I walked down the narrow streets of Jakarta one Sunday evening. The city had returned to its usual pace, beating with its lively pulse again. Cars, and motorcycles, and street hawkers. Lovers walking hand in hand and kids playing firecrackers. It’s good to be back home.
War is over. It’s been a year. Finally, we get to live the freedom we’ve fought so hard for.
I was strolling along the street when I heard somebody called my name.
I turned my head to see who it was. “Sergeant! Never thought I’d meet you here.”
“Well, me too, Sir.”
Always with his inexplicable radiant charm, this young man. You know, that kind of person who lifts your mood up just by his presence. I lit up my cigarette and offered him, just to tease him a bit.
We both laughed. Ever since he decided to quit smoking I had always made a good fun of him by offering cigarettes. We got bored on the battlefield, and it was just one of those harmless jokes that soldiers make to keep us warm at night. He’s all right, this kid, understood that that’s the way soldiers treat their friends.
We were together in the war for, I don’t know, maybe four years. Funny, because when you look back, it feels like it wasn’t very long. But back then, it felt like forever. Like the war would go on and on and on till kingdom come.
Those years saw us hiding in jungles, sleeping in dirt, and patrolling the perimeters. We had our thoughts on loved ones back home, but we had to rely on one another to keep ourselves alive. Over the course of the war, I got promoted to the rank of Captain, while he got promoted to a Sergeant.
“How’s life, Sergeant?”
“No need to worry about snipers, eh?”
“Yes, Sir, you bet.”
“Man, I miss you guys.”
“Whoa, are you for real, Sir? Captain Martin himself, said those words?” He let out a couple of his trademark warm chuckles.
“Oh, shut up.”
I had a reputation among the boys for being a very unsentimental man. Heck, even ‘unsentimental’ is an understatement.
“Anyway, how’s it going, Sir?”
I paused for a while. “Settling down, I guess. Enjoying life. Speaking of settling down, though, I think I’m gonna cut your throat, Sergeant. How could you?!”
“What, Sir?” He seemed a little perplexed.
“Remember that night when you couldn’t sleep? You looked at a photo of that girl of yours?”
In an instant his face changed. I’ve never seen him look like this. Even when old Ronnie died there was still a hint of lightness in his face. Now, though, he was petrified.
He tried to gain composure by switching his body to another foot. But it didn’t take long before he smiled again. He’s a fine soldier, this fellow.
“Yeah, Sir, when I got back here, it… it turned out she’s already married.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry to hear that.” Now it was me who got awkward.
“Yeah… it’s funny, though, cause I… I went straight for her soon as possible, I forgot to report to battalion,” said he, sensing the awkwardness and trying to ease the tension. He laughed nervously.
There was a silence for a while. Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond.
“Lucky me, battalion sent a reminder.”
“Yeah, you don’t wanna miss that. I mean, there was this guy who didn’t report to HQ on time and when he got back, all of a sudden there was this general, and…”
“Ah, never mind, Boy.”
He just smiled, and then another period of awkward silence as we continued our aimless stroll.
Now normally I’m not a nosy guy, but somehow there was this curious itch to know more about this fella.
“So the war should’ve ended earlier, eh?”
“Yeaaah… no, Sir, I think the war was just alright.”
“It’s funny, Cap’n, how complex Life is. Y’know, with all Its actors and scripts and settings. Don’t get me wrong, though, I meant it not as a complain, but a compliment. It’s just beautiful beyond belief.”
What’s this guy talking about?
“Yeah, but don’t you think it should’ve ended earlier?”
“I wish it would’ve ended earlier. Look, Sir, you can ask God how many times I begged Him to end that war. I think He was really bored with me, y’know. ‘Oh, this same guy again, with this same prayer again.’ Hahaha.”
No cynicism in his laughter. Intrigued, I wanted to ask something. But he went on.
“But I don’t think it should’ve ended earlier. No, it’s not like I don’t want peace or love violence or som’ing like that, y’know. It’s just that I felt everything has their purpose. It is what it is. Four years, it is what it is.” He took a pause.
“Tomorrow knows what it knows, Cap’n. Couldn’t make it get here sooner.”
I find it interesting how he can manage to find meaning amidst all this. Well, it’s not like he’s a goddamn psycho who doesn’t feel anything. I mean, you can sense deep sorrow in his voice, in his eyes. But somehow he refused to wallow in despair. Somehow he believed there’s something good behind all this. And it’s not just a mind hack or… or a make believe stuff you see on the internet. It’s solid.
“Good point, Sergeant.”
And we continued our walk for another half an hour before we parted ways. As I walked back to my home, his words came back to my mind. War, peace, and all this intricate dance called Life.
Tomorrow knows what it knows.