Author Archives: writer@work

About writer@work

THE WORDPLAY WARRIOR: I've decided to brand myself this way. Why 'The Wordplay Warrior'? At first, I was inspired by a fellow writer. He dubs himself 'The Wordplay Wizard'. Yes, that's how I came up with this name. Why 'Warrior'? I'm still struggling. It's still a serious challenge to be a professional writer here, what with: 1. The high illiteracy level in my country. 2. The expensive reading access (although yes, there are free online stuff here. However, not many people still have free access to internet, so...there.) 3. Lack of encouragement and censorship issues. For example: "Don't be too smart. You're a woman. Men will feel intimidated by you." (Ugh. How sexist and disgusting.) How about the limitation of expressions here? No, I'm not saying that you can bitch all you like about some people online, just because you don't like them personally. I'm talking about denying the bitter, dark part of reality and fake happiness through censorship. Nothing's wrong. Everything's fine. Yeah, right. THE EX-GUARDIAN OF THE ISOLATED CASTLE: The death of The Great King of The Isolated Castle has long changed her. It's been three years and she's still out on her own. Living and surviving alone. Until when? Good question. She still refuses to return and it's not that she doesn't love The Other Remaining Residents. Well, at least most of them. So, what will become of The Ex-Guardian of The Isolated Castle? R.

“SICK, SAPPY LOVE SONGS”

Oh, I’ve had it with your sick, sappy love songs
Why should I hear them all day long?
Wherever I went, they were up in the air
demanding that I should care
Don’t you have anything else?
Are other genres just second best?
Yes, I am way beyond bored
and starting to wonder
if I should stay away from your stores
I’ve had it with sick, sappy love songs
They all sound depressing
like some stalker’s sad obsessions
I guess my heart can take it no more
always ready to run for the exit door
I need something more empowering
something I really want to sing
Unrequited love shouldn’t feel like a death penalty
With or without him,
I should still be able to feel happy
So, enough with your sick, sappy love songs
even when love has again gone wrong
Maybe I’m still in absolute denial
but I need this attitude, even for a while!
R.
 
(Jakarta, 8/10/2017 – 11:15 pm)
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“IN YOUR SLEEP (A Mother’s Greatest Fears)”

Nobody asked you to be tough, to always stand tall for everybody. I didn’t know where you’d gotten the idea from.

A few months after your father’s funeral, you moved out. That new job was located far away from home. You needed a rented room nearby, because the traffic was always heavy.

Like all mothers, I never wanted you to leave. If possible, I’d rather keep you close for always.

However, I knew that would make you feel unhappy. I know that doesn’t mean you don’t love me, despite their accusations on you. You’ve longed for an independent life since you were 18.

“Besides,” you told me, “this is my turn to start taking care of you, not the other way around.”

I sighed. Very well, then.

Three years later, it’s still the same. We’ve been living separately, even in the same city. You only return home once in a while, mostly on the weekends. Sometimes we meet up at some restaurant or mall and hang out all day.

I miss you. I miss our Sunday mornings together by the front porch, with our coffee and my crosswords puzzles. Sometimes you read a book or write on your notebook too.

We don’t talk much anymore. I understand that you’re busy. You’ve grown up too. Perhaps you think it’s time you solved your own problems.

Be careful what you wish for. You know many rarely take that seriously until it happens.

You stayed over that weekend. As usual, you slept in your old room that night. I passed by your door when I suddenly heard you mumbling. Obviously, you were talking in your sleep, so I quietly opened the door and entered your room.

“Stop.” You were frowning with your eyes closed. You looked angry. “Stop it. You stop it. Stop looking at her! Look at me. I’m your daughter too, for God’s sake!”

I froze, unable to believe what I’d just heard. Is that why you’ve stopped sharing stories with me? You think I love your sister more?

That’s not true. You know I love you too. It’s just that, your sister has always asked for more attention. You’ve mostly kept quiet. All that time, I thought you were okay.

I’m sorry you feel that I’ve pushed you away…

“I miss Tobey…”

This time, you sounded sad. My heart just went out to you. You’ve always wanted a big brother. I love your hazel-eyed best friend too. Tobey has always been protective of you. He was so caring whenever he was around.

I know you always miss him when he returns to his home country, dear…

I thought that was it, but then you mentioned another name in your sleep:

“Max…no.”

Who is it? Your frown was not just of anger, but also…fear. You started moving about in your sleep, your mumblings growing louder and much clearer.

“Stop it. I don’t want it. Max, stop it! You’re hurting me.”

My blood ran cold. Who was Max, baby? Why was he hurting you?

I had to grab hold of your hands when you started clawing at your own arms. No, not clawing, I realised. You looked like you were trying to let go of someone’s grip.

“Let me go, Max. I said no! Stop it, you’re hurting me.” You were sobbing now. I shook you awake, pleading:

“Wake up. Honey, please wake up!”

You finally stopped and opened your eyes. I thought you were fully awake, so I said, “Sssh, it’s okay. You’re okay now. Sssh…”

Then you went back to sleep. For the rest of that night, I was lying next to you, holding your hand and stroking your hair…

— // —

You looked completely different in the morning light. Gone were the frown and the tears from the night before. Had I imagined them all? You smiled at me while having your breakfast.

“Everything okay, Mommy?”

“What? Oh, yes.” So I joined you for breakfast. Silence filled the room, mixed with our gulps and clanking of the spoons against the bowl.

After that, it was your time to leave again. The weekend was almost over. The weekdays were ahead. Time to start working again.

“Do you need to bring anything else?” I suddenly asked. When you shook your head, I smiled and said, “Take care, dear.”

“I love you so much, Mommy.” You were smiling back at me, which made me see the ghost of your father for a while then. I silently choked, thinking:

Have I failed her, Ray? I wish you were still here. You’d always understood her better.

I didn’t know why your eyes reminded me of the time you were six, accidentally breaking my favourite china. You hadn’t been crying, but your eyes were pleading – a silent apology.

“I love you too, baby.” There. I’d just missed another opportunity. I stood there as I let you kiss my cheek, turn around, and walk away. The moment the door closed, I sat down and cried.

Do you hide your tears too, everytime you turn away? I think your violent dreams have been enough. I’ve heard more than enough in your sleep.

But how do I get you to talk to me in your waking hours? How do I convince you that no, I’m not going to be angry? I promise you, baby, even when I’m not ready. I just need to knw what’s been bothering you lately.

Please, you can tell Mommy…

Nobody has ever asked you to always be tough, so I’m wondering why you’ve chosen to go down that road anyway…

 

R.

(Jakarta, 19/10/2017 – for Jakarta’s Couchsurfing Writers’ Club Weekly Writing Challenge at Caribou Coffee, Sarinah – Thamrin, Central Jakarta. Topic: “sleep”.)

#MeToo

 

“HELLO, SHATTERED HEART”

I believe there’s a reason

your shattered heart’s been revealed

even when you refuse to mention

or worry you may never heal

 

I know I’m just a stranger

in this other part of universe

I don’t even know how to make you feel better

Even a single poke might turn it worse

 

Hello, shattered heart

Once again, I’m taking a break from my logic

just to mend your hidden scars

Hopefully, you’ll no longer get sick

 

Talk to me

I’m right here

 

R.

(Jakarta, 17/10/2017 – 8:40 am)

“YOUR HUNGRY EYES”

Your hungry eyes have always scared her. Every time the two of you hung out, that was how you stared at her.
You looked at her as if she was…food. Shamelessly, you even stated with that weird tone in your voice:
“You look so delicious.”
Why was she even there in the first place? Curiousity always kills the cat, especially if the cat isn’t careful.
She should’ve listened to her friends. They had warned her about creatures like you, preying on gullible ones like her. You were the wolf in sheep’s clothing. You acted nice at first, until you finally got what you’d wanted all along.
After that, you just bailed – satisfied until it was time for your next fix. To you, it was already an addiction.
She supposed she’d just wanted to teach you a lesson, especially after the last time. She wanted you to see that not all of her kind was that easy.
In fact, she’d had other plans. To her, revenge was delicious. She wanted to toy with your heart and desire, the way you had done many others.
Once she won you over, she’d crush you like rubble under her feet. Then she’d turn around and walk away a winner. The last one standing tall in this battlefield.
That was why she’d let you buy her dinner and take her home that night. Kind of risky, she knew. If her friends had found out, they would’ve freaked out.
Her mother would’ve had a cardiac arrest.
Despite it all, there were some things about you that she’d missed and would’ve liked to taste again. Your funny accent and weird jokes. Your laughter in her ears. The way you called her ‘lovely’.
The touch of your hands and your kisses too…
“Come on. I’m not gonna rape you. I know you want this too…”
It had taken only that line to snap her out of it. She slapped your hands away. You tried again and received another slap. You frowned and got up. She grabbed her black coat and furiously put it back on.
“I guess it’s a ‘no’, then.” You saw her cold, triumphant smile. Her determined eyes glared icily at you, challenging you to try again. Didn’t you get the hint?
However, you’d lost your appetite. She’d won. If you dared, you knew it would be more to your disadvantage. You remember the pepper-spray and the taser in her bag. She’d fight with all her might.
So you let her go that night. She went home alone. It was 3:00 am.
You parted ways. She knew it was the last time. No more, never again.
Still, sometimes she has nightmares about your hungry eyes. She hopes she’ll never see them again in any other guys…
R.
 
(Jakarta, 12/10/2017 – for Jakarta’s Couchsurfing Writers’ Club Weekly Writing Challenge. Location: Caribou Coffee, Sarinah – Thamrin, Central Jakarta. Topic: delicious.)

“UGLIFIED”

You complain about my hair
You make me want to swear
or the chubbiness in my cheeks
which somehow gives you the creeps
Then you go on with my nose
as if that isn’t close
to insulting my appearance
You won’t even waste your chance
After that, the colour of my skin
too dark for you that I need some whitening cream
but I’m not your canvass
God, why won’t you give it a rest?
Next, is my extra fat
which you consider really bad
You act like you’ve earned a PhD
on how to be healthy
They tell me to ignore you
so that’s what I do
but hey, you still carry on
even when I’ve had it; I’m done
Perhaps you think you mean well
but your big, nasty mouth has been my living hell
How do I get you to shut up
without slapping you to stop?
Who are you to judge?
Why do you keep playing God?
Perhaps, I’m not your ideal beauty
but hey, your wicked heart is really, really ugly!
R.
 
(Jakarta, 26/9/2017 – 6:40 pm)

“MY VERY SHORT ENCOUNTER WITH THE BEAUTY PAGEANT QUEEN”

For a very long time, probably most of my early life, I’ve never really cared for any beauty pageant contests. If you look at me, you’ll probably assume that it has something to do with the fact that I am chubby.

However, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve always disliked the idea of standardised beauty or human objectification. Still, I don’t strongly condemn it either. If anyone wants to take part in it, I won’t even bother. I prefer doing something else, though.

So I was assigned to hunt for a story at this event. They were promoting new beauty products and this beauty pageant queen – let’s call her “Kay” – was the ambassador.

Everything went well at first. Then when the product PR figure started the show, he irked me. I understand that he had to promote the products, but did he have to say something like this?

“You know, Indonesians are obsessed with white skin. If you have dark skin, you’re considered not beautiful enough.”

I sat there, agape. Wow, that’s stereotyping. Me, for example, I love my mocca-coloured tan.

Besides, why did he have to make dark-skinned Indonesians (especially women) feel self-conscious about their appearance? That’s racist and unfair. If that’s how he urges people to buy his products, then I won’t be one of the customers.

Then Kay walked gracefully up to the stage. Of course, as expected, all media people at present – including bloggers – started taking pictures of her. So did I.

After that, the interview with her began. Again, I was miffed. The female host started asking about Kay’s beauty secrets. Kay talked about eating healthy foods and regularly doing sports like yoga and kickboxing. I noticed that these were the typical questions for Kay. I was sure she’d grown tired of them, seeing her suddenly tight expression.

Kay was about to explain her mission and future programs when the host suddenly asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“What?” Kay looked taken aback this time. “Uh, no.”

“Really?” The host snickered and laughed. “You’re lying.”

“No.” I could tell that Kay was annoyed, even when she still tried to smile. “Do you?”

“Of course I do,” the host anwered proudly. “Why don’t you?”

Kay looked exasperated. “Do I have to?”

“You should.”

That’s it. I couldn’t take it anymore. The moment Kay said, “No, I don’t think so”, I started clapping my hands. Really hard, until the audience joined the applause.

Both women on stage looked at me since I was sitting in the front row. Kay smiled gratefully, but the host wasn’t too happy. She smirked.

“Yang jomblo tepuk tangan.” (The singles have just clapped their hands.)

Oh, well. I decided to let that slide. Not worth it. I was satisfied enough.

It turns out that Indonesians still need a long, long way to be enlightened. Many are still stuck in false beliefs that the beauty of a woman is validated just by the fairness of her skin…and the existence of a boyfriend.

What a shame.

R.

“SILENT QUESTIONS TO YOUR ‘THIRD EYE’”

I know you didn’t mean to see me through

It’s something you can’t help

and what you wish you never had

 

“Have patience.”

That was what you said that night

when we decided to reunite

 

How are you, old friend?

I’m glad we’ve reconnected

It was good to see you again

after over a decade

 

I am thankful, though

You’ve put yout ‘abilities’ to good use

instead of trying to gain control

towards other people

 

I know I’ll always have these questions

about what your ‘third eye’ has ‘seen’

You were right; it’s better unmentioned

Never again will I let that affect me

 

In the end, God decides

We don’t own all the light

We can only do our best

and let Him do the rest.

 

R.

(Jakarta, 30/8/2017 – 10:00 am)