“MY ROOM OF THOUGHTS”

Through almost the entire December 2017, I didn’t get enough chance to write. I was busy adjusting to my new fulltime job and freelance gigs, which have been too many to handle.

Thankfully, my mind is still active. I have to make sure that I’ll never stop writing, no matter what. Then again, that month was also quite hard. I lost both my cousin and my best friend. (They’re two different people, by the way.) My younger cousin passed away on December 3, 2017, while my best friend was gone on the 22nd. Both had passed away due to illnesses.

What I didn’t do to make my best friend proud was to keep on writing. He’d asked for my second novel (and more) when he was still alive. I realised that somehow, I’d let him down.

Of course, this also means that I’ve let myself down. This year, I’ve got to produce something real instead of what everybody can read online for free.

That’s it. No more delays. Time to get a move on.

R.

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“WELCOMING 2018”

When I was a kid, I thought welcoming New Year’s Eve was something fun. Trumpets, fireworks, music and dances, people gathering…you name it.
Staying up until the next morning light had made me feel more grown-up at first. Only little kids have the exact bedtime, not later than nine or ten.
Growing up, there had been this almost endless debate about whether to celebrate it or not. Religious reasons and arguments about how useless the whole thing actually was.
I don’t really remember how long it has taken me to have finally come to this feeling of…pure indifference. Don’t like it that much, but don’t hate it either. Don’t have to do it but don’t mind if friends or anyone else ask you out for it.
It’s the same thing with the New Year resolutions, though. At first, it felt really fun. It was like your annual purposes…
…until you noticed that not all of them were fulfilled. Many didn’t come true. You started feeling that you weren’t being realistic.
So, you decided to cut down the list, to be as small as possible. Dream big as you may, but don’t forget: first things first. Don’t eat more than what you can actually chew.
Soon you realised: why wait for the New Year’s Eve to do that? Why not every day? After all, every day is a new day – regardless the date on the calendar.
Want to stay up late? No need to wait for the New Year’s Eve. Working overtime may have already done that to you so many times before.
So does heartbreak.
I don’t really do New Year’s Eve stuff anymore. Well, even if you find me in the crowd under the Jakarta night sky brightened by the fireworks every few seconds, there are probably three valid reasons for that:
1. I am that bored.
2. Somebody has asked me to join them.
3. I’m looking for stories or poetry inspirations…as usual.
So, happy New Year 2018, I guess.
R.

“AN UNSENT LOVE LETTER TO NIKOTOPIA: The Memory About A Beautiful Soul”

Hey, Nik.
I never thought that days like this would also come into my life. I thought we’d still have another chance to see each other again. You’d asked me about my second novel for so many times and why I hadn’t produced anything real as promised.
Instead, I’m writing this obituary.
Time flies, my dearest friend. Half a decade ago and so felt so fast. It was as if only yesterday we met at that writing camp. You and Andhika had turned up together, a dynamic duo without a doubt.
It wasn’t your smile that had stolen my attention that weekend. It wasn’t even your brilliant eyes, sparkling behind your spectacles. You had that glow which had attracted the whole world around you. You didn’t even have to make an effort.
You just had to be…you.
It was that very first moment when we just…clicked. It was when you first talked about that ancient Javanese book, Jayabaya, with the others on the bus. I was sitting at the backrow behind yours. I couldn’t resist jumping in:
“I heard it was mystical too. Not everybody can get their hands on the book. The book chooses the people, not the other way around.”
You stopped and turned around. Your eyes sparkled brilliantly and your smile widened.
“That’s right!” You beamed. “How do you know that?”
That was the beginning of our close but carefree friendship later on. We didn’t talk much during the writing camp, but we spoke more after that.
We barely had our pictures together. We didn’t even hang out that often. I agreed when you said it didn’t matter. What we had was way beyond that. Our friendship had always been far from mundane, from anything too trivial.
From social media to messenger apps, we still talked. We encouraged each other. You still yelled at me for my lack of confidence. (Didn’t you know? Not everybody could do that to me and get away with it. I let you. I always did, because I knew that was just how much we cared about each other.)
“I love Andhika like he’s my own brother,” you once told me. There was fire in your eyes. “I hate it when people look down on him when he’s actually a great, great writer. It’s the same thing with you.”
I was holding my tears back, but I bet you could see it. You just chose not to bring that up.
“It’s time that you stopped letting them kill your glow,” you went on seriously. “Don’t even let them try again. You deserve better. You’re also a potential, great writer. You can do more. You’re a whole lot more than how much you believe in yourself right now.”
When I finally got my first novel published, although locally, you were overjoyed.
“See?” you exclaimed happily. “You could do that. I knew it. Now you can do more. I’m waiting for your next writing stuff.”
I’m sorry. A lot of things happened and two years went by. I got too busy. I knew you were disappointed. You didn’t even have to tell me.
Trying to catch up with you again had been on my mind lately. However, there were always those lame excuses. Work to do. Was it even considered ‘first things first’? Family. Other friends to hang out with. Clubs and communities.
Somewhere along the way, I remember hearing your voice again:
“Fly as high as the sky, Rew, but never forget the ground.”
A week ago, I returned home from work. I received the biggest shock when I found so many condolences on your Facebook timeline. What?!
Can I still call myself your friend? I still feel guilty. I didn’t know you’d been sick. You never told me. You’d always been so tough. I thought you were alright.
Just like me, you hated revealing your weaknesses. You, who’d always scolded me for working too hard and getting sick from that.
Then again, I knew. I’ve always known. You just wanted to be remembered from how you’ve made all of us smile, how you’ve inspired us.
Very well, Nik. You know there are many things I’ll always remember about you. You, of all the very few people who have really seen me for me, once also said this:
“Someday, you’ll meet, fall in love, and be with that one particular person who’ll always love you for being you. He may not be what you need, because you’ve never really needed anyone to complete you. You’re already whole yourself. You’re much more beautiful than those shallow minds out there can see you. This one’s different, though. You’ll see that he’s worth it.”
Were you trying to tell me something, Nik? Did you see something I hadn’t yet?
“Rew, I never believe in coincidence. When we first met, I believed the universe had a plan for us. And it was true. It’s the same thing with every soul we come across on this earth.”
I had a talk with Andhika after the news of your passing, Nik. You were right, he felt the same way about you too. He didn’t just lose a best friend; he’d lost a brother too. We both remember how you’ve always dealt with pain – whether grief or illnesses.
“Give yourself time to heal. Grieve, but dwell not on it – not even too long. Life never waits on any of us.”
My dearest friend Nik, we’re now grieving out of our love for you, like how you’ve loved each of us unconditionally.
However, you’re also right. Sooner or later, we must find a way to move on, in order to honour your memory too. We’ll always love you and be missing you. Your name’s forever carved in our hearts.
Have a peaceful, eternal sleep, sweet and beautiful soul.
Love,
Rew.
(In the memory of NIKOTOPIA: a best friend, a spiritual brother, a fellow writer, a motivator, and an inspiration)

“ABOUT OMAR KHALED SOELAEMAN : The Prankster Cousin I Grew Up With” (1984 – 2017)

Our parents live close by in the same neighbourhood. We’ve grown up together. Just like me, you knew how it felt to have two siblings. The differences? Your brother is the eldest and almost the same age as my sister. My brother is younger than me.

We didn’t just hang out a lot in the neighbourhood as kids. With our siblings and other cousins, we used to hang out a lot at our grandparents’ old house, staying in the same big room together.

Throughout the years, The Soelaeman Grandkids had stuck to the same tradition at almost every family gathering – whether it was someone’s wedding preparation or a holiday out of town. When some of us got bored with hearing the grown-ups’ serious talk, we’d all skip together. Anyone who was a better driver and had the lisence would be behind the steering wheel as we headed downtown. It was either we went out for a bite or a movie at a nearby cinema.

Those were the good times, eh? Not to mention all the games we’d played and the stupid fights we had – all normal little kids do. I guess what they say is always true:

“Never underestimate the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Time flies. Each of us soon grew up and went through different life phases and at a different pace too.

You got lucky. You met Ladia and decided to spend the rest of your life with her. Then Khanza was born and you were overjoyed – a proud papa with the apple of his eye.

When Ma told me about you that Sunday morning, I didn’t want to believe it at first. You were so young, much younger than me and more athletic too. How could this be? Perhaps, the only consolation I have now is that God loves you so much that He’s decided to keep you close.

When I saw your parents that morning, I saw parents who lost their youngest. Your brother could barely stop crying, hugging me close as he asked me to forgive you for all the stupid jokes you’d said and pranks you’d pulled.

I had to admit that I did hate most of them. You used to get on my nerves a lot when we were kids. What I failed to tell your brother that day was this:

I’d give anything in the world for at least another one from you. I promise that this time, I wouldn’t be angry or treat you like a pest. I’d just laugh with you instead. I don’t care, as long as you’re still there.

This is why they call it a ‘wishful thinking’. I’m the one who’s sorry that I’ve failed to see. All you ever wanted was to really connect with me, to make me smile the way you have others. I remember that you always slung your arm around me at the sight of my pouty face, grinning as you said, “Come on, Bibi. I was just joking.”

Ladia wonders how to explain to Khanza once she is old enough to learn why you had to leave so early. Don’t worry; you’ve left the best legacy. I hope this is one of the good enough pieces that she can read someday. I can – and will – tell her this about her daddy:

He lived his life to light up the world around him with his smile and how much he cared for others.

And he had.

Thank you for the laughter and good memories, my dear cousin. Sleep well. You know we love you and will always keep you in our prayers too.

With love,

“Bibi”

(In the loving memory of OMAR KHALED SOELAEMAN (October 27, 1984 – December 3, 2017). A son, a brother, a cousin, a husband, and a father of one.)

“WHO IS HE?”

His eyes were so cold, looking at me.
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
Fearfully I shook my head. My mind went spinning so fast, trying to remember his face …
– // –
“What the hell is this?!”
Alan and Belinda giggled when they saw me staring at my laptop screen. There, my profile and details on a … dating site.
God, this is really not funny!
“Sorry, El,” Belinda said timidly, realizing how angry I was. She nudged Alan, who somehow still had the nerve to grin. “It’s his idea.”
“Hey, you suggested that website,” Alan quickly defended himself. His face looked annoyed. “Our intention is to help Elma find a mate, right?”
“BUT THIS IS NOT THE WAY!” I snapped, which successfully made two creatures in front of me wince. I glanced at my laptop screen. “Now delete my account.I don’t care how! I’ve never recalled registering myself to this site and I can’t believe you did this to me. This is a violation to my privacy!”
“Uh, yeah…sorry.” Alan was about to touch my laptop when I slapped his hand away.
“Use your own!” I ordered roughly. “If that profile still exists in an hour, both of you’d better watch out!”
Without making a fuss, the two who were supposed to be my best friends rushed back to their respective cubicles.
Okay, I know they meant well. According to them, I have been single for a very long time. (Way too long, according to them.) I’m not even interested in dating sites. I’m afraid that I might come across weirdos. You know, the kind that seems perfect online, until you meet them face to face…eeww…
Sometimes Indonesians are too nosy for their own good. Okay, perhaps they’re happy because they have someone special or a partner. But that doesn’t mean the single ones always suffer, right? I can find someone my own when I want to. If they’d had good intentions, then at least they should’ve asked me first before creating that dreadful profile of mine on that dating site. Ugh…
When I checked that website again, my name and picture were gone. Good. Now I feel much better
— // —
Okay, whose number is this? Why does it keep giving me missed calls on my Whatsapp and asking me to meet up?
I don’t feel I’m that popular, so I chose to ignore it. But hey, why were these messages becoming more impolite and rude?
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“How could you forget after we have chatted for so many times?”
“What’s the matter? I’m not good enough for you?”
Grrrh! I didn’t feel like dealing with this, so I approached Alan and Belinda. I angrily showed them my phone.
“I suspect this is from that darn website,” I went straight on. Yes, I was still cross with them. “I don’t care how, you explain to this person so they won’t bug me anymore. This is sickening, you know?”
“I’ll do it.” Alan relented. He called the number. He looked apologetic as he was explaining to them about this misunderstanding. Well, let him have it. I waited, seeing Alan nod and apologise.
At last…
“Done, El,” he said softly. “He’ll leave you alone.”
“Good.” I turned around and left without giving any of them another chance to speak. Even after Alan had told me that the person was aware, I still blocked the number – just in case.
— // —
Maybe I was too nonchalant, because I’d never felt I was that popular. My privacy is my privacy
That was why I was startled when he blocked my path that night.
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
Could it be…
Too late. The acid was splashed to my face.
R.
#16daysofactivism , #stopviolenceagainstwomen #16HAKTP

“YOU WILL KNOW WHEN I LOVE YOU”

You will know that I love you

even when I don’t say it

not even out loud

or even when I’m still way too proud

That fact, I have to admit

I still own it

 

How?

It’s tricky

Sorry, I’m not making this easy

I promise you, though

it won’t be too cliche or tacky

 

You will know that I love you

and it’s not from how I compliment your looks

Vanity’s not in my books

You never have to look like a supermodel

as long as we can work out our troubles

 

You’ll be surprised

when I let you win a spar

even when I know I’m right

or don’t feel like putting up a fight

or perhaps just accept that you are

Which one is it?

Take your best bet

 

You will know that I love you

when I ditch my favourite rock concert

or reschedule my hangout time with friends

just because I find out

that you’ve been hurt

I will surely feel worse

 

You will know that I love you

when to me, your opinion matters (or starts to)

Still, I make my own choices

but you’ll see that I’m staying

as long as you don’t treat me

like a mere puppet on a string

 

I’m not the all-too-clingy

I hope you have the patience with me

I don’t want to be some damsel-in-distress

but I still appreciate the help

before I crash

Believe me, I’m still learning how to ask

 

You will know that I love you

when you apologise for your fluffy hair

but I don’t care

I pay more attention to the redness in your eyes

and I wonder if you too realise

 

I may appear tough on the outside

because I’m just not the prissy type

I’m willing to take almost anything in the world

but tears in your eyes are probably some of the worst

than all the pain I’ve ever suffered

 

Last but not least,

you will know that I love you

when I won’t waste time fretting about how you were

but how you are right now even more

and hopefully, you will become someone better

sometime in the future

 

You will know,

but how far are you willing to go

to that day – when I will start loving you so?

 

After all I’ve written above

I hope it’s enough

but sorry, I have to break this news:

I’m still not changing my ‘everything’ for you

because I still love myself too

I only do it when I want to…

 

Haha!

 

So, care to find out

what I’m really all about?

For starters,

we need to find a place

where we can meet face to face.

 

Then we’ll begin from there.

So, what do you say?

 

(Jakarta, 17-18 November 2017)

“AFTER THAT ONE NIGHT”

Having met you was a bad luck. Knowing you was a mistake.
Having been with you was an equal match to insanity…even for a while.
Yes, they all say I’d made that mistake when I was with you. They said I was vulnerable after my last heartbreak, that I couldn’t even think clearly. Hmm, what should I call you, then? A prick? A predator to all women?
A thrill-seeker? Ah, how lucky you were, a man who found me irresistible. A man who had had the nerve to kiss me that night, even on a first date.
A man who had brought me to his bedroom after dinner, right there and then. The one who had given me a daft idea called ‘role-playing’:
“We could be anybody we want to be for tonight.”
I smiled. Yeah, so I decided to play along with you that night. We could be two lonely souls looking for a temporary ‘release’. To hell with morals! I’m sick of being trapped by it, while you men can be free doing “whatever” you like and with “whomever” you like.
Perhaps to you it was just the same. It was just a boredom killer for a free-spirited adventurer.
Then, what about me?
Ah, I don’t know. I don’t care anymore. All I know then was just how typical you were. I’m sure there are a lot of men like you out there. Yeah, even when they’d give me the same old, cheesy argument, only so that I wouldn’t be too bitter and look sourly at love and the rest of the world with:
“Not all men…”
Heh, perhaps it’s true. Not all, but still way too many, right? Just like you, for example. Free, careless. You always wanted to do all without rules or safety precautions. So bloody typical.
At least you’d never pretended to be all kind and dignified, just like those who demand a virgin at their wedding aisle, while they can do whatever the hell they like.
That morning, you were still asleep in your hotel bed. The night before, you’d told me that you were used to waking up late, probably around two p.m.
I quickly got dressed. Then I quietly exited your room and escaped through the fire escape in that building. No kisses, unlike the night before.
No goodbyes. No need to, for we both knew. We wouldn’t be seeing each other again after that night. Perhaps you’ll call me. Maybe I don’t want you to. There’s no use to me.
Only one thing that you still don’t know…or perhaps won’t give a damn. That night, I gave you a present from my ex-husband. Perhaps you’ve got it too already or perhaps a lot more than that.
No worries. We could’ve traded poison, killing each other in silence. No need to talk about it. Both of us had enjoyed that night anyway.
I hope you’ll enjoy that forsaken gift from my ex-husband, who had also gotten it from only-God-knows-whom out there. The gift which is now and forever inside of my body, which had also killed the unborn baby that he and I had once made.
That gift I’d never asked was a token of his appreciation…for this once loyal, obedient, and more often, stay-at-home wife…
R.
 
(Jakarta, 12/11/2017 – 7:30 am – written for Jakarta’s Couchsurfing Writers’ Club Weekly Writing Challenge on 16/11/2017 at Caribou Coffee, Sarinah – Thamrin, Central Jakarta. Topic: “polyamorous”.)