BY KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN
ONE MOONLIT NIGHT in April 1953 the sky was inundated with twinkling stars. Nineteen year old Apa, standing at the peak of Dua, saw the flicker of lights at Urgiai, Gor and the Bari II lands to the south and south east.
The lights were an indication that people were staying indoors because of the stiff cold wind. Indeed, the rushing wind up the hill from the Ulma and Gapal Rivers made him too yearn for warmth.
‘It is a perfect evening to crawl into a bed with a beautiful girl to generate some heat and squeeze out the aches in the muscles,’ he thought.
He whistled a courtship song but it was whisked away by the wind. He looked at the hills ahead and saw a cane grass torch at Mebir. It was a sign that Molpa, his girlfriend was going to and fro to the pig’s hut feeding them but Apa also knew that the torch was also a deliberate ploy to signal him to walk over to her home that very evening. The Ulma River separated him and the bearer of the cane grass torch that he saw on the other side of the hill.
Molpa was an innocent 17 year old Mor Baulo girl. They had been friends for a while.
He could see Molpa’s beautiful body and her smiles in his mind’s eye from where he stood. He wanted to sleep close to her heart and feel her maturity. Yes, he was willing to walk the distance to her home that night.
He strolled down the hill and crossed the Ulma River. He ascended the hill with speed and arrived at Molpa’s home and hid in the dark shadow of the banana patch. Once in a while he had to wave off the fire flies that circled the banana patch.
From the rear of the hut he heard voices a few times and quickly worked out the occupants of the hut. Molpa and her parents were inside. The smaller siblings must have gone to their uncle’s hut for the night.
That night he was convinced that he would take Molpa home as his wife for the first time and break the egg just like the other boys.
Molpa had retired to bed but was not asleep because she expected a soft whisper on the wall nearest her bed calling her name.
The week before Molpa and Apa had met at the Ulma River when she returned from her garden. They had sat on a huge boulder and Apa had told her that he would come this very night to take her home as his wife. Molpa who was determined to become Apa’s esteemed wife for as long as she was alive and was keeping a vigil that evening to see if Apa would come and take her as promised.
‘Close the door, cover the embers and sleep. I am already tired and am off to bed,’ instructed Molpa’s father, Yau and jumped onto his log bed.
His wife, Wari started to bury the embers with the ash and said, ‘I am going to bed as well. I have to wake up early tomorrow to go weeding.’
In the cold night Apa crept over to where Molpa slept and quietly scratched the wall.
Molpa whispered from inside her room, ‘Apa.’
‘I am outside,’ said he.
‘As soon as Wari goes to bed I will come out and let you in. Right now sit under the banana trees and wait. Make sure nobody sees you,’ warned Molpa.
Apa sat under the banana trees for some 30 minutes. The damp soil and cold winds made him restless.
‘Men, make her parents go to sleep quickly. I have to get in soon,’ begged Apa. He prayed to the spirits to seduce Molpa’s parents into a deep sleep.
Not long after his prayer, he heard the logs piled up at the door removed. He stood and looked in the direction of the door and saw Molpa emerging out of the dried banana leaves that served as the first layer of the door.
Her maritas oiled breasts reflected the moon’s light and Apa was captivated. As he moved closer he smelled the scent of the sweet forest orchid fruit that was hung around her neck.
He smiled and at once embraced her. Molpa fended him off with might.
‘It is a full moon. People will see us so be quick and follow me,’ she said.
They crawled into the hut together. Molpa shut the dry banana leaf door and then replaced the logs. They were careful not to wake her parents and crept into her room.
Soon they lay close to each other on her pandanus mat. Molpa rested her head on Apa’s left hand as they slept and had their legs inter-locked. Apa’s right hand rested comfortably on the left bulging breast of Molpa. The fingers at times stroked the left nipple and squeezed. Molpa enjoyed his hands on her. Apa wanted to slip his fingers into her fur skirt but Molpa rejected the move.
‘Not tonight. Unless you take me home as your wife you will not go further down,’ whispered Molpa and removed his right hand. Apa stopped and concentrated on the firm bulging left breast and gave her a few good kisses.
They could hear the wind blowing hard against the banana leaves from inside in their bed. On the opposite end of the hut they could hear Molpa’s parents snoring away and Apa was sure the spirits had responded to his prayer. Apa and Molpa were happy in each other’s arms and made pillow talk long into the night.
‘We will leave for my home at second cockcrow,’ concluded Apa.
Molpa pressed Apa’s right hand in agreement.
A little sleep and all of a sudden they heard the first crow of the rooster. ‘Get up and pack a few of your things,’ ordered Apa.
‘I already did it during the day. It’s all ready.’
‘What a good girl. We will crawl out and leave during the second crow of the rooster. We must arrive at Dua before the cicadas sing to welcome dawn,’ added Apa.
Molpa hissed, ‘I have to get into my best attire to go off for marriage. In that way I will lift your status among your people and mine too.’
She rose and slid into a new fur skirt that covered her front and loins. Then she took a possum testes necklace and hung it around her neck. Apa dozed and waited for her to finish. She then slid a band over each of her arms as far as the biceps. Finally she rubbed maritas juice on her firm body and combed her hair. Satisfied, she picked up her bilum and whispered, ‘Let’s go, I’m done.’
As they departed her parents were still snoring. Molpa walked a few metres and then looked back at her home. She knew that she had left her childhood behind. She was saddened and shed some tears. Apa comforted her and they never looked back again.
Apa’s mother uncovered the embers and fanned the flames to roast kaukau for breakfast that morning. As cicadas sang to welcome the dawn Apa led an attractive girl into the hut. His mother reacted with disbelief. Then she cried with joy and embraced Molpa’s legs.
‘Oh, it is not a good harvest season, why bring such a beautiful girl here. What have we to feed her’, grieved Apa’s mother.
In reality Apa’s mother was proud of her son. He had brought home a nice-looking girl to be her daughter in law.
News spread of the arrival of the new bride and the women and men gathered at Dua for the grand shouting to make her a married woman.
Apa’s father, Ole shouted with both his index fingers shutting his ears. After he ended his shouting his kinsmen joined in for a grand shouting. The women completed the excitement with screams at the end.
Ole faced the neighbouring villages on the eastern end of the Imil-Gapal Rivers and announced at the top of his voice that Yau’s daughter had arrived as a bride to Dua.
Everyone from the neighboring clans commented about her beauty.
‘She made the right choice to marry Apa,’ said some. ‘She is still a young girl. She should have waited for two more years,’ said others.
At dawn Yau and Wari, the parents of Molpa entered her room only to confirm their fears.
‘She has left for marriage,’ lamented Yau.
Wari sobbed, ‘Truly she has left for Dua. It’s Apa.’
The women at Dua came with bags of garden food to make a feast for Molpa. She mingled with Apa’s mother and the rest of the village women. They cooked the food in an earth oven.
Apa sat with the other boys near the men’s hut and kept his distance from the women. At times he looked over and saw Molpa going about with dignity preparing the food like the older women. He was pleased that this beautiful girl was now his wife. What's more, he was sure that she would not now stop him from digging into what was buried in the fur skirt tonight.
He couldn’t wait for nightfall.