IN EARLY 2013 Ghatane-Lulú was walking along Ela Beach at 6.30 a.m. when a young teenager, Katie (not her real name) called to him, “Fada, yu gat wan kina oh, mi no kaikai tudeis na mi laik dai ya”. [Father, do you have a kina; I haven’t eaten for two days and I feel like dying]
Well, he does meet plenty of the types, some genuine and some thugs, but has never been approached by a young lass like this. At first he ignored her, walked past but, after walking ten paces, turned around and walked back to her.
Some inner being told him to give her the ten kina he had with him to buy breakfast at the Ela Beach Service Station. Katie broke down and cried. This is her story.
It started one day when she was feeling restless at home. She walked to the bus stop just for the fun of going for a bus ride.
She sat looking glum in the back seat of the bus. It had been a depressing day and she had jumped on the bus to town on impulse, with no real plan.
On late Saturday afternoon, Port Moresby downtown would be dead. It was alive during the working weekdays but deadly dead at any other time. Everyone lived on the other side of town. That’s why it was dead set dead.
Except for Ela Beach. If it was classed as part of the town, there was a crowd. But this was a crowd of informal sector pedlar-strians, bad smelling, beach bathers, jeans, rugby jerseys. No bikinis and no beach umbrella. Just a beach lined with louts and drunks - on steam and with mile long foul mouths. Where was the fun of sun, beach and sea?
Obviously no-one had written a ‘what to do and what not to do at the beach’, including that jeans and jerseys were not appropriate wear. If that was not bad enough, the place was littered with the green shells and red sputum of the buai chewers, never mind all the plastic.
Depression was this place.
Katie wasn’t sure why she thought of taking the bus in the first place.
The jostle and struggle to get on was a frustration. And then there was the prospect of being fingered in every possible place and picked clean by pickpockets and daylight robbers. Everyone was always losing something at the bus stop.
And then there were the men, the depressing men who saw what was happening and did nothing, not even raising their voice for the women, raising their voice against the louts and parasitic hangers-on that latched onto you before cleaning you out good and proper.
It was depressing hearing the passengers talk about the louts who got on like every other person and then, as they disembarked at Koki, grabbed your bag and made a run from the bus. Should you resist, they’d conjure up a blade from the slit of their backside.
Vulnerable ladies and girlie-girlies were picked by these vultures.
It was even more depressing that these louts were good looking and in the prime of their youth.
Katie noted three cute leaders at the main bus stop. One cringes at the prospect of an unsuspecting girl making the wrong choice and being forever yoked to trouble and misery, a life of not knowing if the man is going to return in the afternoon with food or an impromptu black eye from some itinerant macho copper.
She got off the bus and walked along Ela Beach immersed in her own mood. She had had no men friends where hanky panky had been involved except - ugh, there was – but only one. Oh yes, she fell for him deep and fast. She could not resist his advances and had melted in his arms.
It was not like that with that other poor one. That one, he was special. But this one, wow! He was resa.
She had listened to her mother voicing concern about men.
“Men are not something that you can just eat,” she had implored, whatever that meant.
“Men are not an axe handle you can change easily,” again whatever that was supposed to mean.
“Men have tunnel vision,” and that she understood to mean they looked at you as a sex object.
“Men will drop you like hot potato once they have used you,” which was going to need some convincing because mummy practically had daddy dancing around her fingertips. Daddy did not drop her, did he?
“A man has to have background,” whatever. But who cared because Katie was prepared to do the hard yakka with her beau to carve out a niche for both of them.
“Men will always try to get into your shorts,” and she had laughed as it was comical. Mama should have said skirts but then again every lady was into shorts even the grannies and the conservative bible-thumping women who had billowing skirts over the shorts to hide their inadequacy to turn the rascal tide around.
No shades of the threats of going to hell were ever going to stop men from getting into a woman’s shorts - that was for sure.
With all of this rhetoric from mother, Katie had respectfully kept her distance from all men, especially this one.
She had been careful on all their outings. All rendezvous had been in broad daylight and where there was a crowd. She had control and could extract herself easily from any compromising situation.
Now this one had come along. This one was one a good Adonis and resa, a chisel cut of a youth. She threw caution to the wind.
He was fun and good looking. Several of the girls on her street cooed and eyeballed him before he flashed that dimpled smile her way and the goose bumps on her were tennis balls.
She did what she didn’t do with the other one, she went down the street looking, yeah looking, for him and when he smiled, eyeballed and followed her, she wilted against the stone wall.
Hello was all he said and she wet herself and it was history. She was in love.
Just near her street there was a drain with a water culvert and a mango tree which was a known lover’s lane and that was where they had decided to meet. With a heart pounding to burst out of her chest she walked towards it purposefully.
It was all bliss looking into his eyes and to run her hands along the dimple that sent electric flashes along her fingertips. Today she wanted to be entangled with this beau of a man.
It was disappointingly short. No preliminaries. Pure lust!
Did you wear a condom, she wanted to ask but did not. Did I do the right thing? Would I be pregnant?
For the next couple of weeks that was the worry of the month. She fretted each morning until she woke with relief to see she had stained her undies.
But there was another worry. She realised she wasn’t the only one to fall for the Adonis. Countless others had done so. He had bragging rights to all of them and her name was now on his roll of names.
The little snoot down the street, five houses from hers, announced to the world that she had sex with Adonis and was Adonis’s sex flavour of the month.
It was the month that Katie thought she was his girl. She was dethroned after a one night stand in lover’s lane.
Then her young bro accosted her with a revolting statement. Somehow he had got to know of her outing in Lovers Lane. Young bro used the word ‘slut’. She had marketed herself as a slut.
Young bro hammered it to her at every opportunity. It drove her crazy. She was branded a slut for her one episode of fleeting romance if it could be called that.
Katie had no one to talk to. Everyone was in their own world and she was in young bro’s world. Why he took such a dislike to her, she could never fathom. She was 16 and on her own.
Walking along the esplanade she kicked stones and sand, paying no heed to the jerseyed, foul-mouthed, red sputum-filled louts who whistled at and ogled her. The throng of unwashed stinky sweaty bodies littering the sidewalk made her want to throw up.
She sat down at a bus stop near a crowded amphitheatre. She looked at the sign across the road and the letters ‘VCT’ permeated her brain. She tried to reason with the meaning of the letters.
You know the girl who had been to the Anglicare Clinic at Waigani, said he brain. The top shot cutie who is now a skeleton. Last seen with white rings around her mouth and no hair. The fill-in on the Adonis’s list of young girls.
She looked up the beach towards the Ela Beach Hotel. She looked back towards the amphitheatre. She looked towards the basketball court.
An hour later, when she walked out of the place, she was singing. The test was non-reactive and she had been asked to come back in a month’s time. It was that easy. The counselling sessions before and after were boring but the test was done in less than ten minutes. It was non invasive and all it required was a prick to the finger and a collection of blood – like a malaria test.
“At least you came, and that was the first step, to overcome your fears and own stigma,” the counsellor had said. “ Yeah stigma was the big word. “Today it is non-reactive. We don’t know what it will be like next month. So come back then.”
She resolved that was the last time she would have sex without taking precautions and she would not chase after boys, Adonis or otherwise, any more.
Unfortunately, when Katie returned four months later the test was conclusive and confirmed she had the virus.
She wasn’t sure how to deal with this situation.
As Ghatane-Lulú returned from the service station, one of the ladies from the markets along the beach called him over and gave him a dirty piece of folded paper. Shesaid some young girl had given her a note. It was dated some four months earlier and described him as ‘Apo fadamahn’. Where that came from, he had no idea.
Unfortunately, the note is now lost, eaten away by termites probably, but this is Ghatane-Lulú’s recollection of it:
Dear Mr ...
(Sorry did not get your name. I called you fada but you are different from the many fadas that walk here. I saw you here at Ela Beach and was hoping to see you again).
If I call you Mister, that will be okay with you.
Mr, I just found out that I do really have the virus. I will come back later when my CT4 level can allow me to go on medicine. Going on medicine is okay but why does it have to be when everyone can tell that I am diseased. I don’t want to get medicine when I am skinny or have white rings around my mouth.
You know what will happen when young bro gets to know that I am diseased. He will fall from the sky with all his criticisms and will stigmatise me very bad. I cannot bear to live with his sneers.
I cannot talk to my parents as they continue to be ignorant of my life. Mr, after talking to you, I have lived the best of my life. I don’t know how it will go when people around me realise that I am diseased.
If you allow me, I would like to say thank you and wish I could say I love you in a daughter to a father way.
Ghatane-Lulú was devastated when he read the note. He had a hollow feeling walking back the rest of the way to his house.
He did not know where Katie lived. But he could tell she came from a particular province.
Some days later he caught up with the market lady again and asked if she knew any particulars about the girl who had given her the note. The lady explained that the girl was a newcomer to the beach and didn’t stay long.
The girl was friends with one of the street girls who would go to Sunset Lodge past the end of Ela Beach. She could and would ask this street girl for information.
True to her word the market lady did get the full name of the girl and the place where she lived.
She said the girl was called Katie and she refused to go to Sunset Lodge with the other street girls and would usually go home after sitting the day out at the beach.
The street girl had also relayed to the market lady that the poor girl was found dead floating in the sea at the fifty toea water jump. It was surmised she had committed suicide.
Ghatane-Lulú looks down on that spot every day. His house is just above the place where Katie committed suicide.
Ghatane-Lulú (Tokano language of Iufi-Iufa, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province) describes where traditional kina shells (Lulú) are slung on a rope and hung on the shoulders (Ghatane) with the half-moon kina shells under the armpit. This was the position in which it is carried when a tribe was chased out of its village and was seeking refuge in a neighbouring area. It also showed protection of the family’s wealth or showed off the wealth. It can also mean the ‘chesting’ of the kina shells during singsings.
On 3 January, I – with the assistance of Emily Bina and Ed Brumby - published the first volume of an anthology of six short stories, Antics of Alonaa.) There are two Alonaas. One is an elderly warrior of times before, whose stories we want to tell. The younger Alonaa is a collation of the fun we as children had in the village.
A bonus for Goroka readers is that we append a transcript of one or two songs in the local Tokano language. Six other language groups in the Goroka and Asaro Valleys can read and sing these songs with ease. In Antics of Alonaa, Volume 1 we start with one song ‘Ghulo Sipaki’ in the story ‘Ghulo Ghaii Kai-i ‘(Praying Mantis) with the full transcript at the end. In the second and consequent volumes we intend to increase the number of transcribed songs and the traditional Homasi that were pre colonisation worship songs. In Volume 2, there will be two general songs and one Homasi.