There is something about old people that make me feel small, despite their silence, their wrinkles, their poverty, their withdrawal from life.
This particular elder was a landowner. Was, because after we were done, he no longer owned his land. He needed the money. I got to see his land. Fields and fields of green rice sheaths bending and bucking gracefully with the wind. A symphony of rustles and whistles. A place where the world is too full to talk about, I thought.
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other", doesn't make any sense."
It was there that I understood what made me feel so small in the presence of that old man. His body was so, so thin, stooped forwards, his clothes hung off of him sharply, fabric folds plummeting from craggy bone-edges. But he held his chin up and looked us straight in the eye. He had dignity. If I had a piece of land that beautiful, and I knew my own hands made it beautiful, I would be proud as well. What could we do but purchase and destroy. We have nothing to be proud of.
He only spoke Javanese. Was he literate? I don't know. When he signed the papers his signature was awkward, slow, deliberate. It was so deliberate I could count how many u-shaped curves he made with the pen. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
They had their pictures taken, he and the new owner. Smiling at the camera. Decaying teeth and white teeth. It's probably just me, but he seemed a little smaller when he left with his hundred-millions.
I went home to bed and cried a little bit.