Java Mausoleum by Vincent Ternida

2 May, 2017 0 comment

Illustration by Karla Monterrosa

Three weeks passed since the Keurig machine stopped talking.

****

“A Keurig? Thanks, I guess.”

“You’re so busy with your work I doubt you find time for decent coffee,” my mom said.

I happened to work next to a couple of artisan coffee shops, though I hated to admit it, I would usually settle for Starbucks. The Keurig box absorbed the awkward energy surrounding the dining table.

“Do you want to read my novel?” My dad broke the awkward silence with an awkward question.

My dad retired early as a CFO of a multinational corporation in Jakarta. It was a nice way of saying “he got laid off.” After that, he never kept a job longer than two weeks. Indonesia seemed like a lifetime away.

He retreated to his habit of stroking his incomplete beard; it was lacking that connector tissue between the moustache and the goatee. Placing his hand on his large gut, he waited for an answer. To be safe, I smiled and waited for my mom to change the subject but was distracted. She focused all her energy on Candy Crush as if her life depended on it.

Sparing no detail, he narrated a Downtown Eastside parable as written by someone who had been to Hastings and Main once and decided to have a go at it. It had some merit—imagine if Ayn Rand decided to let Brett Easton Ellis inside of her and sired a love child in the form of a deluded venture capitalist that stumbled on a hidden fortune he could bank on if only he became a homeless person.

“How’s work?” Finally, my mom changed the subject.

“It’s work.”

My mom was an account supervisor for twelve years until she decided to bear witness to my father’s success and became the CEO of his estate. After his early retirement, she resigned as full time housewife and became a full time bookkeeper.

The staccato beep of the dryer buzzed, which concluded my visiting hour with my parents. Lunch, laundry, and light conversation—it made for a good break from existential masturbation called city living.

“Do you want to read my novel?” My dad broke the awkward silence with an awkward question.

I waited for the 351 lugging a Keurig box half my size. It was a two-hour journey that involved a bus ride leaving White Rock, a Skytrain intermission, and a bus detour so I didn’t have to go through Downtown Eastside and be reminded of my dad’s magnum opus. My dad puffed on a Number Seven cigarette as he waited with me. I didn’t know what was worse, the second hand smoke or the silence. Basketball was at preseason, so basketball small talk was out of the question.

“I want to go back to Indonesia,” he said. “You know I always told you I hated my job but we had it good.”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna tag along? We can split an Indo hooker while we’re there.”

The bus pulled up when I needed it most.

“See you next week.”

“Happy Birthday.”

For a split second, I remembered what the librarian said from my travel group in Yogyakarta back in ‘94. I packed three disposable Fuji cameras at the time and I was down to my last three shots. I still had three days left in the trip.

“You shouldn’t be taking pictures. Try thinking of your eyes as a camera and let the amniotic fluid develop your memories. You’ll never need another camera in your life,” the librarian said.

“If I had a camera that never ran out of film, that would be the life.”

“It’ll be the end of the world as you know it. You kids would be snapping pictures of everything!”

It was a weird year of transition, puberty was picking up speed. People found me weird, so I’ve learned to be alone. I ended up in a group led by the Librarian. I liked the guy—wide reader, had a booming voice, and knew how to tell stories. It was as if the library, my sanctuary, came along to accompany me in my school trip.

“Borobodur temple was the largest Buddhist temple in the world,” said the school trip primer and I took it at face value. Somehow, twenty years later, Borobodur stuck in my memory for that trip. The vast and majestic symmetry of the stupas and Buddhas contribute to imprinting such sights into my mind. That and taking a shit in a hole on a moving passenger train.

Lunch, laundry, and light conversation—it made for a good break from existential masturbation called city living.

I sat down with the Keurig box next to me. I observed a college student’s eating ritual that involved biting into a cheese bun then following it up snapping away on an iPhone 6.

Look at that basic bitch, I bet she’s gonna post that on Instagram, said the Keurig box.

I bet it’s gonna get 186 likes, more than any of my Facebook posts, I replied.

You ever wonder where all the excess photos go to?

In the Pacific Vortex of wasted data.

Better than an unliked photo.

Nothing worse than a lingering unliked photo.

An unliked photo is like a stupid question at a press conference begging to be shamed.

The Keurig box’s voice was soft and squeaky. I stared at the box with all its contents. The voice sounded like it belonged to a 5’5” snow blonde middle school girl, mature for her age. She reminded me of Katie, a girl from 7th grade.

Bali sunsets were a sight to behold in 1995. I wondered if the tangerine ball of fire kissing the waters of Kuta Beach changed in the last twenty years, but at that moment it calmed my teenage anxiety for a good twenty minutes.

Three months later, Katie will leave my school forever. My English teacher sat down next to me as we watched the sunset. I forgot what we talked about, all I remembered was her frilly hair and buckteeth, she looked like a well-groomed poodle with a British accent. I liked her, poodle-look notwithstanding, she always indulged my flights of fancy. I had a bad habit of turning my teachers into pseudo-psychiatrists without the $200 an hour fee.

Later that year, Katie left and all I had to give her was a torn out page of a notebook with a love letter written on it. She never replied.

The Keurig box’s voice was soft and squeaky. I stared at the box with all its contents.

I stuck out like a sore thumb on the Skytrain. Amidst the commuters from the airport who lugged impressive luggage that experienced exotic locales and selfie photo ops, I carried an impressive Keurig box that experienced a brief life in suburbia.

You ever wonder where all the excess photos go to?

In the Pacific Vortex of wasted data.

What’s that red Samsonite have to say about life?

Thrown off guard by her question, I tried to scan my memory.

Faithful luggage, lost in Costa Rica, found by gungho airport employee in Belize and sent it back out, I said.

Central America? I was thinking more South.

Peru’s way too mainstream.

(Bored security guard avoided my gaze and looked away. My conversation was too loud.)

How about that Herschel backpack?

It misses its Jansport lover in Amsterdam. Can’t blame it though, fifteen year age gap.

That’s harsh.

Truth hurts.

The smartphone armed populace entertained themselves with current events and cat videos. There was a sea of digital Toxoplasma Gondii infecting the train along with the endless tug of war between the extreme left and right. It was an underground train of preserved effigies waiting for their proper funeral. This industrial enclave that housed the living dead paled in comparison to the boat roofed Tongkonan houses in Tana Toraja.

On 1997, we were coerced as a class to attend a traditional funeral in Tana Toraja. It included courtside seats to a bull slaughter. An abattoir slit the bull’s throat. The clay soaked the seeping blood. The bull took several steps. Instead of collapsing, it made a majestic bow, leaning on its front legs while its hind legs lost balance. Its bloodshot eyes stared straight into this Filipino fat fuck. Would the bull return to this world as a venture capitalist destined for great fortune if he accepted life as a homeless person?

On the way  back, I ended up having the bad luck of sitting next to an outspoken social studies teacher. I braced for a candid interview.

“Did you watch the pigs get slaughtered?”

“One dead bull is good enough for me,” I said.

“You know, the pig is a big part of the Filipino culture.”

Wanted to say, just because I’m Filipino doesn’t mean I had to eat pork. I went inside a bathroom stall and cried that night. At the time, I thought it’s because I didn’t like to see death in the flesh. I thought about it– I cried because I didn’t reply.

I carried an impressive Keurig box that experienced a brief life in suburbia.

I preferred the 7 bus to Dunbar instead of the 7 bus to Nanaimo. Less conflict. However, at that time, the bus driver—a hot blooded young man, stopped a native woman from getting on with her stroller.

“No, you get out. You never ask me if you can bum a ride, you just get on like it’s your goddamn right. Get off.”

Sometimes, the right is right.

You’re a real asshole for feeling that, the Keurig box said.

You’re not cute when you’re being precocious, I said.

You lack empathy. You’re so self-centered, all you care for is what you feel. Women sense that in a man, that’s why you’re still single at thirty four.

I just turned thirty four.

Expecting to get laid any time soon?

The bus headed off without further incident. As we zoomed along, I spotted a Nissan sedan with a fat Asian kid in the back fiddling with his Nintendo DS.

It was three days after the Jakarta riots on May 1998. My mom woke me up and told me to pack a suitcase– we were being evacuated. In my rush, I took video games, comic books, and only three changes of clothes in total. A Nissan sedan rushed us to the airport.

I watched as my family rushed through the dead of night to leave town while it was still quiet. I watched myself finish high school and go through college. The memories felt like old archival footage watched then rewound, some parts high fidelity, other bits like pirated flash video. I watched myself follow my parents as they went through from one milestone to another– eventually ending up in Vancouver. I watched an endless loop as the dynamic life went from a whole world to a weekly routine.

I wondered if the tangerine ball of fire kissing the waters of Kuta Beach changed in the last twenty years, but at that moment it calmed my teenage anxiety for a good twenty minutes.

The moment I entered my apartment, the Keurig Machine stopped talking.

She made its home behind the Black and Decker coffee maker with its matching coffee grinder. To her left sat a boxed Breville Espresso Machine I’ve never gotten around to using. To the right, an unopened Tassimo I won last Christmas. A barely used pour over kit and strainer lay on the dishwashing area. The French Press lay ignored next to the tea pot. Though it was clear, out of all the dormant machines, only the Keurig spoke.

I walked into my living room and plopped on a cat hair infested IKEA couch. A black and white tom, hopped on my lap. He was my roommate’s cat. I carried him on my shoulder as I listened to him purr. The well-oiled engine inside his feline form filled my heart with a fuzzy feeling. That or I’m infested with real Toxoplasma Gondii, not the digital kind.

I turned to the java mausoleum and thought about making coffee for a second. I noticed the Verismo Starbucks machine remained on the cupboard with the gift receipt intact. I forgot who gave it but it was probably worth several cups of coffee. I checked the time on the microwave, it read 6:38. The Starbucks five streets away was still open so I left my apartment, lugging a Verismo box half my size.


Vincent Ternida has been a finalist for Writer’s Guild Canada’s Diverse Screenwriters Program West in 2012-2013 and a second rounder for Austin Film Festival’s television spec script contest in 2013. When he’s not writing for his web comic Over The Counter, he’s working on short stories or a  new screenplay. Vincent lives in Vancouver.

Illustration by Karla Monterrosa. Follow her on Instagram @karlamontz

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