Today’s heat is unbearable. In the East, it is always hot. But I find today to be especially so. Maybe it’s just because I don’t feel enthusiastic to accompany my dad for his work. Still, it is not without a valid reason.
I’m curious about the book Rudi lent me in school this morning. It’s by Roald Dahl. I haven’t learned how to pronounce his name but for the time being, knowing how to spell and write down his name is enough. Rudi is one of the luckiest students in our class. He gets to pick anything he wants (as long as it is a book) from Gramedia whenever he goes home with a good score.
Perhaps, the lucky one is me. I’m his only close friend and confidante in class. And Rudi has been kind enough to lend me a book whenever I request for it. “One book, one week,” that’s what he would always remind me before handing it over. Even so, I’m not complaining. It’s still much better than the old, smelly decaying books from the school’s library.
The Iron Truck Driver’s special power is the comical ability to move his moustache around as if it has a life on its own.
The sun is still beating down mercilessly. I roll the window down a little bit more to allow more air in. But doing so also unleashes a torrent of dust into the passenger seat. I roll them back up so that it is now between the original and previous level.
I twist my head to gaze at my dad, the “Iron Truck Driver”. He came up with the self-proclaimed moniker after seeing Iron Man 3 movie poster a few years back. And it doesn’t even bother him a little that he has never watched a single Iron Man movie before. Dad’s eyes are firmly fixed on the road, his shoulders are slightly hunching forward.
His mouth, hidden under his thick moustache, is chewing on peanuts he just bought from a street pedlar we regularly pass by when we turn right into Rawamangun Street. The Iron Truck Driver’s special power is the comical ability to move his moustache around as if it has a life on its own when he’s chewing on something (since his mouth is hidden behind that thick bush). I wonder why he didn’t give his moustache a nickname instead.
One of them pulls out his left hand and flashes my dad the middle finger.
The weather is still unbearably hot. And there’s nothing I can do other than giving myself in to the truck’s movement as it rocks left and right, up and down, like a messed up rhythm. We’ve been driving over too many road potholes.
Finally the rocking stops, just for a while, as we wait for the traffic light. I rest my head against the window and stare at a bunch of rowdy students, all more or less my age. They are shouting and jeering wildly as if they’ve just been released from a juvenile prison. I’m glad Rudi is my best friend. I’d rather not being able to read one of Rudi’s books for a week than to be mixed in that group, pretending as if we’re some invincible young hoodlums.
Some of them dash into the road just as the green light pops up. My dad plants his hand on the loud honk. The sudden deafening noise jolts them. I smile a little as we drive pass those kids. One of them pulls out his left hand and flashes my dad the middle finger. Unfazed, the Iron Truck Driver continues to display his special power, downing the remaining peanuts into his barely visible mouth.
Now we’re moving along the usual stretch of road where it is flanked with street vendors on both sides.
I look at my dad, the Iron Truck Driver, son of another truck driver, just like all the ancestors before us and thought to myself if that’s all there is to this life. Carrying on a torch from one to another, a parent to a child then down to his or her offspring too.
Of course, my dad always tells me I’m free to choose what I’d like to do. That always sounds like a joke to me, even though my dad means well. After all, he’s just a truck driver. I could easily land his job whether he passes it down to me or not.
It’s not as if I’m the son of a CEO of a big company. Of course, I’m free to choose. But whether I’m able to get there is another story.
Now we’re moving along the usual stretch of road where it is flanked with street vendors on both sides. My dad knows some of them very well. Pak Irwan, the bird seller. Pak Rojali, the toy pedlar. There’s also Bu Rani with her gorengan cart. My dad would honk at them whenever we drive pass them.
Suddenly I see myself in the Iron Truck Driver’s seat, doing the same thing as I wave at the sons and daughters of Pak Irwan, Pak Rojali and Bu Rani, who have received the torch from their parents, just as I from the Iron Truck Driver.
I sit up with my knees pulled in. I felt nauseous. It could be the lunch I had after school.
The weather is no longer hot. But I still wish I could be at home, reading Roald Dahl’s stories.
Short Story by Julius Kensan
Art Direction by Sharin Yofitasari
Voiceover by Christopher Anthrasal