He found himself a table at a popular watering hole. It has been over a year since he was here. And he wondered why it felt almost as if he was returning into a strange world. The “new” place strained to contain his store of old memories. That particular table is still there. A boat used to hang there from the ceiling. It is there no longer. He had been told there are fewer rats now. He will have to take their word for it. He found the place essentially changed though not completely so. It felt different.
He came alone. Which was just as well. The better to keep company old and heretofore forgotten memories. The better to drink to each one of them. He did not feel lonely. There were still a few people he knew and who knew him. They passed quickly nodding their recognition, exchanging only a few cursory words above the music. Most of them called him sir, which as always bothered him and made him feel old. But he can’t help that.
In this world teachers are always called “sir”. Any other term invites inappropriate intimacy even in this world. Though it had been the nearest outpost for libertarianism in these parts. Used to be, this was the gathering place of the liberated, the cool, the hip: environmentalists, hippies, rastas, doctors of something or other, writers, poets, musicians, artists.
He wondered if they still came around. He would not know for sure. It felt almost as if too many years have passed since the last time he met this and that friend, this and that easy acquaintance. He could of course be wrong. But it seemed almost as if this world was now populated by a different perhaps younger if more numerous race.
Still, it was not a bad place. And after all, he was here only to watch Junior Kilat do another reggae festival. And he knew even from the start a younger breed “own” reggae now even if its icons are still of the “old school”. GK, Philip, Prahdiip, Budoy. They were still there. They have done a great thing with this movement. And he would have to say they played as well as ever. They still moved the audience to stand up and dance.
And then he missed his old friend Roylu. He always misses him along with many others every time Budoy goes onstage. But Roylu especially who would have been dancing with his nth beer in hand and his backpack shouldered behind him. Once, Joey Ayala noted how he looked like someone dancing with a parachute on.
He knows the observation is quite misguided. What Joey does not know is that Roylu is a writer. He came here straight from work, his Dell laptop still in his bag. Computer and bag carry his entire life, endless files to record in microscopic detail the entirety of his life. You do not leave that anywhere else but on your back in a public place.
The act of containing and then carrying your world this way makes perfect sense. We all have to carry our worlds somehow. A backpack does just as well as a car or a guitar. And yet Joey was not wrong in observing that Roylu carried his world on his back like a parachute.
Where he sat drinking his beer alone and waiting for Junior Kilat to come on, he remembered how he used to do that too. He remembered carrying his world in a bag strapped over his back like a parachute. A parachute is always good for bailing out when the time comes. And it always comes. He theorized: There would be as many times for bailing out as there would be times for returning, for landing on solid earth after a good flight.
And Budoy’s Junior Kilat was exactly the right thing for him on this particular night. He remembered exactly the music even if Budoy sang it differently now and the musical instrumentation was far richer and more digital-electronic. Happily there was still that rawness that Budoy always brings with him wherever he goes. It dawned on him: It was this genuine rawness that the place itself most lacked. It is this “original” rawness that defines Budoy and his music. He prayed never to lose it for himself.
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