“You wanted to know about the place where I am feeling free. Now we are here.”
“Here? But this is in the middle of the water—dirty water. You’re joking, right? Let’s go to your real special place, please.”
“But we are here,” the old man replies while mooring the boat.
“Come on. Please! Why would this place be any special? It’s dirty, there’s trash all around us and the smell is...” he wrinkles his nose.
“Let me explain: Do you see where I have moored the boat?”
“Yes, on a stone, wherever this comes from. I am not even sure if it’s just floating or connected to something that could hold us.”
The old man laughs. “Yes, you could say it is a stone. And don´t worry, it will hold us. This stone is the top of my beautiful old mosque. Here in Muara Baru where I went when I was a child. Here, I learned everything about our religion. It must have been almost forty years since I have been inside. Back in 2011—or was it 2012—praying, hoping that this magical place could stay alive. But nature wanted it differently. Soon it became clear that its time was up.”
“This stone is supposed to be a mosque? Are you kidding?” the young man sounds annoyed.
“No, I am not,” the elder answers calmly.
“You are right, it is difficult to believe, and this cloaca doesn’t look beautiful at all. But whenever I am here, I still feel God. Memories awaken. I just feel… I feel young again, rejuvenated. I am not often here anymore. It is far away and I am angry that our government didn’t manage to save our city. Early enough it became clear that something needed to happen… They knew it, for god’s sake!” Tears are filling his eyes.
“We tried so hard. We were fighting for our city. We wanted this goddamn island. But nothing worked out. Whenever they started to build the walls or began saving the city, something came up. There was not enough money. We got unlucky with the weather, or another flood hit us. People got sick because of the bacteria in the water. The whole city keeps on sinking, the walls are still not finished, too low or broken. It is just unbelievable how unlucky we were—we are.
“But I still feel its spirit. Whenever I am here, I get new hope. Not for saving the city, but for the goodwill of the people. I hope, that my family and I will stay safe and that in the end there is something that explains why all this had to happen.
“Let us go back now, I am getting tired,” the old man says as he releases the boat.
The young man starts to paddle. “Thank you, for showing me your special place and telling me your story.” He pauses. “And I am sorry! Sorry, that I didn’t believe you in the beginning. Now I understand you.”
Written by Nora Naeve.
Cover art by Nora Naeve.