Many of the sights needed to be passed over and absorbed as a matter of course; swallowed whole as it were. People knew such images from the screen and there was an abundance of the same everywhere now. Walking past this particular chap nightly had forced the issue in this case, a regular event at the upper, dark end of Malioboro beyond the train station where the kopi jos stands were located. (Recently Faris the Arizonan convert was introduced to the coffee with the sizzling coal additive—a man of forty years acquaintance with Indonesia, who knew those stalls where the becak drivers and transvestites took their refreshment, without ever having come across the beverage.) This particular man always stretched full-length on a 70cm concrete ledge under fluorescent lighting. During the day a Hyundai outlet operated from the shopfront. A few metres along wedged against a pillar lay a couple who could only have been father and daughter; a cross-generational marriage like that surely could not have endured on the street. This first man drew attention for his particular form of anonymity. From the torso and legs one guessed middle-aged; shorts, tee and flip-flops against the shutters beside which he usually stood his makeshift crutch that was cobbled together from oddments of wood and a plastic automotive component of some kind. Understandably, the bright light was preferable to a dark, hidden corner in a lane or behind a wall. Amongst his fellows there where he received alms like the others during the day, sleep would be more comforting. (Much of the begging in Indonesia was mute and undeclared, the presentation of the form enough to draw offering.) The bright light the man countered with two long newspaper sheets reaching from his pelvis up over the top of his head. Nightly the man was stretched flat on his back in the same posture, arms straight at his sides, reminding of the lines of Confucius where the sage cautions against the corpse posture in sleep. The paper carefully positioned like that and the overlap of the sheets neatly aligned suggested a friendly hand performing the service. Three weeks, twenty or thirty passes between 8-11pm the man was invariably found there. Whether he had ever been encountered up on his feet was of course impossible to say. Between times one forgot about the man and became startled at the reminder.
Australian by birth and Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic’s eight years living and writing in S-E Asia has provided unexpected stimulus. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, including Ambit, Big Bridge, Southerly, Citron & Antigonish Reviews.