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In Which Bandung Is a Storm I Was Not Prepared For

I was very fond of goodbyes, growing up.

In a time where you always feel like you don’t belong, it’s difficult to stay in a happy place and feel at peace with where you are. This is perhaps why I barely shed a tear when prom or graduation comes knocking on my door. While others may stall for just a little bit longer, begging and yearning for forever,  I was always ready to open a new door with two arms to jump in head first into another self-searching journey.

Check-in, search, 404 not found, check-out, repeat.

17 years, and I can barely count with one hand how many times I felt like I belong at peace with where I am and my environment – until I invited Bandung into my life – and came it did,  bursting through my door in a huge, huge storm two months before I was to leave to Japan.

This is temporary, I tell myself as I shake hands and learn new names.

Come September I’ll be gone, I tell myself while I trade dirty whispers with 12 lovely ladies all night long.

You’re being selfish, I tell myself in the mids of texting back a guy I hardly plan to spend forever with.

The storm that is Bandung is a solid ground that I never thought I’ll ever need for my personal peace and I find myself wanting to run far, far away from the goodbye that was so, so near. Fate is a cruel mistress like that, I think. She made me stay years in time where I wish I can be moved and then takes me away the second after I have a thought, I belong here. 

Leaving everything and everyone else was never more painful than ripping a band-aid. Leaving the storm, however, I think I left 12 different pieces of my heart and a chunk of guilt somewhere in there.

(and lovely memories, but that is only for the cold wind of Bandung to remember.)

I was very fond of goodbyes, growing up, so I learned one, two, three new names and truly believed that there will be no damage left. Ripping off band-aid, I remind myself. Quick and easy, stinging pain that will heal come tomorrow.

Band-aid is not enough this time around, I think, because the open wound is more painful than I remember.

Does the mistress truly believe I deserve this?

(My fingers pause, ponders, counts on the tears I spilled, heart I broke.)

(My fingers continues.)

Yeah, she probably does.

It’s okay, I think. I do too.


A Conversation of Soggy, Wet, Tea Leaves

Two days since the history-changing election, and I still try my best to not throw brainless remarks at her Highness, long may she reign.

I still feel restless about it, to the point I’m worried, even. There are many things to consider, many to actually take note about. For instance, I worry for the way many hungry predators are preparing to hook and sink their influences on her. She’s by no means weak or indecisive, and I trust her to look at things through clear vision, but that can only last so long before influences come left and right and she turns into another hypocrite. Which is why, again, I hope she chooses well.

Other than that, she shows promise to kick ass. So well, that I told a friend about my insecurities about the whole event.

“Yeah, I voted for her,” he nodded.

I rose both eyebrows and bit back a spicy retort.

“Who did you vote for?” he asked, as though he expected me to not choose otherwise.

“Not her,” I flippantly said. “I didn’t care as long as it’s not a girl.”

“I felt like it was time for a change.”

The man I could have loved proved to be the better person between the two of us.

“I’m not ready for that,” I told him, and I find myself admitting what I wasn’t brave enough to say before. “I hate that things are changing and we have zero part in making that change. It seems like all we ever become is a downfall.”

“We were just not meant for it, and if that’s how the destiny is, then so be it,” he smiled, and it was silly of me to think he might refer those words to something else. He continued, “See, there will never be a cup of tea without the tea leaves. Sure, people only enjoy the tea, but a cup of tea don’t come out of nowhere.”

“You have much bigger heart than I do,” I told him, and he replied jokingly that I am quite small in literal sense.

Despite the ugly comparison of soggy, wet, tea leaves, I saw his point, and I told him what the older kids told me about our role in this shift. He listened intently, and he was a good enough person to not immediately judge.

“Why, did you want us to be remembered?” he asked, more curiosity than calling out on my shallowness for wanting recognition.

I shook my head, “That doesn’t matter,” I forcefully said. Then, in a softer voice, I told him, “I only wish we did something.”

Our eyes met, and he said in understanding, “I feel the same thing.” His lips twitched into a gentle half-smile.

I went straight home dangerously close to falling deep, purposely not bidding him goodbye. And now the conversation and the gentle smile plays like a cassette tape, over and over, over and over.

Hey, It’s Okay

Birds were chirping and hearts were beating. Ex-friends were sitting on swings side by side. Silence took over as they lightly swung to avoid conversations, and faces were buried in their own smartphones.

They decided they needed to talk long ago, but hey, they never really gotten the chance to. It was too complicated, too many hearts were breaking all around, and they needed the whisper to stop at all cost, even if it broke their friendship apart.

The young woman in her sundress sighed. “I miss telling you everything,” she said.

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Close Call

As a woman striking to not be a mainstream (completely), I’ve begun to learn cooking few bits of things that are easy to make with home ingredients. That, or I’ve begun to buy more instant pasta for breakfast due to the boredom of eating bread five days a week.

So yesterday, my mother and I went to a supermarket and bought pizza ingredients. We’ve been planning on making one for months, but never actually gotten to make it due to strict schedules and laziness. Really, we just never really had the spirit to get up and get out of house to buy the mozzarella. So we bought all the stuff that we needed, and we got a few extra things such as fruits and pastas and candies. (This is why you should make a shopping list, readers, so you don’t buy things that you don’t need) 

This morning, we made the pizza as planned, and I also took out the pasta. So I began following the instructions on the package. I poured the water, the milk, the butter–and then I had to add the main ingredient. I put it all in, and I began stirring for 7 minutes. I was looking forward to eating it.

Then, slowly, I smelled something. It was such a sharp smell that struck right into my nose. It was fish, I thought. But then I didn’t remember buying seafood pasta. So I took the package and read what it had. You have to imagine how horrified I was when I saw the big, bold, label that said ‘CONTAINS PORK’.

(“Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine….” (Al-Mā’idah 5:3))

I gasped and turned the stove off immediately. My mother asked me what happened, and I told her how we bought the wrong thing. I immediately poured the whole thing into a plastic bag while holding my breath and threw it away. She and I both spent the morning scrubbing the stove off, and I was so lucky pork had such a distinct smell that I had noticed it sooner before it was too late.

Next time around, I’ll have to make sure to read the entire package before I buy anything instant.

Lesson learned.

Next To You

How can I not fall into pieces and offer my soul and heart on a silver tray when you always give a dollar to a penny that I don’t deserve? How can I not fall into those eyes in which I see the reflection of the beauty of the universe? How can I not fall, when you never cease to give and give, despite how unworthy I am of you? They say I am one at fault for this love that I keep, and I can’t ever agree to that.

Because the truth is, I blame you. You are the one to blame for this love I harbor deep for you.

So let me keep this feeling. Let me be close. Don’t pretend you don’t want what we have, don’t look at other person with such adoration that shows just the same during our secret moments, don’t pretend you’re not just as smitten, don’t pretend I am the same as any other person.

Because as improper as it was, I wanted you enough to approach you in the first place.

You, who are too unreachable, who makes me see the difference of our holy ground. You, who laughs like the ringing bell in the spring but stares like the frozen, cold snow. Tell me, how did this tale began? Ah, I remember. You were there, above the clouds like where your throne belonged. I longed for you, heard of your name, reached out to your throne, and was failed to enter. That was when you noticed my existence. You saw something in me, believed that there was a second chance for me, and spoke words of encouragement with that strong, clear voice of yours.

I remember you, lining in the front row in your prestigious green armor. You spoke with confidence then, as you do now, though in a different armor. I remember how you made legs wobble and stomach tighten. Nobody dared to reach into your doors, and then I did. I entered the door that you left open, and I wondered if maybe you wanted me to reach in for whatever reason.

So am I in the wrong place now, inside your chamber? Tell me, do I have the chance to reach into your heart to make you mine? Do I get to ever stand not behind, not far, far behind but instead right there, next to you? Or perhaps, will I ever be able to blow the horn that you have blown all on your own all these past years?

You left me a trail, a path. A path that I can take should I choose to reach your throne. You left me the choice, and I made the easy decision to step forward and march right into the rough path of glory-seeking. Perhaps this way I will understand your pain, what you went through, and what tears you have spilled.

Then perhaps one day, I can be worthy, of standing right next to you.

It Goes To Waste

When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep

It wasn’t the matter of not being able to sleep, it was more the thought of not being able to leave him alone. There were better things to attend to, there always were, such as homework and council work. There was also a phone call she was supposed to pick up, half a dozen massages she was supposed to write back to—and yet there she was, lying on her bed with earphones in her earbuds, waiting for a ring that she herself knew was wrong in many ways.

It rang, and she told herself she’d wait until the fourth or fifth ring, make him wait, she didn’t want to come off too eager.

What a joke.

The moment it rang, she picked it up immediately and spoke as softly as any other night, “Hello?”

Her exhaustion vanished in an instant as the corners of her lips twitched into a smile.

And the tears come streaming down your face

She knew her feelings for that kind neighbor and his feeling for her would be a lost cause, and maybe that was why she cried into her pillow late that night, because she was such a horrible person for letting things went too far.

She craved for love, and to love is to choose to love, but it was impossible to avoid the inevitable—she was never in love. She was struggling, people were judging, and she needed someone to tell her it was okay. He seemed like the easiest choice, and things were exactly the way she wanted them to be.

For a while, things were cotton candy sweet.

And then everything love crashed together. Four men, one she rejected, one she avoided, one she was supposed to be happy with, and one she actually loved. She wiped her tears and shrugged the pain away. She should kiss the neighbor goodbye, it wasn’t fair for him when her heart didn’t sing the way his did. It wasn’t fair for him when she avoided his phone call in the favor for others. It wasn’t fair for him when she could only give so much.

She was all he wanted, he said.

She bit her lip. How does one tell someone he’s not who she wanted without breaking his heart?

Oh, yeah.

They don’t.

When you love someone but it goes to waste

She stared at the sight in front of her.

His eyes seemed content, in peace, as he whispered lovely things to this new girl he wanted. That guy was the reason she kept breaking her neighbor’s heart into pieces. That guy was the reason phone calls went unanswered and texts went ignored.

You’re the one I want, he said on occasions during their deep conversation in empty rooms.

The same words were also said from her neighbor, and yet it gave different impacts. He was the fuckboy, she was the goody two shoes. She did her works and assignments, he was the troublemaker who smoked and drank all he wanted.

She loved him, and she told him exactly that.

So what kept them from being together?

She told him she didn’t see a forever with him, and he told her he saw it, just not now, not when he was still like this. She told him to chase others, as heartbreaking it might be for her. He took it to heart, and he did as she said. She had to see him laugh and share moments with girls she’d never approve, and she preferred things to be that way.

It broke her heart still, and there were times when she wanted to cry for it. It was funny how two could love but not be together. She smiled anyway, because as she told him, she wanted him to be loved. So she watched as he sang love songs to his girl. The words he sang to her, she sang it to him. Sometimes their eyes would meet and she’d see the hurt in her eyes reflect inside his dark brown irises, but that was only how far she was willing to go with him, so she swallowed the pain and sucked it up.

At the end of the day, she was the one he called at night and the one he loved—or at least that’s what she wanted to believe.

At school they’re friends, at night they’re cursed lovers, and by morning, deep conversations were placed in a memory box as they slip back into their masks. No one needed to know how far they went with feelings and love, no one needed to know the way she gazed when he laughed with his girl, and no one needed to know about the love—as untrue as it might be—that he harbored for her, despite going out with different girl.

They could have it all if she was willing to sell her soul for the darkness anchoring inside him, and that was where it had to end. She could be his friend, sister, partner, everything but his.

“Have you ever felt so in love and realize you can’t have it all?” she asked him one night. “These are all bunch of loves that you can’t do anything about. It sucks.”


“Do you remember your background photo on mine?” he asked back instead.

She paused then.

“Photo of us?” She raised her eyebrow.

He nodded, “I miss that full smile from the girl standing next to me in that pink dress. It doesn’t feel like the same anymore.”

She remembered being happier. She remembered not having to wish things were different.

She laughed humorlessly. “Heartache changes people, I guess.

“Someone should try to fix it,” he responded. “I tried, apparently it’s not good enough.”

But she wasn’t the one needed to be fixed, didn’t he understand? He was the one supposed to be fixed, he was the one supposed to be guided into the light

“I guess not,” she agreed. She took a breath. “There’s always going to be someone else for people like us. Someone else for you, someone else for me. We’re just never meant to be, and it was stupid of me for being too in love to let things go.”

If he wanted to say anything else after that, she wouldn’t know. She left him to his thoughts and didn’t give him the chance to speak.

The next morning, they spoke empty words. At night, he was laughing with his girl.

The morning after that, she decided it hurt real bad, and it was good to see that he didn’t seem to care.

It was better that way, for wasted love was an unspeakable crime.

When you lose something you cannot replace.

Protected: Not A Someday

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In Which the Rabbit Died

I remember lying in my futon (traditional bed in Japan) in our apartment back when I used to live in Japan. I remember not being able to sleep through my father’s snore, and I remember one story my mother always tells.

“Once upon a time, there lived a baby rabbit and her mother inside a tiny hut beside the wood.”

The lights used to be turned off by then, and my brother would have slept through it as he couldn’t care less of what was to happen to the rabbit. She’d tell the story with soft, soothing voice and I wouldn’t be able to make out her face in the dark.

“The mother rabbit always tell the baby rabbit to not go out into the wood,” she used to tell me. “The wood is too dangerous. There is a fearsome bear ready to hunt little rabbit like the baby rabbit, and there are many dangerous creature living inside.”

My younger self would have imagined a dark forest with bats and howls by then.

“But one day,” my mother hushed, and I whimpered. “the baby rabbit didn’t listen! She played outside into the wood until late in the evening, and the fearsome bear found her before her mother did! So he ate her, and she died. Her body was never found by the mother rabbit. The end.”

I remember crying like one would when he or she is dumped by their lovers. I sobbed into my mother’s arms, grieving for the fate of the little rabbit.

“Which is why you should always, always, listen to your mother,” she ended the tale with a light and airy giggle. Must be amusing for her to see a little girl cry for the poor fate of an imaginary rabbit. I would have done the same if I had a daughter.

I brought the story back to my mother a year ago, I think. She laughed about it and told me she made the story up completely. Someday, I’ll follow her legacy and laugh as I make my daughter cry with the legendary, fearsome story.

My daughter won’t know what hit her.


In response to: Bedtime Stories

In Which the Heart Is the Weakest Eye

“I love you,” he whispers.

And just like a magical mantra, you’re fooled for good despite all the bad that you know. One little mantra to cloud your judgement, and one little mantra to bind you for life. Because truly, how can you, a lonely girl, leave behind a man that promises an everlasting love, despite not being his only one?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Brilliant Disguise

Who Knew What You’d Learn When You Dig A Little Deeper

History is always under appreciated by students at school, don’t you think?

And as I write this down, I’m not at all ashamed to say that I as well never paid much attention to history due to how little meaning it gives to life. History doesn’t change anything. Not now, not the future, not ever. The only lesson that still applies from history is the ideology of how experience is the best teacher. It teaches us how things that failed in the past should not be repeated if we are to avoid the same impact that happened times ago.

So I never pay much attention to it.

Until one day, I was staying at this Ramadhan camp for two weeks in a little village. I had the chance to get to know people around the camping site, and I met this woman in a little shop. She told me and my friends to call her ‘Bu Eli’.

(Bu in Bahasa means Mrs.)

Bu Eli was kind, gentle, and a sincere Muslim woman. She invited two friends of mine and I to her house for a nice evening chat. Introduction was made, and small chit chat was shared.

I remembered her beginning her tale with a simple sentence. She said gently with eyes that went a shade darker as she recalled her past. It was the eyes of someone who’s seen the dark part of life and never entirely made it back to the now.

“I’ve lived here (in this village) for twenty years. You see, I was the victim of the monetary crisis. I used to live in Jakarta back in the day.”

I sure as hell remembered not understanding what it meant. “What monetary crisis?” I asked.

“Is it the monetary crisis like in the movie Di Balik 98?” My friend asked.

“Goodness, you don’t know? It was the monetary crisis that happened back in ‘97 and ‘98, my child,” she said. “You must know, it was when President Soeharto was forced to step down after 30 years in power.”

“Oh, when the inflation happened?” I remembered studying something of some sort.

She nodded, “That’s right. It was when the dollar inflated so high that it reached 17.000 rupiahs from 3.000 rupiahs.”

My friends and I shared a surprised a look. That was a high price, indeed.

“Everything went downhill really quick at that time. You weren’t born back then. You see, many companies struggled to keep on their feet with so many debt the country had, and many prices went up. Many companies fired many of their workers to keep the expenditure at minimum, and many assets were sold.”

We listened to her intently. It was more interesting than the lectures my teachers ever gave. It was a real story from someone who’s lived the history. She was there to see it with the two of her eyes. The way she told the tale, it gave away emotions of one who doesn’t have the intention to repeat what’s happened.

“Scholars rebelled, and buildings were burned down. It was the time when the Trisakti Tragedy happened—”

“—When the students were shot down,” I said, finishing her sentence. 4 students were shot down and became hero of the tragedy. Their names were still remembered to this day.

We finally touched a ground I was familiar of.

She nodded, and it must have been a bitter reminiscent. “My husband and I, we struggled to keep on standing on our feet. We opened a book publishing company, but we couldn’t afford the price of the paper as time went by, and things just never got better.”

She took a breath and exhaled, and I held my breath. She waved her hand around, “So we moved here. We sold our assets and came here to stay.We left the rebellion, the mess, and experienced the rest of it though the news in the TV.”

It must have not been an easy decision to make, I gathered.

“Things were different in this village then. There were very few villagers, just forest and vast crops field. My husband and I started over. I believed that knowledge is a beautiful, never-ending tool that can get us back to our feet. We started a course in this village.”

“With only very few villagers, who’d come and study?” My friend asked.

“Oh, there were many students who were interested,” Bu Eli said vigorously.

“What about daily supply? Where do you get things from?” I asked too. It was a very real life Harvest Moon experience to me. I had to ask before my imagination went wild to the point where villagers trade things to get their need in my head.

Bu Eli chuckled, “It was hard too at first. Being in such a secluded place, it took hours to go back and forth to get what we needed. But as time went by, many mini mart opened up, and many small merchants stayed for good. It was quite a peaceful life after that.”

And Bu Eli is now a headmaster in a local kindergarten, a teacher in a local middle school, and a student counselor in a local high school. She’s a mother to three children, and she owns a farm or two as I recall.

“And you’ve never thought about going back?”

Bu Eli didn’t need time to think about it. It was an immediate response of, “No, never.”

“What about families?”

“The goodbyes were hard,” she adjusted her glasses back on with a fond smile. “But times were hard, and sacrifices had to be made. We still see each other to this day.”

But is this the happy ending you imagined you’d have? Have you ever regretted anything?

There were many questions, many rude questions left in the tip of my tongue. I was so eager to find out what crosses the mind of someone who’s lived the history to tell the tale. I was curious to know what made her survive mentally, what made her still stand up to this day, and what made her find her peace.

Bu Eli took me back to those old history lessons that I’d sleep through at school. I never thought much of those lessons. In fact, I never thought it deserved a penny of my mind, until I heard Bu Eli’s tale, and I realized there was much more to history than old tales and mistakes.

In history, lived the tale of thousands of people who experienced the same one event. There were victims, heroes, or simply spectators, and each of them had their own story to tell. Each and every one of them had their own struggles, and they had their own way of rising back up to face the future that was held before them.

There were many different celebration, and many different grieves. Every teardrops to every pain and every smiles to every new hope. But at the end of the day, history holds not only mere experience, but it also holds beauty of its own. Because behind the pages that were printed in our textbook, now I know the tiny glimpse of what it took to be remembered, to be timeless.

Dear you, who’s lived through your own history and made it to where you are today, raise your glass, here’s to you.

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