As nightly raids burn the capital city, the mundane existence of Gerald Sanpatri takes a dramatic shift when Rosia walks into his life bringing laughter and unexpected love. She inspires the ex-writer to once again take up his pen and write the impossible: a love story for an entire nation. A Love Story for a Nation chronicles the explosive and heart-warming journey of one country’s brush with history through the eyes of a courageous man who dared to stand up, smile, and think the unimaginable.
From Chapter 6
Gerald left the house and weaved through the maze of alleyways to Gomez’s house. He nodded politely at the overflow of people who spent their lives in the filthy streets; the homeless, local youth committees killing time, thinking over their nighttime shenanigans, the women washing their dishes in basins, old men smoking, and children playing with rocks and sticks. Reoux had a unique sensation that pulsed through its heart, a smell all its own, charcoal and garbage, fresh fruit and onions, rice and mud—an evening feel of warmth amid the din of the crowd and the dung of society’s underbelly.
Cecilia greeted Gerald at the door and escorted him out to the back of the house overlooking the river. He saw four gentlemen standing near the bank of the river and looking off into the distance towards the presidential complex.
“Gomez! Gerald is here,” Cecilia called to her husband.
Gomez turned around, as did another familiar face, Horace.
“Gerald, come,” said Gomez.
“Well, this is a delight,” added Horace. He stood beside the two other men, one looked familiar but the other a stranger.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had company,” said Gerald.
“Company, indeed. Since when has Uncle Horace been company?” said Horace. “Is there not familiarity here?” He laughed.
“Gerald, please, have a seat here on the blanket,” said Gomez, pointing at the identical spot where they had sat just a few days earlier. “Horace will be staying here for a week or so.”
“Just passing through, you know. It has been so long, and I had such a grand time on Independence Day. Antoine was in rare form. I feel such affinity here, able to gaze on his highness over the banks of the polluted river. Poetic justice. You reap what you sow.” Horace continued surveying the fortress across the river as he spoke. “So how is that lovely wife of yours?”
“Rosia? She’s fine. Thank you.”
“Oh, and I’m sorry. This is Sonni.”
“Yes,” said Gerald. “I believe I met him earlier today. You are the one who moved into the apartment up near the boulevard, right?”
“That’s right. I met Mr. Sanpatri already. Nice to see you again.”
“Well, good,” said Horace. “This is cozy. And lastly, this is Meneshmi.” He signaled to a middle-aged man who had yet to speak a word.
“Meneshmi?” inquired Gomez with a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“That’s right. Meneshmi Bula,” said the stranger, holding out his hand to Gerald.
“But—” Gerald stopped, and pondered for a minute at the strange coincidence.
“Oh,” laughed Horace. “That’s right. I’ve become so used to it that I hadn’t even thought of the connection. Ironic. Hahaha. So ironic.”
Gerald shook the gentleman’s hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Sanpatri. Or rather, to see you again,” said Meneshmi.
“Again?” asked Gerald.
“Of course he wouldn’t remember you. You were just a freshman…” said Horace, looking over at Meneshmi, “when Sanpatri was graduating with his Bachelor’s degree.”
“We went to school together?”
“That’s right, Mr. Sanpatri. I remember you well, but there’s little reason you would remember me.”
“I’m very sorry,” said Gerald, still puzzled over the man’s name.
“Please don’t be,” said Meneshmi.
“But Meneshmi Bula? Is that really your name? It’s just—” continued Gerald.
“Oh, it’s no coincidence,” said Meneshmi.
“No coincidences ever occur in politics and literature,” joked Horace.
“I’m sorry,” said Sonni, the young man who had been trying to keep up with the conversation, “… but what are we talking about here?”
Horace leaned over to whisper in Gerald’s ear. “Illiterate.”
“Sonni, the main character in Mr. Sanpatri’s most famous novel, The Belle of Burgundy, was named Meneshmi Bula,” said Gomez.
“Gomez, you’re going to have to paint this young pup a picture. I don’t think the words are making it through that fishnet brain of his,” cackled Horace.
“Standing firm. In the native dialect of the Banti hill tribe, Meneshmi Bula means ‘standing firm’,” offered Gerald.
“This man is a walking metaphor. A literary reference who has come to life,” continued Horace, pointing at Meneshmi.
“But why would you choose that name, Meneshmi?” asked Sonni.
“It’s not difficult to guess,” said Gerald, feeling uncomfortable and regretting his decision to visit.
Horace shook his head in disbelief. “He’s an example of the young, uneducated saps whose only schooling comes through the current system of modern manipulation-matriculation. Don’t worry, Sonni. It’s not your fault.” He turned back to Gerald. “Can you believe what these people learn these days? Sonni was telling me about a class he takes called, ah…”
“That’s it, Patriotic Socialization and the… what was that? The crappiness of…”
“Patriotic Socialization and Citizen Contribution.”
“Yes, exactly. What a young memory he has! Let’s hope he’s half as clever when he becomes an engineer. Have you covered two plus two yet?”
About the Author
Mark is a proud Western PA native but has lived most of the last twenty years in Vietnam and Malaysia. His experiences in Asia have redefined everything including his palate, his outlook on life, and naturally his writing. You can find him most days cruising around Penang Island, eating the local delicacies and taking in the sun and exotic breezes as he looks for interesting places to write.
He has authored four novels with number five and six already somewhere on the horizon. His interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – to culture and language – to history and religion – making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy writing injected with doses of Asian culture, history, adventure, and delightful humor. You never know what you might get when you pick up a Sasse novel.
Besides novel-writing, Sasse is a prolific dramatist, having written and produced more than a dozen full-length dramatic productions. He especially is fond of the short play format and has twice won the Best Script award at the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival Penang. His plays and short musicals have also been produced in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, Australia. Performances of his scripts also won Gold and Bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Forensics Competition 2014.
His professional background is as diverse as his writing. He holds Master’s degrees from California State University Dominquez Hills and Azusa Pacific University in Humanities and TESOL respectively. His undergraduate degree was in English, which helped him develop his passion for creative writing. He has extensive experience in teaching English, history, and drama.
On top of all of this, he loves to cook everything from gourmet pizzas, to Mexican, to various Asian dishes. Flavor is the key of both his cooking and his writing. He very much hopes you enjoy the taste.