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Language Lessons, 20: nglayap

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Jack Shaftoe's never been the kind of fellow who's felt the need to trail around like a lost lamb after the object of his affections, in case he (or, in the bad old days, 'she': but Jack thinks of those days seldom, now, and not with nostalgia or any flavour of regret, but only an amused exasperation at the vagaries of that ignorant and feckless younger self) should wander, stray, misbehave, or otherwise have fun without Jack: he's as happy to stay on the Pearl, these days, as to expose himself to the myriad variations upon tired old themes that each new landfall reveals, for he's seen 'em all before and finds himself -- who'd've thought Jack Shaftoe, erstwhile King of the Vagabonds, would ever attain such an exalted perspective? -- in the position of jaded commentator on whatever novelties and foibles are painted by the broad, coarse brush of local colour on the cracked, pox-scarred visage of Human Nature: he's put this argument to Jack Sparrow (more than once, now he comes to think of it) and Sparrow's cheerfully mocked Jack for his world-weariness, his creaky old age -- mocked, indeed, to such an extent that Jack's been forced to set him right on a few points having to do with vigour, and zest, and staying-power; he's fairly sure that Sparrow's more or less the same age as Jack himself, whatever age that might be, and Sparrow's not lacking in vitality, so Jack obviously can't be either -- and the wasting-away, the evaporation, of that vagabond spirit that'd animated him all the long years 'fore he'd come on board, been brought on board, the Black Pearl: "why, Jack," Sparrow'd said only last night, "you don't have to come ashore on this bountiful and paradisical isle, no, not if you don't wish it; I know you've become quite seclusive, quite sedent'ry, of late," and so on and so forth 'til Jack'd borne him down and demonstrated the contrary, and now -- damn Jack Sparrow -- he finds himself wand'ring some nameless confounded island, far out past Java, where the air is as hot, foetid and sweaty as the natives, and the local distillation no more sweetly palatable than the smiles of those ill-favoured individuals who offer it; squelching down the swampy byways that pass for highways in these parts, marvelling at the rainbow colours and lewdly suggestive forms of the fungal growths decking the underside of every stilted hut; and finally happening on Jack Sparrow as he's concluding some business with a wart-nosed, bone-decked elder who shoots Jack a positively filthy glance, as though simply by being there he, Jack Shaftoe, is dooming the entire population of the mildewed village to an endless cycle of ritual cleansings and exorcisms: Jack's used to such treatment, so he smiles sweet as he can (trying not to heed the Imp on his shoulder, who's carolling cruelties and crudenesses to practice on the fellow) and enquires of Jack Sparrow how much longer he's planning to spend in this delightful haven: Sparrow beams at him and says, "Nearly done, Mr Shaftoe," and that'll do for Jack, who's beginning to feel somewhat claustrophobic in the spory, tenebrous confines of the house; he nods to the batrachian elder and makes his exit, though can't help hearing what Sparrow says, a word that makes the old man laugh like a singularly ineffectual drain, and must surely be either an insult demanding satisfaction or a jest worth sharing; to which end Jack Shaftoe, who's wise to (and fondly tolerant of, and not infrequently wildly excited by) Sparrow's little games and stratagems, makes a note of that word -- not by scribbling it down in messy black ink, but by murmuring it to himself over and over again on his way back to the Black Pearl as she looms at the quay, overshadowing native pirogues, junks, and sampans, her crew disporting themselves in taverns and brothels (no matter what they called 'em hereabouts) in ways entirely without allure to Jack Shaftoe, who has in mind a bottle or two of decent rum and the sturdy, reinforced cot in the Captain's cabin: he takes himself below, strips off his sodden clothes (mould already patching and patterning the thin calico of his shirt) and disposes himself upon the cot to await his Captain's return: "Oho!" cries Jack Sparrow, finding Jack dozing there naked in the cool evening air, "I trust you weren't too consumed with boredom, Jack; I do beg your pardon for my tardiness, an' --" to which Jack, rolling over and catching hold of one beard-braid as Sparrow swoops down for a kiss, says sweetly, "aye, an' I'll give you that pardon an' a lot more besides, Jack: but tell me, what's nglayap, eh?" and Sparrow, letting Jack's gentle tug on his beard-braid persuade him onto the bed beside his love, draws up one foot to prise off his damp boot, sighs with relief (ignoring Jack Shaftoe's theatrickal handwaving, prompted by the odour of unwashed feet) and -- first having assumed his most Pedagogickal expression, one with which Jack's become overwhelmingly familiar this last year or so -- says, "ah, so you heard me singing your praises to Kauhaga, did you?", and licks hotly at Jack's ear; Jack's impervious, really he is, to such distractions, and only raises his eyebrows, enquiring, "praises, is it? let's have 'em, then," before he sets his mouth to Sparrow's sweat-striped throat and sucks 'til Sparrow's breathing quickens: "I told him," admits Sparrow rather thickly, "that you were a wanderer, a Vagabond; 'parrently they have a word for it, Jack (o, yes, please do get this shirt off me, it's revolting), that word you know: 'tis nglayap, an' it signifies someone who wanders for the sake of it; who travels far from home with no 'special purpose," to which Jack, busy at the damp lacing of Sparrow's shirt, drawing one knee up to hold his love close -- for the cabin's cooler now, Sparrow's business having kept him from the Pearl 'til sundown, and Jack scarcely heeds the clamminess of Sparrow's apparel, distracted as he is by the simple pleasure of removing same -- retorts, "Ah, but I had a purpose, all right: in my youth, 'twas to see as much of the wide world as I could, and glean what pleasures I might from't," and Sparrow nods and smiles, and murmurs, "o yes, pleasures," which makes Jack chuckle: but he goes on, solemn as can be, "an' now ..." and lets his voice trail off 'til Sparrow, reliably, echoes him: "and now, Jack Shaftoe?" and Jack smiles like a saint in a window, pulls Sparrow's loose clinging shirt down over his shoulders so it catches at his biceps and fetters his arms, and says, "Now, love? now I wander with the finest purpose there can be, Jack Sparrow, which is to stay at home, to stay where my heart rests: and that, Jack, that's here," his hand to Sparrow's breastbone, "an' I don't begrudge a single step of all the miles I walked, when I was young, for there you were at the end of 'em, though I never knew it 'til I arrived."