“LEAVE HER ALONE!”

I am sick to death of you

turning her all black and blue

taking over her already tortured soul

making her feel less than whole

 

I’ve had it with you

but I don’t know what to do

Her realm is like uncharted water

You’re turning it into even darker

 

I hate you

Damn it, I’m helpless too

I never want you back in her life again

knowing you only cause her pain

 

Just leave her alone!

You’ve done more than enough

She needs her life back

before you throw it off the track

 

Stop invading the space in her head

Stop driving her mad

You’re the presence she never needs

You always cause the worst of deeds

 

You’re not real

just a ghost she should not feel

Stop bugging her

She deserves to feel much happier

 

Please, just leave her alone

This time, make it permanent

 

R.

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“REPORTING A LECHEROUS CREEP AT TRANS-JAKARTA BUS SHELTER”

Okay, I’ve gotten over my trauma, so I can write about this.

Last month, on March 24, 2018, I attended a poetry event at Warung Buncit, South Jakarta. The event finished at sometime around ten that Saturday night.

I went to the nearest Trans-Jakarta bus shelter to wait for my ride back home. There was an old man standing there, also waiting for the bus.

At first, everything was quiet and okay. We didn’t talk to each other, just two total strangers. Then, completely out of the blue, the old man grinned at me. He looked like he was adjusting his trousers, but when I saw his hands started unbuttoning them…

Oh, not tonight, I cursed silently. Not ever, you creep!

I didn’t waste time standing there. Turning around, I rushed for the stairs and back to the ticket booth.

“Sir?” I called out, my heart pounding. It was eleven already, but I was sure someone was still there. “Hello? Sir, a little help here?”

I was glad that the creep wasn’t following me, but I still didn’t want to risk it. I knew I could still fight him off alone any other day, but I also needed another witness.

Besides, a man like that would still definitely do the same thing to other women when he had the chance. Not all were brave enough to report or fight back.

“Yes, ma’am?” replied a uniformed guy from inside the booth. When I told him about what had almost happened, he quickly locked the booth and returned to the scene with me.

“An old man?” he asked. When I nodded, he said, “I saw him earlier on cctv and wondered how odd, but then you were already upstairs.”

“Please.” Okay, I actually hate begging, but I had to at that time. “Could you please just accompany me there, at least until my bus arrives or he leaves first? I don’t want to be all alone with him.”

“Certainly, ma’am.”

So, the uniformed guy did as promised. The sick old creep looked disappointed when he saw me not alone anymore. He tried to make a small talk with the staff. I kept quiet while watching him cautiously.

I heaved a sigh of relief when the old creep was finally off on a bus heading south. While waiting for my bus, I talked to the uniformed staff for a while. It turned out that his name was Jaelani. This Depok resident, laid-back and mild-mannered, told me that he was just doing his job.

“I actually saw what happened,” he repeated. “We take reports like this very seriously, all for the convenience of all passengers – especially female ones at night.”

Then Jaelani went on about another girl running to him in tears one quiet day. It turned out that some young dude had rubbed his penis against her on the bus. My jaw dropped.

Eww…

“A lot of reports on sexual harassment on the bus, ma’am,” he explained. “It makes no difference, either day or night, crowded or quiet. Mini skirts or whether the woman is all covered up.” He shook his head in dismay and digust. “If the guy’s really sick in the head, those things don’t matter. You did the right thing by reporting him.”

“Yeah, although I was skeptical at first,” I admitted. “You know how many people will simply judge the woman instead for being in a public place alone, especially at night.”

“Ah, people are rubbish,” Jaelani scoffed. “We never know, she could be working late or other errands or have no choice. They should focus on the predator instead of the victim when it comes to finding faults.”

When my bus finally arrived, I thanked Jaelani again before hopping on. I returned home that night with a little bit of hope.

Hopefully, more people are aware of what’s been the real issue for centuries…

 

R.

“NEVER AGAIN”

Last night you appeared

right there in my dream

as real as I refused to see

you smirked at me, it seemed

 

“I haven’t got you yet,”

your soft, sooth-saying voice whispered.

“Perhaps I’ll get lucky this year.

No point in playing hard to get.”

 

Oh, never again.

You were such a pain.

I’ve seen what you are.

You’ll never get far.

 

Next time I sleep,

I’d rather see him

instead of you

all over again.

 

R.

 

“THE MATTERS OF SIZES”

Talitha:

It was 6:15 in the morning. Talitha looked at herself in the mirror and frowned. She was about to readjust her school uniform when there was a knock on her bedroom door.

“Talitha, come on!” It was Mom. She sounded impatient. “You’re gonna be late.”

“Alright,” grumbled Talitha before leaving her bedroom. Grabbing her red backpack, she pouted all the way to school.

Just another unpleasant day…

Sometimes Talitha hated being an overgrown, teen chubbette. It was already bad enough that most people would make fun of her weight, calling her ‘fat’ and making her feel ugly. Telling her that she should try to be more like her taller, slimmer, and (considered much) prettier sister Tara.

Now, these. For a 15-year-old girl, her breasts had developed earlier than most girls in her class. Talitha always needed bigger, more loose-fitting tops. Unfortunately, not many stores sold her size.

Even her high school didn’t have any uniforms that would actually fit her size. Her shirt was still a little bit tight in the chest. Feeling self-conscious, Talitha often put on her favourite black vest or jacket – even if it was hot outside. The trouble of living in the tropical area.

Every day, she had to put up with the same level of discomfort. People’s different reactions. Boys ogling at her breasts like hungry, drooling dogs over premium steak. (Worst of all, some had even tried groping her. Such disgusting, lecherous creeps!)

Some girls envied her and made fun of her breasts too. Talitha didn’t get it. What was to be envious of her? She couldn’t get the right-sized tops easily for her to wear. Boys harrassed her.

“I wish mine were big like yours.”

Seriously? Would they also like her occasional backpain? Talitha shook her head in exasperation. Other girls were even nasty enough to comment on her breast size this way:

“No wonder boys still like you eventhough you’re fat. You’ve got big tits.”

Sometimes, Talitha wanted to cry – or hide in her bedroom forever. What did she do to deserve any of this? Talitha wasn’t even an attention-seeker. Even grown-ups didn’t make her feel any better.

“Don’t wear anything too tight,” some of them warned. “You don’t want to be the target for sexual harrassment.”

Actually, wearing loose-fitting or oversized tops didn’t help at all. When a guy was being a creep, then a creep he definitely was. No excuses. It didn’t matter what she wore.

“That outfit’s too big on you,” Mom exclaimed in disapproval. “You’re already big enough.”

Oh, thanks a lot, Mom.

“Besides, you’re still young. It’s okay to look a little bit sexy.”

Wait, what?!

— // —

Alya:

Alya never understood why Talitha, her best friend since high school, had always wanted to look more like her. Tall, skinny, and…flat-chested.

It was true. Eventhough she wasn’t a tomboy, some people still mistook her for a boy from afar…or a lesbian butch. Alya hated that. How prejudiced! It didn’t matter that she always let her long hair down.

Of course, that only happened whenever Alya was in her sports outfit or jeans and T-shirt. Plenty of guys were still interested in her, especially if she put more make-up on.

“That way, you won’t look too boyish,” some of them would say. “You have a very androgynous look.”

Alya cringed. Even her ex-husband Lando once commented nastily:

“Your tits ain’t big. I feel like being with a man.”

Then why had he married her in the first place?

Alya’s phone beeped. It was almost midnight in her apartment. There was a text from Talitha. Alya read it and gasped.

“I HATE MY AUNT! I HATE MY FAMILY! THEY ALWAYS MAKE ME FEEL UGLY!”

Alya called her best friend immediately. She could hear her loud sniffling from the other end.

“Tally, what’s wrong?”

“My aunt…told me…to lose weight…so…I could get…a husband soon…like Tara has…”

“WHAT?!”

— // —

Talitha:

“Nice, big boobs.”

Talitha glared sideways at Paddy. He just grinned before saying: “Come on, babe. You know I’m just joking.”

“I tried memorising my lines for that demo teaching video online and you only noticed them?” Talitha lightly punched his muscular arm and he pretended to wince in pain. “You suck.”

“I know.” The tall man with glasses grinned again as he slung an arm around her shoulders. When he felt her arm around his waist, he knew that she wasn’t really angry with him. “You did a great job, sweetheart, but you know I always notice them.”

“You silly lad.” Talitha laughed as Paddy kissed the top of her head.

“And you know it’s not just about your boobs,” he went on. “Your legs too.”

“Dude!”

“I’m kidding, babe.” Paddy looked at her lovingly. “It’s all of you.”

Talitha giggled. “Okay, I believe you.”

“Good girl.”

Long ago, before Paddy asked her if she’d like to spend the rest of her life with him, her best friend Alya had encouraged her.

“Patrick loves you. Don’t be paranoid.”

“I don’t know, Ally. It’s just too good to be true. He’s so gorgeous. What does he want with someone like me?”

“Arrgh, listen to yourself!” Alya had sounded angry on the phone that day. “Patrick is right. You’ve been told crap all your life, about your looks and all. Talitha, you’re beautiful. He’s a great guy and you two are great together.”

Looking at Paddy now, Talitha still couldn’t believe it. He was like a dream come true, but hopefully not too good to be true.

That was why she was afraid to have this dream threatened by the reality she was currently in.

“Tally, have you told him yet?”

“What?” Talitha could still feel that mysterious lump in her breast. It frightened her. “Not yet, Ally. I should make sure with the doctor first.”

“Don’t delay,” Alya warned, sounding scared. “In the end, you’ll have to find out anyway.”

“Okay.”

— // —

Alya:

Alya was observing the conversation in front of her. There were two women sitting at the crowded hall of the safehouse for battered women. That was where she worked as a volunteer and a women’s rights activist.

“So, what was his excuse, Imah?” asked the woman carrying a sleeping baby in her arms.

“Which one, Tina?” replied Imah with a raised eyebrow. “His cheating or his abuses?”

“Either.” Tina shrugged. “Mine cheated on me because he found me not as attractive as I was before, especially with my now sagging breasts.” She shook her head in fury and disbelief. “That idiot knows I have to feed our baby here. That’s just the price I have to pay. No regrets. I’d rather be a good mother than leaving my baby hungry to death just to satisfy my husband.”

“Men!” Imah spat. “They claim to be the most logical, but their demands are impossible. Mine was just the same. It’s all their excuses to justify what they always want to do.”

Alya’s heart just went out to them. Their pain reminded her of her own.

— // —

Talitha:

“It’s positive.”

Talitha sighed. She’d tried to hold back her tears and she failed. She felt really small and weak that day.

“Oh, Tally,” Alya typed on the chatroom. “I’m so sorry to hear that. What are you going to do?”

“What needs to be done, I suppose.” When she heard a car roll into the driveway, Talitha typed a quick reply: “He’s home. Gotta go.”

“You should tell him.”

Talitha shut off her laptop and wiped her eyes. She waited until the door opened and his footsteps were closer. She inhaled slowly.

“How’s my lovely lady?” His strong arms circled around her waist as he buried his nose and mouth into her thick, dark curls. Talitha smiled and placed her hands on top of his.

“Same old same old,” she lied and then turned around. It was a risky move to face him, because Paddy’s hazel eyes automatically caught something in her brown ones.

“Talitha, babe. What’s wrong?”

This is it, Talitha thought. Smiling up at him, she said, “I’ll tell you, but…can we do this first?”

There was silence when she pressed her cheek against his chest, with her arms around him. Paddy hugged her back, while she closed her eyes as she listened to his heartbeat, letting her tears fall. She could feel his hands through her curly locks.

He’d probably seen her tears or feel that she was shaky.

“Whatever it is, you know I’m always here.”

I hope you still mean it after the surgery, when I’ll be losing one of these. Wiping her eyes, Talitha pulled away and offered him a sheepish smile. When Paddy smiled back at her, Talitha felt a surge of relief.

“Okay,” she sighed. Paddy sat down in front of her, their hands still holding each other’s. Breathing deeply, Talitha began:

“I just got back from the doctor today…”

 

R.

(Jakarta, 30/12/2017 – 19/1/2018)

“ASLEEP AND AWAKE”

I’d like to be

right in-between

asleep and awake

Is it too hard to take?

 

It’s the only place

where I can feel safe

when I see your face

which my mind refuses

to erase.

 

They may think I’m crazy

Just like you,

I’d like to be

all about honesty

 

I want us to be

part of this reality

but for now,

I’ll just have to settle

between asleep and awake

where love is all that we make…

 

R.

(Written while listening to Ten Sharp’s “Feel My Love” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YefwoFB3pRo )

“TO THE GUYS WITH ONLY SWEET-NOTHINGS AND EMPTY PROMISES”

When I was a teenager, guys like you may have fooled me big time. Your saccharine-sweet words and romantic gestures had made me feel special. It seemed to me that I really mattered to you, despite what others had said.

“Oh, he’s a player. Don’t fall for his cheesy lines.”

I wish I’d listened to them. Not long after that, you got bored and drifted off. No explanations, nothing. You simply moved on to another girl, or perhaps other girls, as if I’d been nothing. As if I’d never meant a damn thing to you.

The worst part was never about losing you. Believe me, I had no problems letting guys like you go.

It was the first time my trust got broken, along with my heart too. Not only that, this world seemed to be more on your side than mine:

“Come on, you know how some boys are like. They love playing around. Don’t take their words seriously.”

“Girl, you’ve got to be smart. You should’ve seen it coming.”

Was it really ‘just my fault’, as they all had claimed?

Because of guys like you, I retreated to my safety. I had to and I hated it. I needed some time to heal before learning to trust again.

Being a young woman can be full of challenges and this is just one of the many. After what happened, I don’t just take everything on a face value.

However, they suddenly have different ideas. This time, I’m the one being too cold and distant. I admit that I have quite severe trust issues now.

“You’re too suspicious. You fear every guy is going to be like the last one – hurting you.”

“Come on, he’s just being nice. Don’t be rude. Give him a chance.”

“Maybe it’ll be different this time.”

Such mixed messages. First, they wanted me to be careful and smart. Sweet words may mean nothing. Watch what he does. Don’t let him trick you.

Now they want me to open up. Very well, so I let another you in. I thought you’d be different from the last one. Damn, I was wrong. It happened again. Not only that, this time I took a stand. As shamefully as this may sound, I confronted you about ‘us’.

I don’t know what it is with guys like you, really. If you had never intended to get serious with me, then why did you lead me on in the first place? Why the sweet words and romantic gestures?

It wouldn’t have been so bad if you had come clean in the first place, no matter how brutal your honesty could’ve been. You may have perceived me emotional and sensitive, but at least I’d known it sooner. At least I wouldn’t have expected anything from you at all.

Was I just for keeping scores?

A few years gone by and the world was still the same. They made excuses for what guys like you did, some male-privilege you simply gloated. It was as bad as you accusing me of playing the victim.

Very well, then. I’d leave you alone for good. It’s time to make you irrelevant to my life. I have to keep up with my pride. Don’t ever think for a second that you’re completely off the hook. I know you think I’ve stopped holding you responsible for the hurt you’ve caused me.

No, I owe it to myself that I’ve got to stay strong, no matter what. That’s my only reason.

Then I let time go by. I started learning to be on my own again. I’d built higher walls this time, so no one could get in. I had to protect myself from pain.

When he first came along and started showing an interest in me, I froze. Although sweet, he didn’t use too many, too sugary pickup lines. He was rather matter-of-fact, really straightforward.

Then why was I hesitant? What was I really scared of?

He sensed that too. In fact, he challenged me:

“You could find out if we’d work out or not – or spend the rest of your life wondering if we could have.”

It was then I realised one thing:

Guys like you didn’t just break my heart and ruin my ability to trust. Guys like you also give other guys a hard time. Instead of rejoicing and accepting another possibility of love wholeheartedly, I found myself standing still. My mind was racing wildly with fear and worry:

What if he’s just the same? What if I get fooled again and blamed for believing it’ll be different, better this time?

I know guys like you won’t feel guilty with this side effect. You’ll probably still think I’m just being overly emotional, too sensitive for my own good, and playing the victim again.

Maybe you no longer care. Fine, I’ll just keep treating you as irrelevant. I could let my fears get the best of me again. I could let the old ghosts of you win and refuse to give him a chance.

However, enough is enough. I deserve to be happy too. Maybe he’ll be different and this time, it will work out fine. If not, then it’s just not meant to be – whatever the cause is.

To the guys with only sweet-nothings and empty promises:

No, I’m not going to thank you for these lessons. I owe you all nothing. You’re just some bad examples God has shown me, so I’d rather thank Him instead.

Although perhaps our bridge has been burned, I’ll try not to bear these grudges for too long. I hope you’ll never ever have to experience this kind of pain. The truth is, I don’t think your bloated ego is strong enough to take it. You’ll probably be up for an instant revenge.

However, if you do, I hope you’ll remember me. Because by then, I’ll be too far away…

 

R.

“WHY I NEVER SAY ‘I LOVE YOU’ “

Those sweet words

are sacred

easier said

than done

even when you’ve promised

that you’ll always be around

 

Those sweet words

no matter how good

require responsibilities

I hate it when people use them to tease

Even when no one’s perfect

at least try to make up

for what you lack

 

I may no longer be

the romantic type they still expect of me

I may never have the guts

to say those three sacred words

for my personal lacks I still see

despite my efforts to make you feel happy

 

I can always love you

when I choose to

but whether you leave or stay

that’s not up to me…

 

…and I’m not some possessive freak

I refuse to choke you until you’re sick…

 

…but I love you anyway

even when it remains unsaid…

 

R.