October 20, 2007 at 6:28 am (Short Story) ()

 Peter Davis had heard all the views: You can’t go back. You can’t recapture the past. The dreams of old men are just that. Nostalgia is said to be a yearning for the past. A seeking for a bygone time and place. He knew that the stream of life was just that, a flow thatpasses and changes. So what was Davis doing back in Angoram after thirty years? A broken down river settlement on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea which had little to recommend it, apart from past memories. It was now largely a dysfunctional town. No electric power, airstrip or wharf and government office to assist and drive the daily lives of the residents. There was a hospital without patients, a condition that did not necessarily indicate a healthy population. He walked the muddy roads and dreamed of people long since gone, a colonial past of people and events. An expatriate life erased from living memory, or was it?True, no longer was there a club. The sub-district office, hotel and notorious Tobacco Road were gone. The opportunity to drink a brandy with Sandy, the former manageress of the hotel, was no longer there. The eccentric Dutch priest, if still alive, had long since left and with him, lively conversations about philosophy and theology. Young New Guinea women of bygone years were now either dead or old. The men who remembered Davis were, like him ―old. 

In this walk down memory lane, there was one considerable constant ― the mosquitoes.They were just like those of old and still as eager to practise their bloodsucking techniques.

Poor Davis himself was a shadow of his former self, an old man with piles, an enlarged  prostate and a heart condition. Age had certainly wearied him physically but not mentally, he remained as cerebrally sound as ever. The normal desires of life were still his. He still had an eye for a comely wench and he reflected that perhaps age was something like alcohol: it left desire unimpeded but in Shakespeare’s words: “taketh away the performance”. Some would call him “a dirty old man”. His retort would have been: “But I was a dirty young man.” Davis liked to think that he was a man who could confront the past and live the truth. Little did he know the past was about to catch up with him. Like a mirror on the wall, the past reveals the good, the bad and the ugly.

In a rather nondescript trade store near the former airstrip, Davis was to see his past reflected in a surprising way. He needed to purchase one or two items, and he asked the woman serving behind the counter for some soap and tins of fish and then looked into her face and asked: Wanem nem bilong yu?(What is your name?) She told him her name was Ipa Davis. He then asked: Wanem nem bilong mama bilong yu?(What is your mother’s name?) Ipa answered: Nem bilong mama, Elizabeth, em i dai pinis.( My mother’s name was Elizabeth and she is dead.)

It was then that Davis realized that he was looking at his own daughter. The whole experience was too much for him. He said nothing to Ipa and just paid for his purchases, and walked away.



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