An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories
IT had reached a point where sitting in Port Moresby Jacksons Airport domestic departure area was a ritual for Okam.
First he would sit at the back where the cafeteria was located. Then he would move towards the middle before slowly working his way to the other end and back again.
He didn’t mind the constant changing of seat, his bum had become accustomed to the discomfort of the metal. But, for a reason he didn’t comprehend, he was always thirsty at the airport and the urge to go to the toilet came frequently. He blamed these constant visits to the urinal on the tempting water coolers and their foam cups.
Not trusting his fellow passengers to protect the backpack that contained his life, he took it with him to the toilet and back. It seemed like he spent his days walking to and fro and going to the loo. And when he got back, someone had taken his seat.
Okam didn’t mind moving. No one would notice and no one cared. He would blend into the crowd of weary and impatient travellers waiting to board their flights.
It was the nature of his job that required him to transit through Jackson’s Airport every month. In a year he would pass through this place 12 times, 11 times more than an average Papua New Guinean. That’s a lot of flying time, in-flight snacks, chats with strangers, long hours waiting and countless number of visits to the urinal.
He watched as people hurriedly moved to catch their flight or slowly looked for a place to sit. There were the loud ones and the quiet ones, nervous first time travellers, sleepy heads and invisibles.
Okam was an invisible who shunned large crowds. Once in a while he would catch someone looking at him, probably doing the same me, he thought.
It was on a trip back to work that he found a precious buai in his disorganised backpack. He was searching for a book of crossword puzzle when he stumbled upon this precious green gem. Somehow it had survived the scanners and the security guards.
A wicked smile crept across his face.
Last month, the guards had confiscated a small plastic bag containing his buai. It annoyed him to think that K15 worth of buai would go to those bastards. They looked like they had struck gold as they seized his small stash. They didn’t even respond to a small bribe.
One guard, a huge highlander, looked at him ferociously, “Are you trying to bribe me?” and that was enough for Okam to say “Em orait boss, yu ken kisim” as he walked away.
Today was his chance to get back at those bastards and he knew exactly what he was going to do.
Okam had a long piece of daka in his pocket and zipping his bag shut, he carefully placed the kambang and buai in his pocket and stood up and walked towards the toilet.
There were three people inside the toilet. Playing for time, he walked slowly towards the cubicles to check if they were vacant, at the same time carefully taking out the buai, daka and kambang.
He walked back towards the washbasin just as the second traveller completed drying his hands and stepped out. The third one had disappeared into a cubicle.
This is it, he thought, as he put the buai to his mouth.
Suddenly the door opened and a security guard walked in. He was the huge highlander who had previously confiscated his buai.
A terrifying feeling overwhelmed Okam and he nearly choked on the buai. With his hand still on his mouth, he made his way out of the door just.
That was close, he thought, taking a moment to calm down. But he suddenly felt the urge to pee. He had to go back in.
He stood outside for a moment before opening the door and nearly walked straight into the chest of the guard. In slow motion, Okam swayed away from the guard’s man-boobs dangling inches from his face. Ducking under the guard’s right armpit, Okam manoeuvred past him, forcing himself not to make the sound of vomit deep in his throat, turned around and apologised.
“Em orait. Dispela dua tu yah, em liklik tumas,” he said then walked out. The guard didn’t recognise Okam.
The moment passed and Okam had gotten over the sudden nauseous feeling. He swore he would have died if his nose even slightly touched the tip of the guard’s shirt. He thought the odour of the shirt would have killed him instantly.
Okam was determined even more to chew his buai quickly and get out. With his back towards the cubicle, he cracked open the husk.
The sound was a little louder than he anticipated.
“Oi brats, wanpla kam,” said a voice with a deep Hagen accent.
Okam choked on the tangy sputum building in his mouth mix with bits of buai. Some of it went down his wind pipe. He thought he had heard a ghost.
Coughing and watery eyed, he turned around to see a head popping out of a cubicle and quickly retreating back. The sounds of a belt being buckled, a zipper zipping and a flush.
The man stepped out of the cubicle. He was huge. Thank God he wasn’t a security guard.
“Mi stap longpla taim insait lo hia na mi bagrap stret. Yu gat wanpla extra wan stap gim mi,” he said walking towards Okam
Okam swallowed hard, wiped his watery eyes and said, “Bro nogat yah. Last wan stret na mi kaikai. Wait mi traim sekim pastaim.”
Taking his backpack off, Okam went through the motion of searching his bag and said he couldn’t find more buai. The Hagen guy said it was all right and made his way out.
Okam quickly chewed what was left of his buai and walked out. By now he wasn’t enjoying the buai and regretted taking the risk.
Walking back to the concourse and chewing on the buai he heard the boarding call for his flight. A line was quickly forming.
“What the fuck. The buai just starting turning into nice dark red,” he thought and without choice he had to swallow everything.
It was bitter as it slid down his throat and Okam was sweating as he gave his ticket to the Air Niugini officer who ran it through a machine. She tore off part of the ticket and handed the rest to Okam.
It wasn’t until when he started climbing the steps to the plane that he felt it.
A sharp pain, then a grumbling. He could feel his bowels twisting and turning. Amongst all these mishaps he had forgotten to pee and his bladder was fit to burst. He sat down twitching and uncomfortable, tightening the muscles from his thigh to his butt cheeks.
“Not yet, not yet, not yet. Not till the fasten seat belt sign goes off,” he whispered to himself as tiny drops of sweat trickled down his face.
“Fuck this,” he said as he got up just when the plane started taxiing and the air hostesses began to point out the safety features. He couldn’t stop it this time, and he started running with both his hands firmly placed behind his back as if to hold the imaginary wall in place for a little bit longer. The air hostess couldn’t stop him. She realised what was about to explode in the aisle if she didn’t let him pass.
She was pretty. Okam didn’t care.
He brushed straight past her to the toilet and the farts rushed out noisily and uncontrollably like the exhaust of an old car struggling up a mountain. Shutting the door behind him, hastily dragging off his pants, he let it rip.
The sound was loud and stench offensive. But Okam didn’t care.
“Revenge is such a bitch!” he grunted to himself as the plane took off.
The air hostess knocked on the door asking if everything was all right. Okam was too embarrassed to answer back.