what she was up to, waiting for the hawk would pay a visit to bring news of her condition—in other words, her passing. But it had not come. And I did not know how to feel about that.

Because we had been home to each other all those years.

I remember the people had been longing to see the whole world with their own eyes just like I did back then when I was a child. I hiked the seven summits in less than five years. I tiptoed across the marshes. I had acquainted myself with the desert before I turned eight. The forest offered solemn friendship. I had taken shelter inside the caves in many sleepless nights along my journey. And yes, I wanted to see more.

But then again, did I?

For the first time in many years, I faltered. I just wanted to go home. Was there some place I could go?

After all, we were the Nomads of the East.

I was thinking of the seven billions people inhabiting this planet. It had agitated me to pain of how very little they knew about me and I to them.

I thought of those people crushed beneath the thumb of the tyrants. I had witnessed the oppression going strong somewhere under the sun. Did they have diner all those nights? Because I was having a cup of finely-brewed chamomile tea, a piece of bread and cheese and pickles with eggs. It was infinitely pleasant. I was six feet under the stars. I could not ask for more than that.

My mind shifted to those people who vanished like smokes caught within our bare palms. Maybe at the trunk of a car, buried and scorched under somebody else’s feet, torched and ignited so they would flame away. Unidentified, lost, unfound. What would they have in mind when it all happened? That we all had abandoned them? As if they did not matter, just invisible to the others? A momentary speck in the multitude universe?

I thought of how very little the others had any concerns regarding somebody else while also contributing for their deaths. Then it felt like shards of glass piercing my head, my heart. Is that how really the world works? If it does, then it is so ugly.

Was it because those people had no place such as home? Did they lose their way back?

I had never lost, even in the wilderness, I could always manage to find my way back. But that night was like a dead end.

Because to some extend I knew exactly how it felt like. And I wished to extinguish the pain they were bound to endure for awhile. I felt the need to exorcise the demons of our past.

I could not remember when was the last time it was raining. Maybe years ago when I wandered the wilderness and the world before I got lost. I thought I would never get lost but now I did.

I would always be thinking about that moment even in my deathbed. Back in the east.

But I was afraid there would be more rain that night. Would it be in illuminating drizzle or pouring like a waterfall?

I guess, once in a blue moon, my humble abode had never been so drenched and heavy soaking all the water to each nook and cranny. Yet, there I was, on my own, a cup of lukewarm tea in my hand, a thin shield God had granted for me once again.

“Hullo, excuse me?” A roughened voice fell from the stars. It contained the native accent. He approached me in several long strides, eyes disappearing into half-moon as he put on a warm smile. “The engine of my car broke down—since we are out of nowhere—hey, lady, you are on your own?”

He was dry as the desert I set my foot on years ago. I only stared at him.

“Well, I thought I could use for some help but seeing that you were alone—“ The young man hesitated for awhile. Half of the society banned you to ask a lady to carry on heavy loads. Was I ever part of that society anyway?

I gestured to him to take a seat and offered him tea which he politely declined. With that bright smile, even in such situation. I could not remember how long I was immersed but maybe it was nearly midnight already.

“Were you just—?” He was considerate enough to hand over a handkerchief. It smelled of fresh laundry and mixture of vetiver and peppermint. I guessed it was his perfume. He was wearing a knitted jumper and trousers perhaps wondering why I could stand the weather with only a pair of old T-shirt and jeans.

He needed some tools since he accidentally left it behind before moving out. He just finished his post-graduate from the state university and opted to rent an apartment just outskirt the city near his new workplace. And I said I always had some spares and tools just in case.

Half an hour later, he thanked me and offered a ride to the city so I could rent a room instead of doing a camping outside—when it was not really safe for a young lady—like a hippie.

“It’s fine. “

He looked genuinely worried.

“My name is Andy. “

I highly doubted it. I had seen the brand new card business scattered at the backseat of his car. He was rather sloppy, I gathered. His name was Solar Andrews.

“Does anyone make fun of your name?”

And maybe he thought I was making fun of him as well because he was starting to laugh I was sure his inside was turning upside down. “You’re funny, do you know that? I like you already. Yeah, they did back in school, they thought it was a silly name. What did you say your name again?”

“I didn’t. “

“Oh. “ The laughter died instantly, though temporarily. He rebounded to his amicable personality. “Heading somewhere? You know, I’m really concerned of you being on your own. “

“You don’t have to. I’m going east. “

They said there was nothing new under the sun and I was afraid of the pouring rain all over again. I was thinking about the shadowy places inside every human being. I tried to rewind Ma’s voice inside my head. I went to the secret black memory box embedded somewhere: the contents had become hazy.

Only I had never imagined the warmth emitted by those eyes and radiating smile. Brought by someone who was not Ma. He was not any other people, he was not any other place.

“Well, then. It is the east and I am the sun!”

Now I know. It is the east and I am home.

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