Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mad Dog and the Indonesian House Maid

 They were never alone together.  Always group dates arranged days in advance.  Mad Dog would see her cloaked beside guardians in the market standing at the end of the frozen fish aisle and approach.  Aulia would recoil into the white robes and disappear.  Always a distance between them.  Baskets of baked bread.  Bins of warm chocolate.  The wafting aromas filled his senses in pursuit, but never close enough for a touch, even a word.  Only a flash of her deep blue crystal eyes as she lowered her white veil and vanished in silence.  Mad Dog whispering to himself, “Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri.  You are mine.”
 Mad Dog suggested borrowing a car and picking her up on the street, but Aulia resisted.  If they were discovered, they would be arrested, possibly hung for their indiscretion. 
 Mad Dog countered.  He said he could dress in a woman’s black abaya robe and nicab, sneak into their medical compound for a visit.  That’s how he’d seen the holly black stone of Mecca, by traveling as a woman.
 Aulia sent back a picture of a camel chewing a man’s trousers.  “This is YOU!”  She wrote, with scribbled kisses around the card, begging him not to act so bravely.  According to Sharia law, men dressing as women was punishable by death.
 So they exchanged letters instead.  Mad Dog wrote to her hospital and she returned correspondence to his school.  Just office stationary, filling the envelopes with tangible items they both had touched.  A lock of hair.  A swatch of undergarment cloth.  A thread of silk soaked in perfume.  A print of his palm.  This continued for weeks.  Each item becoming more intimate than the one before.
 At night, they lived on Skype.  There was a small computer for all the maids in training to use and Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri was allowed the 8:45 slot.  For fifteen minutes, her face would gleam, showing Mad Dog her smile, her teeth, her ear lobes and of course, her deep crystal blue eyes.  He never asked for me.  Though he heard the other women laughing in the background and saw their silhouettes pass in night clothes and towels, he never asked her to stand, to reveal herself to him.  He told himself to be pure.  If these feelings were to be true, they must be pure.
 Then one day news came that Aulia’s training was over and she would be placed with a Saudi family.  Such excitement.  The sooner she made the placement, the sooner she would start and fulfill her contract and be allowed to leave Saudi.  They could be together.   She left and promised to write, but after a month no letter had arrived.   Mad Dog heard nothing.  Then another month, and Mad Dog became terribly afraid.   Then finally a letter came.
 It was filled with horrors.  Beatings and whippings.  Verbal scoldings and severe punishments.  Aulia Conseula Sukarnoputri  was a prisoner in the Saudi home.  The master’s four wives treated her with absolute scorn and contempt.  Aulia was not only responsible for watching the terrible brood of a dozen children who would hit and strike her and curse her, but also for cleaning every inch of the house.  Scrubbing the toilets and washing the clothes and mopping the floors and baking all the clothes, and if there were any mistakes, any missed spots, Aulia Conseula Sukarnoputri would be beaten with a wooden cane the master used to stand.  She wasn’t even allowed a room to sleep.   Instead, she bedded on dusty blankets in a supply closet with the cleaning chemicals and the rags.  The letter had been smuggled out by another housemaid.  Aulia Conseula Sukarnoputri said she wanted to die.  All hope was lost.
 Then absolute silence.  Dreaded silence.  No word for two months.  Mad Dog sent dozens of letters but no answer.  He wrote to the embassy, even her mother, but no response came.  Then finally word.  Not from Aulia but from a friend.  A development had arisen.  Aulia Conseula Sukarnoputri was pregnant, raped by the Saudi master.  Enraged, the wife had accused her of adultery.  She had been cast out of the house and imprisoned.  A hasty trial ensued.  The crime adultery.  Aulia was sentenced to death.  The punishment would be carried out publicly in infamous Chop Chop Square.  Aulia Conseula Sukarnoputri was to be beheaded.
 There was nothing to be done.  The Indonesian embassy had exhausted diplomatic channels.  Newspapers in Jakarta were reporting.  There was a halt of all maids sent to the Middle East.  But Aulia still awaited her death.
Mad Dog was distraught.  In blind rage, he planned to go to Riyadh, find the man responsible, and kill him.
 A week passed and he traveled to Riyadh and through a network of housemaids found the house of the Saudi master and waited outside on the street for him to leave.  But a white foreign devil on Saudi street caused too much notice and he was picked up by the police and detained for traveling without an iqama.
In the detention center he made a full confession.  Yes, the officials were somewhat sympathetic, but what could he do.  After a week, Mad Dog  signed a handwritten letter stating he would return to work and leave the Saudi man alone.  He never spoke to a lawyer.  Never spoke to anyone but a handful of jailors.  
 It was then the strangest event occurred.  The day Mad Dog was released, he received word that Aulia was being transferred to a small clinic in the south of Riyadh.  It was for safety reasons, a routine check up with the pregnancy.  Mad Dog decided to act. 
Borrowing the car of a Jordanian man working as a laborer in the oil fields, Mad Dog raced toward the clinic, arriving just before prayer time ended.  Opening the door cautiously, he found a row of sandals outside the staff mosque and passed quickly to the front desk.  There was no guard.  No nurses.  Only a small white room which he entered and pulled back the curtain.  There, sitting on a chair rubbing her protruding belly beneath a black sack cloth robe and veil, was Aulia.  He knew from her eyes.
Mad Dog took her hand and together they passed  the mosque as the men chanted and bowed low to kiss the ground.  Through the doors they stepped out into the sunlight.  They wasted no time.  He helped her into the front seat of the car, which was still running, and they raced away toward the Indonesian embassy.  Rushing through the armed gates, the coiled wire and the armed soldiers, in a matter of minutes they were safely inside.  A director met them.  A diplomatic flight had been arranged and she would be smuggled out of the country within the hour.  Mad Dog embraced her.  For the first time, their bodies touching.  Laughing in relief, he helped her sit in the chair and lifted her veil for the first time to gaze into the deepest most crystal blue eyes he’d ever seen, sobbing in tears.

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