Minggu, 29 Oktober 2017

Untitled

I wrote this story during Couchsurfing Writers' Club Bandung meeting on Thursday, October 26th, 2017. The host, Abi, chose quarter-life crisis as the theme. Here is what I managed to jot down in 30 or so minutes:


When I open my eyes this morning, I find myself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling.

Hm?

I blink and I blink, but I still don't recognize the white plafond.

I get up, and scan the entire room: it's not mine.

It's not the room I grew up in with yellow walls and pictures of my favorite cartoon characters decorating it, keeping me company on nights of thunderstorms or afternoons after school.

This room has white walls instead, and a single clock in the middle of one. Under that clock is a mirror. I walk towards it.

I look in the mirror, and the woman inside stares back at me.

Who are you? I ask her.

She doesn't answer.

"Kaaak!" I hear my mom calling me. Finally! Something I recognize!

I get out of the room, finding my legs lightly jogging downstairs, excited at the thought of being with someone I actually know. Someone who actually knows me.

"Have you just woken up? You're going to be late to work!"

I stop dead. I look at her, and I see my mom. But something is different about her. Something that I can't quite point out...

"Yes," I hear a voice from inside my head. "I'm gonna get ready for work now."

And I see her. The woman from the mirror walks right past me from behind, gives my mother a hug, and goes to take a shower.

I look down at my hands. They're there, but it feels almost as if I can look through them.

"Mom?" I call her out, but she doesn't respond. Her eyes are still glued at the little device she is holding.

"Mom, I'm right here." Still no response. She is still watching a video of someone dressed in all white, spewing out contradictory words that she's listening to so intently.

I don't know how much time has passed with me just trying to figure out what's happening. The next thing I know is the woman from earlier emerges from another room, dressed in professional clothes with her face made up.

She kisses my mom on her cheek, and brings her sling bag out. I chase her. "Wait! Who are you? Why do you live in my house?"

She turns around and looks at me. "Stop living in the past. Wake up."

"What do you mean?"

"Wake up," she just says. "Wake up."

And then I open my eyes.

The white plafond I stare at is quiet as usual. I get up, scanning the room with white walls and the clock and the mirror.

I go towards the mirror, and stare at the reflection.

"Good, you've woken up," she says. "You can't be late for your first day of work."

Kamis, 19 Oktober 2017

Sweet Torture

Image taken from driscolls.com

It all started with the Korean drama I watched last night. There was nothing special about that episode, except for when the heroine was shown eating a strawberry shortcake. That scene wasn't even an important part of the story, but the way the cake looked, how soft and fluffy, made me want it in front of me right that second.

The way the main character sliced it with her fork, the way it crumbled, the way the cream kind of overflowed a little bit... and the way she brought it into her mouth, how she first bit into it, when she tasted the sweetness... It was almost as if I was the one eating it.

Almost! As the wise and almighty Ariana Grande once said, "Almost is never enough." So I turned off the TV, walked into my room, laid on my bed, and told myself that I would buy it the next day.

Which is today, and so far I have eight hours of work to go through and absolutely zero strawberry shortcake in my hands. It's fine, it's fine. My colleagues and I usually order Go-Food to our office for lunch, so I wonder if I can get a strawberry shortcake this time. I scroll and I scroll, spending each minute of my break time dedicated to searching for the one thing that will satiate my craving right now.

"Git!" I hear someone call my name from behind me. I turn around and find my boss standing near my desk. "I need your help translating this part, can you do it now?"

"But I haven't had lunch," I say.

To which he answers, "Oh, it's okay. I've already bought lunch for everyone in the translators' room. Nasi goreng!"

Ugh, great. I smile, and proceed to follow him to the other room. It's okay. I'll get my strawberry shortcake after work is done.

Five hours later, I find myself in front of the cake shop near my office. I walk in giddily, feeling like I'll finally get what I've always wanted for the whole day. There is only one person queueing in front of the cashier. Nice, I don't have to wait too long!

The cashier receives the cash and gives a white box to the customer. "Here's your strawberry shortcake. Thank you for your patronage, please come again!" After the customer in front of me leaves, she looks at me and smiles. "Good evening, Miss. How can I help you?"

"I'd like one strawberry shortcake, please," I say, pretending to be calm and not let my excitement show. This is it! I'll finally get my cake!!!

"I'm so sorry Miss, that was the last strawberry shortcake we had," says the dream-crushing cashier. "May I offer you something else? A cheesecake, maybe?"

'No, you may not!' is what I'm thinking, but instead I just shake my head and get out of the shop. It's fine. It's probably not my day.

I mean, I know it's just a random craving for a cake, but somehow it's getting me so down. I need someone to cheer me up. So I take my phone and dial my best friend's number. As soon as I hear her say hello, I ask her, "Are you home? I need an immediate mood booster."

"Oh, you call at the right time! Yeah, come here, I'm home. My brother just came back from work."

"So?" I see no relevance in her brother being home with her ability to cheer me up. But her next words prove me wrong. Dead wrong.

"Yeah, he just randomly brought home some strawberry shortcake."

I hang up and order a Gojek ride straight away. Strawberry shortcake, here I come!

Kamis, 24 Agustus 2017

How My Life Ends

Couchsurfing Writers Club
FB & Co, Bandung
August 24, 2017
Theme: Oxymoron


I don't know what time it is. Midnight? Past midnight? Maybe even just a little over 8 p.m.? Never mind that. It doesn't matter. What matters is what is standing before me.

Who is standing before me.

I didn't expect to find something - someone - quite like her tonight. I mean, it's a graveyard - I don't generally expect to see anything other than lonely soil filled with dead memories when I come here once a week just to be alone.

Tonight, though, proves to be different.

I was just about to sit under my tree - a big cypress located conveniently in the center of the whole cemetery - when I caught a glimpse of her.

I was scared, at first, but I tried not to show it. "Act naturally," I said to myself, "don't be afraid. There's nothing to be afraid of." Either I convinced myself with that, or I faked bravery to prove to no one in particular that I am no coward, I tried to focus on what I thought I saw.

And there she was. Standing, right where I see her now.

I don't know what it is - but something about her is painfully beautiful. Is it her hair? No, she barely has any more hair. Her smile? She isn't even smiling. But this is what I know: her beauty will be the death of me... And I'm okay with that.

I say nothing. She says nothing. Can she say anything with her ripped lips? I don't know. What I do know is that this silence is deafening. I need to do something... Anything. I need to know her name.

So I ask her, "What's your name?"

But she doesn't answer. Maybe she can't answer. She just stands there staring at me with her left eye - the place where her right eye should be is left with a gaping hole. Huh. I didn't notice that before.

The night gets deeper and I can't take it anymore. I know what she wants. I know what she wants, and she can take it. I know how stupid that is, but I don't care. It's my only choice to be with her, even for a second.

So I walk, one step after another, towards her. She opens her arms invitingly. I submit, giving her a warm embrace, soaking in the fact that we're alone together in the universe for this moment, and for this moment only.

It's perfect. It's everything I never knew I needed.

She then opens her mouth, and proceeds to eat my brains. Yeah, okay. I accept the fact that I'm gonna die being devoured by the walking dead.

Jumat, 18 Agustus 2017

Antara Hitam dan Putih



Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.

Putih adalah kita, kau bilang.
Putih adalah kita, dan hitam adalah mereka.
Hitam adalah mereka dan bukan kita.
Tidak pernah kita.
Tidak akan pernah kita.
Hitam tidak pernah putih, dan putih tidak sudi menjadi hitam.

Karena putih di atas hitam,
Dan hitam tenggelam di dasar kolam
Jauh, jauh, jauh di bawah
Tinggalkan
Lupakan
Hitam

Abu-abu? Tanyaku.
Tidak! Jawabmu.

Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.

Hal lainnya tidak penting, katamu.

Pintu.
Pintu cokelat.
Aku pamit, pergi sebentar.
Kau mengangguk.
Aku buka pintu cokelat itu.

Kemudian merah!
Ungu!
Hijau!
Dan warna-warna yang sebelumnya tidak aku tahu nyata
Berlarian, berkeliaran bebas
Menggenggam tanganku,
Memeluk tubuhku,
Menatap mataku,
Dan mengenaliku.

Pintu.
Pintu cokelat.
Aku mengucap salam, tanda kembali.
Kau menyambut
Aku kembali ke hadapanmu.

Merah, ku bilang.
Ungu! Hijau!

Tapi senyum yang kucari tak bertengger di wajahmu.

Geleng geleng geleng kepalamu.

Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.
Putih.
Hitam.

Kau bilang,
Putih adalah kita, dan hitam adalah mereka.
Tidak ada merah, atau ungu, atau hijau.
Putih adalah aku, dan aku tidak sudi menjadi hitam.
Aku tidak sudi kau menjadi hitam.

Maka aku mengangguk, lalu berkata,
"Putih."

Lalu kau mengangguk, dan berlalu.

Tak kauperhatikan merah, ungu, dan hijau yang kujaga di hatiku.

Kamis, 03 Agustus 2017

The Fake Englishman

Couchsurfing Writers Club
Kopi Popi, Bandung
August 3, 2017
Theme: Einstein's Riddle



It's a nice evening. The man in the red house sits on a chair on his front porch, enjoying the view that the sunset offers him tonight.

The whispers of the wind chill him, so he introduces the warmth of his Pall Mall to his lips. His birds chirp a song of disapproval that he doesn't listen to. "Don't smoke," they say, "free us!" In vain is their effort, for the man doesn't even move his head to acknowledge what is being said from inside the cage.

It's just another night for him.

A shadow approaches from the right. His neighbor, the Dane. "Hey, Daniel," she walks toward him.

He smiles at her. "Good evening, Abby. What have you got there?"

She gives him the small blue bag she's been carrying. "A little something from my trip to your homeland," she says. "I know it's your favorite thing."

They nod as she says good bye. As soon as she disappears from his sight, he opens the gift he has just been given. The familiar smell annoys his nose. He sees what's inside.

It's tea.

He closes the bag immediately and glances at a glass full of milk sitting on the table just beside his chair.

He sighs, full with relief. No one has found out that he doesn't like tea yet. He isn't ready to be called The Fake Englishman yet again.

Sabtu, 24 Juni 2017

. (30 Hari Menulis #24)

We used to mean everything to each other
I used to be your right hand
And you used to be my heart

My brain and my soul
My night and my day
My oxygen

But the moment we realized
We were going on different paths

We said good bye, good bye
For we were two different people
That should never have even met

Kamis, 15 Juni 2017

I Was Supposed to Die, Not Rule A Kingdom and Start A War! (30 Hari Menulis #15)

Picture taken from The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor

What would you do, if you were told you only had three more months to live?

It sounds like a cliche from a movie or a book, doesn't it? That's what I thought, too. In the movie, the character would probably be devastated. They would probably start regretting what they'd done in their lives, and think about what they'd want to do before their life ended.

Me? I shrugged.

I mean, the seventeen years I've been on this Earth can't be counted as 'living', anyway. I have a strange heart condition that nobody in the world can figure out. Something's wrong, but what? Doctors don't know. Not the doctors in Bandung, or Singapore, or Cleveland. They started experimenting on me when I was four, but after three years, it took the toll on my mom. That's when she decided to let go of me.

But I'm still here, ten years later. Barely, anyway. I haven't gone to school in a month. It's okay, I don't really want to. When I'm there, I feel like a stranger in the class all over again. I struggle in catching up with the rest of the class because when they were covering trigonometry or some other mathematical gibberish, I was slipping in and out of almost-comas. Why should I know any of that stuff, anyway? Physics, chemistry, math... They all won't matter when I die.

What will? I have no idea.

Calm down, I'm not suicidal. I don't want to die. I just don't have any reason to dread it. I'm not welcoming it, per se, but maybe... maybe it's better if I die.

My parents, they're good people. They just hit the reverse-lottery with me. Sometimes when I think of what they could have done with their lives if they didn't have me, I can see their genuine smiling faces. The ones they show me are restricted--painful. They don't deserve me. I say this as a matter of fact, not from an emotional point of view.

So when I overheard Doctor Marino telling my mom that she would finally be free of me in three months or so (not her exact words, obviously), I just shrugged. Good for her. And finally, I guess. I'm not sure if I believe in an afterlife, but even if there isn't one, I'll be okay. I will no longer be a burden to her, or to my dad, or to classmates who have to struggle to remember my damn name when I'm attending classes once in a blue moon, or to my country, or to the world.

Now, what do you imagine death would be like?

I've fantasized about mine quite a number of times, honestly. Not much you can do when you're constrained to a bed in an empty hospital ward by yourself, night after night. In my mind, I imagine it will come at night, when I'm alone, just like tonight. Hopefully it'll be painless. It'll be better if it happens when I'm asleep, I think. So I'll close my eyes, fall asleep, and then just never wake up. It'll be perfect.

What I never once imagined is that death would come in the form of two guys with bright green eyes and a weird sense of fashion.

After I died, I wake up in the dark. I think I'm outside. It's super chilly, and just realizing that I'm cold sends shivers all over my body. My supposedly dead body. That wakes me up. What in the everloving hell happened to me?

I open my eyes. I am outside, and it is dark. I don't recognize where I am... I mean, I haven't been to many places besides my parents' house, the school, and various hospitals anyway, so I don't suppose I should know areas like this--especially with this many trees surrounding me. Am I in a park? No... A forest?

"You're awake," I hear someone whisper from my side, and footsteps coming from another. I turn my head to my right, and there he is--one of the guys who barged into my hospital room like criminals in action movies. This time, there's no detective daddy or super-powered boyfriend to save me, though. They just killed me and took me here.

Hold on, what?

"What..." I try to ask them the million questions that form in my head, but realize that 1) my throat hurts, and 2) my voice sounds like frogs swallowing Boncabe. "What the...?"

"Okay, sorry. I know you have a lot of questions," says the guy who now I remember tore open my freaking chest and took out my freaking heart and then freaking burst it right before my own two eyes.

Hell yeah, I have a lot of questions!

"But we're here to save you," he continues, apparently not getting the signals my eyes are making to tell me more details on how BREAKING AND ENTERING into my room and KILLING ME and then KIDNAPPING ME count as saving me. And from what? The only danger I have ever been is if my heart stops pumping blood, and that's literally what they let happen.

"I'm Aadi." I suddenly hear the other guy say. I turn to him. He looks humongous, standing over me. Maybe it's because I'm lying on the ground and he's just standing there, looking down on me. Terrific. "And that's my brother, Archan. We were sent here to take you to our kingdom and prepare you for the war."

I mean... Guys, whoever is reading this--does ANYthing this guy says make sense to you? Because to me it doesn't. It really doesn't.

My confusion probably shows on my face, because the other guy--Archan, was it?--starts shaking his head. "Okay, I know it's confusing. It's... We... I don't even know where to begin."

"Try," I croak.

He sighs. "Our princess died, Mara."

He said it as if I'm supposed to understand what's going on with just that sentence. Princess what now? Where are they from, The United Kingdom? What does any of it have to do with me?

"And we're at war," says the older guy. "Well, we will be, very soon. We need her to lead us to victory, but she died, and now it's up to you to save our kingdom and our people in it."

I mean, I'm not crazy, right? It's completely normal that I don't understand anything that they've been spewing out of their crazy mouths, yeah? I shake my head slightly (because damn does it hurt to literally do anything with my body right now), trying to make sense of every single thing that has happened tonight.

"Aisha--Our princess, she has--I mean, her heart is strong. That's where she got all her powers from. Before she died, we managed to save her heart, and we've put it in your body. The one beating inside you, that's hers." The boy kneeling beside me looks sorrowful as he says all this. "I'm very sorry we didn't have the time to explain before taking your heart away, but... There's no time, Mara. It's getting dangerous every second."

"Archan." Aadi says suddenly, his voice alert. I look at his poised posture, and that's when I feel it--danger.

There's danger lurking, and I don't know how I know it, but I can feel it. They can, too, I think. I get up slowly, ignoring the screams of pain from every bone in my body as I do so. I look around. I don't see anything out of ordinary (except for the fact that I'm sitting on the ground in an unknown forest with two strangers at probably two am), but the presence... I can feel the presence.

And suddenly I see it.

"THERE!" I cry, pointing at a pair of red eyes just floating around ten meters in front of us.

I haven't had the time to panic or feel scared before Aadi stands in front of me in a defensive stance, and Archan running toward the danger. I will my eyes to stay open, because what's happening in front of me is unbelievable:

The floating eyes develop some kind of darkness around them,

Archan muttering some stuff and pointing his fingers to the danger,

Green lights come out of his fingers, shooting the shadow,

And as its darkness fades, consumed by the green lights, it cries

A loud shriek

Something I've never heard of before

Something that shouldn't be real

And then it disappears, and the whole forest fall silent once again.

Only this time, Archan and Aadi quickly turn to me, see that I'm okay, and each take my hand and we run. We run and run, I don't know how long we've been running and where, but I can sense the urgency and fear that they don't bother hiding anymore.

As I move my legs, I can't help but think that maybe, maybe, death is better after all!