FICTION - Last night, peeping through the window, the Moon saw The Old Man and Delisa kiss for the first time.
And on this next morning, the soft gold rays of the early sun flooded the bedroom through that same window to herald the first day of their new life together.
The Old Man and Delisa had fulfilled what established society and traditional culture required - to enjoy a night of passion, the type any newlywed would know.
The love he had expressed to Rosemary in that first love letter so long before in during his student days was the same love The Old Man now felt for Delisa.
Love does not age with time, nor can it be controlled. It can be suppressed perhaps, if the will to choose a partner was denied, but not controlled.
The Old Man found love again. It was beyond measure, limitless and empowering. Perhaps his forebears had discovered this truth when they married multiple wives.
They were tough, fair and honest men who maintained harems of wives. And they had to exercise wisdom and much caution to maintain harmony.
The men slept in the hausman at night, they knew how to space children, they approached their wives only as it was necessary.
But, in the modern cash economy, The Old Man believed it was not right to have multiple wives. He was wealthy and could afford it, but to what purpose?
Rosemary had given him three children and together they had worked hard to give them a good education. Now they were all living and working in Australia.
He had decided to marry Delisa only after Rosemary was killed. He needed company. He had been wasting away when his wantoks talked him out of the doldrums.
But if he had been married to several wives, and if one of them had died, would he have felt her loss? Would he have married a new wife to replace her? These were difficult questions and he sought in his mind to find answers.
The room they had slept in belonged to Rosemary’s first-born, Charles. The second car in the garage, the one Rosemary drove, would be left for the children to use whenever they returned.
Delisa would temporarily use Charles’ room until such time a new house was purchased for her.
The main bedroom would stay locked. It had all of Rosemary’s belongings in it. Her spirit dwelled there. The Old Man knew she would not mind Delisa being here. He had shown his respect for a long time. He was sure Rosemary’s spirit appreciated that.
Meanwhile, Delisa was busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast. The Old Man was busy on his phone. He told some of his wantoks in the city that his new bride was in in Port Moresby and asked them to come and meet her in the afternoon if they wished.
Then he asked two of his wantoks who resided in Morata to catch a PMV to Waigani bus stop and wait for him at the service station. He would pick them up in the next hour. It was urgent. He wanted them to cook the pork he had brought from Lae.
Then he went to the kitchen table for breakfast. Delisa sat beside him and watched him eat.
“Aren’t you having any breakfast, my dear?” TheOld Man asked.
“I’m OK for now. I’ll eat at lunch?”
“Are you feeling homesick?”
“Sort of, but I am happy with you. It’s just that…. I’m still in awe of everything that has happened.”
“Go get dressed. I’ll give you a tour of the city.”
As Delisa went to the bedroom, she noticed her own smiling face among the family photographs on the wall.
She had been here in this house all those years. She knew she belonged here.
There were also pictures of Rosemary and The Old Man in a church during their wedding. Then she noticed the framed love letter in the glass. Delisa paused to read it.
Rosemary must have been young at the time she received this letter. She must have believed every word he said. They had remained true to each other until she was killed.
Delisa intended to remain true. Nor would she disturb anything Rosemary had put in place.
With her head bowed low in respect, Delisa went to get ready to tour.
“Thank you for bringing me here,” Delisa said, as The Old Man took her hand and led her to the garage. There rested his shining Mercedes. The powerful engine purred and they took off down the hill.
First he showed her Ela Beach and APEC Haus, where world leaders had once gathered during the O’Neill government. “By the way,” The Old Man grunted, “my Mercedes isn’t one of those auctioned after APEC.”
Then they drove past Koki market up Two-Mile Hill and down towards Taurama Army Barracks.
They turned right and drove by the general hospital. The Old Man pointed out the tents used by people from remote villages who stayed in them until their family member was discharged from hospital.
Delisa noticed the long line of people waiting even this early in the morning. Other people were rushing to join it. The doctors and nurses must be overworked, she thought.
They drove to Chinatown in East Boroko and headed towards the National Broadcasting Commission studios and on to Jacksons International Airport.
The Old Man’s phone rang. His two wantoks were at the service station on Waigani Drive. He said he’d be with them soon.
He quickly showed Delisa the National Library, the Supreme Court and Parliament House as they turned down Independence Drive built by the Chinese government. Right along Waigani Drive and a short distance further were the wantoks.
The Old Man introduced Delisa to them. They shook hands but did not engage in small talk as she continued to take in the sights of this busy, dusty, intimidating city.
The Mercedes cruised by the Administrative College and the University of Papua New Guinea. The Old Man said that when he was a student the road wasn’t sealed. The dirt road was used to bring the city rubbish here to be burned at Baruni dump.
There had been lots of eucalyptus trees and not many people then. But look now, people had migrated from everywhere. Hey had settled on the hillsides and there were permanent houses right beside Baruni dump.
There was little spare land. Where there were no houses, people had planted gardens. The gum trees had been cut down for firewood. The wallabies, parrots, kingfishers and other wildlife that had inhabited these hills had disappeared. “But not the snakes probably,” The Old Man grinned.
They drove downhill to Gaire village by the sea and along the coastline towards Idubada Technical College and then Hanuabada – The Big Village – with its rusty iron roofs atop crooked legs standing in the sea. Beyond, the spiralling skyscrapers of the central business district.
Almost immediately they had reached Konedobu, where the Australian colonial government – or Administration – had its headquarters. Next to it Sir Hubert Murry Stadium, named after a colonial administrator who said to be a great leader.
Here The Old Man stopped the car to explain how it was when Papua New Guinea had celebrated independence at the stadium many years ago.
“Tuesday the 16th of September 1975,” The Old Man told Delisa and his two wantoks. “I was here that day.”
He showed them where he had stood facing the main stadium and how he had heard Prince Charles, John Guise and Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam speak and seen many other important people like Michael Somare and Tei Abal.
“All the Papua New Guineans became knights later,” he said. “And I remember Whitlam’s words.
“He said, ‘This is a day that will live in history. There can never be a more important day in a nation's history, than its birthday.’ What a day that was.”
Then The Old Man laughed and turned to Delisa. “I was here when you were still in your mother’s womb.”
“Mi amamas, mama bilong yu karim yu pastaim, bai yu stretim sindaun bilong mitupela,” Delisa said. [I’m happy your mother gave birth to you first so you could prepare a place for us to settle.]
The two wantoks glanced at each other. This girl could talk. They liked people who talked.
“People who talk eat, people who don’t sleep hungry,” the elders had said in the hausman.
Delisa did not feel she had to live in Rosemary’s shadow. Her work was to continue and to improve. Apply her ingenuity and keep the family functioning. It was important that Rosemary must be fully respected always.
The Old Man continued to reflect on the great day. He was attending Sogeri National High School for Independence Day. The students had been bussed down to Sir Hubert Murray Oval. They had looked smart in their uniforms.
From Sogeri he had gained entry to Law School at the University of Papua New Guinea. That’s where he had met Rosemary.
They resumed the excursion. But The Old Man chose not to show Delisa the place where Rosemary had been killed in downtown Port Moresby.
Instead of driving up Paga Hill towards home, they went on to Koki Market where The Old Man left his wantoks to buy firewood, food and vegetables for a mumu. They would cook the pork for wantoks here in Port Moresby. He gave them money to buy the food and a PMV home.
Back at the mansion, The Old Man notified phoned each of his children in Australia and said Delisa was now in Port Moresby. He wanted them to meet her in half an hour in a video conference.
When the time came and they successfully hooked up on WhatsApp, his heart immediately warmed when the children referred to Delisa as their ‘mum’ and talked for a long time in a lively conversation. The children said Delisa could visit them in Australia anytime she wished. But they hoped to come back to Moresby and meet her in person at Christmas.
While the video chat was going on, noticing he was no longer required The Old Man went outside to make sure his wantoks were advancing preparations for the mumu. As the food began to cook, The Old Man invited more wantoks and some close associates to the mumu later in the day.
He was particularly happy to catch up with those wantoks who had encouraged him to remarry.
That afternoon, when they came amidst the smell of sweet mumu hanging in the air, they were not empty-handed. They brought cash, their bride price contributions. And most of them also brought something for Delisa.
“We are not at home to give you pigs,” they said. “So, we are giving you cash. Please accept it.”
In olden times, pigs and kina were mostly used to pay bride price. But cash has replaced the kina shell, or mamaku as The Old Man called in his local dialect. The mamaku has become a museum piece or is sometimes seen as bilas, the decorative ornamentation worn during a singsing.
Delisa appreciated the generosity of these people. She was glad to have found the right man. When she counted the money later, there was about K20,000. She decided her mother and uncles had received enough. The next day she deposited the money in a long-term savings account for her two siblings.
That evening she told Japheth how she had been accepted by Rosemary’s children. She explained about the mumu at the mansion and how her husband’s people had contributed more money towards the bride price payment.
Delisa felt exhilarated and overwhelmed. What a wonderful day it had been.