Not quite a love triangle


The old man, his departed wife and the young girl

Daniel Kumbon’s book Survivor tells the story of the old man, his wife and the young girl. Kumbon is now trying his hand at writing fiction after publishing several books on contemporary history.

I HAVE published many books based on facts and actual events. But I haven’t yet attempted a novel. But I guess the road to writing a novel is to first publish short stories.
And I did attempt a short story just once. It is carried in one of my books ‘Survivor: Alive In Mum’s Loving Arms’. The title of the fictional tale is as above.
The other two stories in the book are separate but similar – real-life experiences of two Engan girls. They had been left orphans when their mothers met their fate in violent situations. They were both looked after by their grandparents. One raised in both New Zealand and Australia and the other in Enga province.
The book is available at the UPNG Bookshop.
I have decided to serialize some chapters of the short story hoping that many more people could read it, especially young people.
Here now then, is the first chapter…
Yours truly, the love letter in a glass frame
The old man held the framed letter in his trembling hands. It wasn’t typed or anything but a simple handwritten note. The paper on which it was written was from a lecture pad from the university. It had turned a brownish yellow and rusted along the edges, but the message was crystal clear inside the glassed frame. It read:

Wanaku Mono o le… My girl, my heart,
Have you ever stood still to watch a spring sprout out from the ground on the misty trails of the Koe Koname tapu or Bini Apini tapu mountain ranges just before the Ipasakale birds begin to sing in their sweet little voices as dawn begins to break and when mists still cover the valleys?
My love for you is like that – fresh and pure, ready to cascade down the mountain slopes mixed with yours to form a river down in the valley. Can you see, as I do, our budding love growing to fullness?
You and I are young and our future is stretched right before us as one sees the Markham Valley from the top of Kassam Pass. I will take your hand and lead you there, but I am in doubt because you might have other plans – secret plans and names of other people written in the depths of your mind.
I fear you might be taken away from me in the two years of study we have left. This love that is beginning to well up in me might be in vain. Your attention might even be diverted to another direction by your parents whose decision you might be forced to accept.
Tell me what I will do if you are taken away from me? No, I do not wish that to happen. I have decided that you should be mine forever. What do you say?
My heart is troubled this early morning as I stand here beside this spring wondering if our love would last a lifetime – the true love that has started welling up within me.
Tell me straight, in which direction your love will flow.
Yours forever.

On the empty space at the far bottom right hand corner of the page was a small note of approval neatly written in his wife, Rosemary’s own handwriting.
It read: ‘Wane Mono o le, – My man, my heart,
Do not be troubled for I will come with you on the trip. You will take my hand and lead me to the place you have in your mind.’ dated June 12th 1976.
Today a copy of the letter hangs on the wall in their family home among a collection of other memorabilia. The original letter hangs in the Enga Taik Anda or Enga House of Cultural Values in Wabag town.
The Old Man reread the letter with glassy eyes as hot tears streamed down the folds of his sunken face. Continuous sorrow in the last year had taken its toll and reduced him to a bony wreck. His body refused to accept the fact that Rosemary, his wife was gone for good and that he should begin to live his own life again. She was the only woman he ever knew in his life.
He ate little and communicated with only a few people, mainly his business associates through texts and emails. He avoided physical contact as much as possible, while confining himself to his mansion. He rarely spoke with anybody and went shopping in the big supermarkets at night. His people in the village did not know what was happening to him.
Only his children were aware. But they were all living in Australia. They had gone back there a couple of weeks after the funeral thinking he would recover. Little did they know that their dad was travelling fast down the path to self-destruction.
After everybody was gone, the Old Man continued to cry when he discovered the letter in an album Rosemary had privately kept among her personal belongings. He decided to frame it for posterity.
Their initial feelings for each other were etched forever on this letter, an enduring testimony of how much The Old Man and his dear wife had been committed to each other, beginning when they were young students.
He couldn’t remember how many times he had read it before going to sleep in the last year since his wife was taken away from him right before his very eyes in a horrible traffic accident on a busy downtown street in Port Moresby.
The Old Man himself could have been killed too. He was nearly knocked down by oncoming traffic when he instinctively rushed across the street in a futile attempt to save his wife. But she was already dead-on impact.
He just collapsed beside the lifeless-form, his clothes soaked in her fresh blood spilling onto the hot bitumen. This was the very last time they would lay together side by side, their souls traveling alone in different directions.
An alert young man who witnessed all that was happening on that fateful day took pity on The Old Man and rushed him to the nearest hospital in a taxi. Doctors resuscitated him and nursed him back to full health. He had suffered a major heart attack.
A St John’s ambulance arrived minutes later to take the body of Rosemary to the morgue in the same hospital where The Old Man fought for his life in the dreaded Intensive Care Unit.
Nobody knows when it will be – during the day or at night, when it’s raining or when it’s sunny, by drowning or falling from a tree, at noon or at midnight, alone or with someone, in the garden or at home, when asleep or conscious, in the womb or at 100 years of age, on a sick bed or on the battlefield? Nobody knows how they will die or when it will be.
Precious life is but a puddle on a taro leaf – when it is overturned the puddle disappears for good into the ground.
Rosemary’s life had just come to an end on that busy street. Her groceries, small change and personal belongings were scattered everywhere on the street. Police, the ambulance and news reporters began to appear on the scene.
The couple’s usual trip to the grocery shop had turned into shocking headline news on EMTV at 6pm that evening. And next morning ‘LAWYER’S WIFE KILLED IN POLICE HIGH SPEED CRIMINAL CHASE’ screamed the headlines in the papers.
It hurt to see pictures of Rosemary and her husband laying side by side in the middle of a busy street surrounded by strangers as if they had no children or relatives of their own.
Rosemary, a mother respected for her generosity and the loving care she showed through their family charity organization had just ended her life in a most horrifying way.
In the next segment we shall read how the old man had met Rosemary when he was a law student and she an arts student at the University of Papua New Guinea.

  • Daniel Kumbon is freelance journalist and author.