Were you at my age, writing this?
Don’t necessarily end up like you, though.
I was entering and getting out of several realms of dreams.
I felt familiar with one of them.
It was at the wing of stage where we were performing Shakespeare’s piece back then
I was enclosed in the dark
For a while I was watching the other actors playing their scene on stage
Then I realised my shirt was covered in red stains resembling so much of human blood
I tried to get rid of the shirt in instance,
Putting off my shirt in hurried manner
I WOKE UP.
(It was morning)
I THREW MY TANKTOP TO THE SIDE OF THE ROOM.
I WENT INTO MY BLANKET AND GET BACK TO SLEEP.
26 Nov 2014
losing my sense of time
Irang likes the home she lives in. It is made out of bamboo. Every morning the sun would peek behind the half-opened door, leaving a glimpse of golden gleam on the left bamboo wall. The gleam falls exactly on the part where bunch of moss had grown on.
The moss must have grown out of richness. It is rich with water (that part of the wall is always damp) and always gets a generous amount of sunlight. Irang could spend humming a whole round of song watching the moss breathing in and out the early air of the day. Sometimes, she even could stare for two rounds of song-humming even.
Then Umi will call her to bath.
No, Umi never shout from the kitchen while she was cooking. Never did Umi yell from the bedroom. Umi has always got out from the bedroom before the sun wakes up, Irang knows this. She knows it as much as she knows Umi wouldn’t yell calling her to bath. No. It was always sudden, while Irang was staring intently at the moss, she felt perpetual movement of caressing, stroking her hair. Irang would look up. Umi would smile to her.
“Irang, take a bath.”
And Irang would take the towel form her mother’s lap, and march to the bathroom.
Most of the time, Umi helps Irang take a bath. Her mother would firstly scoop water with water-dipper made out of coconut shell, then put her hand on Irang’s shoulder, so that Irang would bow abit, and Umi shall pour the water on her head. Cold, she felt it flowing from the top of her head to the base of her feet. She whimpers, her jaws shake. She wonders if, when she ran out of the door and kissed by the sunlight, moss would also grew on her all-damp skin. She did ask her mother once, whether she could got out in the middle of bathing to stand under the sunlight.
“Why would you?”
So that my skin covered with green, soft moss, she said.
Her mother blinked two times. Then she took up on the soap foam, rubbing it to Irang’s skin a little harder than before. “You’re prettier this way.”
Irang didn’t say a word, and silently nodded. Irang has never seen her own face too clearly. She only sometimes see faint features of her face reflected by the sunlight on the surface of the water filling the black bucket her mother accidentally left outside after watering the paddy. Irang only sometimes see the silhouette of her frizzled hair, on those days she doesn’t bother to comb her hair and her mother’s too occupied with her pan in the kitchen. Irang sometimes tilts her head to the right of her shoulder while she was reflecting on the water surface, and felt abit like her mother.
Her mother is pretty.
But that morning, Irang couldn’t find out why that person whose face looks a lot like her mother didn’t seem very pleasant. Left alone looked pretty.
It was dawn, the sun hasn’t waken up. That person moves oddly. Her left leg looks limp, and she walked rather difficultly. Irang was watching her from behind the hole of the bamboo door. She suddenly realised she hadn’t drawn a breath, and didn’t remember since when. She then tried getting the air in and out of her lungs without having herself hears the breathing.
That person wore clothes similarly to the way her mother had always done. There was great deal of patterned fabric constricted round her legs, that seemed to make her even more difficult in walking with her left leg limb. The hair—it was pitch black and tied up into a big bun hanging from behind of her head. Just like Irang’s mother’s. She was trudging from afar. Closer, and closer to the door of her home.
“Has she came?” A familiar voice. Irang jumped.
Umi had waken up. Standing on the doorway of her bedroom, Umi hadn’t had her waist-length hair tied up. She looked at Irang’s face (Irang unable to open her mouth) and blinked two times. She then took lots of steps, as far as that confining linen allowed her to stretch her steps, rapidly toward the door.
Umi opened the door.
That person already stood right in front of their doorway. Irang couldn’t imagine. How did she do it? Crossing such distance in that very short span of time, with her manner of walking. That person stared back at Umi’s eyes, and sighed.
“Couldn’t even manage to tie your hair first, huh,” said that person. She walked in before it’s allowed. Irang glanced at her mother’s face. Umi didn’t seem disturbed. She silently closed the door.
That person walked into the middle of the room and glanced thoroughfully throughout the room. Irang wished she at least knew her name, so she could call her before that person’s pair of eyes fall on Irang. But her mother didn’t say a word.
Her gaze fell on Irang’s. Irang held a tip of her mother’s sarong in reflect, but stared back. In a moment that felt like countless rounds of song-humming, that woman’s forehead eventually crippled. Her eyebrows went low and contorted as if the woman insists that the brows should met. In her eyes Irang saw a gleam of emotion Irang never saw in her mother’s eyes. At that moment Irang knew it is that gleam that made her looks felt unpleasant, despite having features so much in resemblance with her mother’s. Staring at Irang, the gleam in the woman’s eyes emboldened even more so. It was disgust.
“What child!” She shrieked. She closed her lips so very tightly a moment after. As if she couldn’t help those words from falling out from her mouth.
Umi closed Irang’s sight with her hand. “How dare you, womyn. The first time you step in here and you greet my child with a tone and a face contorted so!”
Irang didn’t hear that woman’s response, but Irang could hear the woman moving around and about. There are sounds of nails scratching on hard surface. Umi still put her hand on Irang’s eyes.
“Here! And here too! You have always been like that, cannot even bring yourself to take care things properly!”
“This is my house,” Irang heard Umi uttering those words in lowly voice. “My house, my home. And you don’t order things or tell how things should be, in here. You don’t.”
“O now you dare, sister!” That woman emphasised the last word with sinister tone. “If you dare enough, why don’t you let the child see herself in the mirror!’
“What’s a mirror, Umi?” Irang asked, still with the sight obscured by Umi’s hand.
Irang heard a long, high-pitched laughter filled the early air of the day. Irang was sure it is still the early times of the day.
“She grows up without knowing what a mirror is! A girl couldn’t possibly turn into a woman without knowing what a mirror is! Who’s in fear now, Sister? Are you afraid she will feel terrible with her own face? Isn’t it you who afraid of having a child whose face so horribly different than yours?”
“Get. Out,” said Umi. Irang didn’t remember Umi have ever said anything that sharply, that dryly. “You. Get out of my house. Get out of here, now.”
“So be it! I can’t stand being in a place so damp and horribly sighted either!”
Several sounds of a person moving around, several sounds of footstep, door opening hastily and, finally, closing bangingly. Irang felt the familiar hand making the familiar stroke on her hair. The other pair of the hands excused itself from Irang’s eyes. Irang looked up and saw Umi’s face becoming wet from tears. Irang held Umi’s hand. Umi couldn’t hold her smile back. May I know why, Umi, said Irang.
“What is it you want to know?”
Why don’t you ever let me see a mirror, said Irang.
For a moment, Umi gazed emptily toward the direction she’s staring. After awhile, Irang abit not sure that Umi actually heard her question. When she’s about to repeat her question, Umi opened her mouth.
“I don’t want,” Umi said, with utmost care towards every word she’s saying, ”I don’t want you to grow up with the idea that looking into the mirror is the only thing that matters. Because it is not.”
People who have mirrors think that way, Umi?
“We, women, tend to think so,” Umi said gravely
Then I don’t want to be a woman.
“What is it then, you would become of?”
A lady! A princess! (Umi laughed) A dancer! Or a girl. I can be just a girl. I don’t know, Umi, but being a woman sounds too plain for me.
“You could be just anything you want,” Umi took my head into her bosom. “I’m glad you do know that.”
But how do I look, Umi?
Umi blinked. “You look just fine.”
I want to know what kind of princess I would be. I want to look into the mirror. You have a mirror, Umi?
“I kept one tightly in my drawer. For that time when the moment finally arrives.” Umi stood up and walked into her room. Not a round of song-humming Irang could finish, Umi got out already. Clenched in her hand was a holding-mirror with complicated-looking motives. Umi handed it to Irang. Irang took it, ready to flip it to the reflective side, but Umi held her hand.
“Please do keep in mind,” said Umi, looking Irang directly into the eyes. “There is nothing in this world put out of place. Everything is in its right place.”
Irang nodded. Like the moss that grew in our home out of richness of water and sunlight! I have never wished to get rid of them, Umi. They’re so pretty.
“Indeed,” Umi smiled.
And yet, neither of them did see. Not even from their corner of their eye. That the moss is no longer there, no longer free.
* * *
September 30th, 2014
rushing to meet the deadline of EyeLevel Literature Award
whilst doubting it to be a children story
and she refuses to leave
she has always been here,
and I know
she will always be here.
I thought I had got over her, until recently.
I was in the middle of conversations. Lively, blaring, loud ones.
We were out of town. It was not so long after dusk we gathered ourselves on a nearby fast-food restaurant.
We had our own cup of chocolate-glazed sundae ice cream.
We were having fun.
One of my friend asked me to draw a character in a way that reflects the character’s profession, and to assign a name and age I prefer for the character.
I was given three minutes to do it.
I sketched whatever pops out in my head, and hand it to my friend.
She ‘read’ it.
She asked a few question out of my drawings.
She pointed out that something, something terribly essential must’ve been absent from my life.
I didn’t know what, neither did she.
Then it slipped out her lips.
“Quiet, isn’t it.”
“Everything around us.”
Then SHE bursted out just then.
The feeling I thought I’ve neglected over a year ago.
Something I thought only as a phase of this whole coming-of-age drama. I thought it will be all over. I’ll pass through it when the time has come.
And I’ve passed it. Or so I thought.
But no. SHE wouldn’t be too easy to fool.
SHE has never left. SHE only lingers deeper, waiting for the right time to crawl back to the surface.
And grabbed my feet out of alarm.
There SHE was. SHE is cruel.
Right then and there, SHE dragged herself towards me right at the time I was among my companion.
False sense of being guarded. False sense, indeed.
Who would have thought of vacuum space,
whilst engaging in a chatter of twenty people something?
Loud and gay as they screeched their say on the top of their lungs?
Not even I had the chance of sensing her grip
That the floor under me turned into trapdoor
and I fell
Down into the pitch dark pit
Whilst looking upward, to the hole of bright white light
Grewing even smaller by seconds
Hands were stretching out restlessly
Reaching out nothing but the air.
This revives something I’ve always been experiencing all this time.
A thing I’ve been trying to bury lately, because it decayed me gradually.
It pains me so.
But Gregor Samsa teached me to embrace it all the more gracefully,
beautiful as it should’ve been.
Why didn’t I shift the lens I’m looking through? As a dear friend recently suggested.
Why should I be afraid of it?
Of the idea, that… for some amount of time my presence is needed,
but the next second my presence turns into plague for everyone around me
everyone that matters to me,
that there’s nothing left for me to do
other than step back cautiously,
stand still and let myself evaporates into the air?
Leaving nothing but memory
to those person who didn’t a wee bit realised
how much they’re changed by the momentary plague?
Thus, ‘metamorphosis’ doesn’t stand for my presence,
but for the state those whom I love are transformed into.
I shall now cry in liberating joy, no more in painful hollow.
“The death of one man is a tragedy, the deaths of millions is statistic.”
— (allegedly) Joseph Stalin.
For the sake of brevity, let’s just say it’s Stalin’s.
Who would’ve thought Stalin’s infamous remark on genocide is actually an insight of our own human nature? Yes, we are as cold-hearted as Stalin, apparently. More often than not, some of us regard Holocaust as tragedy because we’re being told that it is a tragedy. That genocide is horrific and anyone initiating that should be condemned to hell. And so on, and so on. We’ve been agreeing so because we’ve been told to, not because we actually feel the grasp of how horrific it actually is. Well, no one’s to blame here. Not Stalin, not even Hitler, just our own human nature.
But Spiegelman’s MAUS is here to give us faces and names onto what we’ve known to be horrific only in numbers. Spiegelman not only successfully proves Stalin’s infamous “a death is tragedy, thousand of deaths is statistic” invalid. No, he reverses it. In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, the survival of one individual is exactly why it’s a tragedy, and makes these fragments of story worth retelling.
Spiegelman poses as protagonist, tries to choke first-hand Holocaust story out of his father, a Jewish survivor.
Here, we’re being given a face that effectively renders the statistic once more into humanistic tragedy. Even more, the face we’re seeing here is not at all an ordinary one. Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, literally had witnessed it all–and escaped it all. From Sosnowiec to Auschwitz. From gas chamber to cremation pits.
Dead relatives was not an unfamiliar sight for him to see. Dead people was out of question of being extraordinary, indeed. Hunger lurks from every corner that he has no longer sense to eat normally. But that’s not all. As the reminiscent goes along, we eventually see another ‘gift’ from the war that Vladek has yet to carry.
In parallel with his father’s reminiscent, Spiegelman let us see how Vladek had turned into a harsh, bitter, anxiety-ridden character in life after war. Though leading an economically decent life, Vladek still refused to spill even the tiniest bit of food. When Vladek ran into supermarket in order to exchange a box of cereal leftovers with new one, Spiegelman was out of words. His life and body may have escaped the war. His soul, apparently, has not.
Spiegelman carefully maintain the flow in telling this two-sides of coin. He cleverly chose not to expose it all in one shot. Stories about Nazi in the first book, MAUS #1: A SURVIVOR’S TALE: MY FATHER BLEEDS HISTORY isn’t all that gripping. But the strained father-son relationship that’s extensively shown bugged me enough to think, this must leads to something. And the second book, MAUS #2: AND HERE MY TROUBLES BEGAN shows me why.
Spiegelman’s decision to depict involving races in animal representation is also laudably effective. Although told from the perspective of an individual, we hardly can ignore the bigger picture of racial politics that went on. Other than the obvious polarized parties, Jews as mouse and Germans as cat, there was also Poles taking role as war scavenger. Thus, Poles are portrayed as pigs. The symbolism perfectly shows how, in the time of crisis, human are reduced to rely on their beastly instinct.
Overally, beyond its perplexingly tangled motives, MAUS differs from other holocaust-retelling by questioning whether is it better ‘to survive physically yet mentally-wounded’ or ‘to die in your old sane self’. Who are we to answer? MAUS has sewn an irony of its own.
The boy feels it in the air: this is the moment.
He has a good sense of premonition, he always does.
He doesn’t need to explain it in words—he just knew
through his primal instinct.
Often, he complains on how the instinct dominates him more than his logic does.
Like, when that night it gave vigour to his hands to reach for the girl’s head—and kiss her on the lips.
His logic cursed him afterwards.
The girl giggled at this.
But I like it, she said.
The boy is assured this is the moment.
Once missed, never comes back.
So he decides to grab it, hold along the rope, and jump.
He stretches his hand for the girl to catch.
But the girl stays still.
“I can’t,” she says. “I belong to the earth.”
The balloon moves upward. Constantly so and never hesitates.
The time is running out. In split seconds there’ll be no chance to convince her.
There’ll be no chance for her to change her mind. The boy hoped she knew this.
But she knows this. And she doesn’t falter.
Earth was the only soil she knew she could grow upon.
And yet for him it’s only the sky that could freed his ever venturing soul.
He goes further and futher from the soil she lays her feet upon.
Until he is nothing more than a single dot in the sky, for the girl to see.
Until he’s lost to thousands of ancient dots that’s been shining since the beginning of time.
The earth has the girl stands still:
Feet fixed on the soil she could grow upon
Head tilted upwards
Eyes pierce throughout spaces she has never been through.
Possibilities beyond comprehension
throw sheer light on her heart,
made it a soil so fertile for stories to grow
on, and on, and on.
Surprise not, I changed my choice in last minutes. But still not a firm one, apparently. Few minutes after I put my ballot paper into the voting box, vague uncertainties eventually crept within me.
At times I often wish I this voting matter came to me as easy as it was for those non-overtly-skeptical minds.
I wish I could easily reduced this act of making choice to simply ‘became ignorant to your idol’s defect’, like a chauvinistic fangirl did. Yet I strayed from that collectively-popular frame, perhaps too extremely. Cynicism became my main state in scrutinising both candidates. Well, the cynicism goes a bit one-sided though.
This is my most basic premise:
If well-educated people who vote for Prabowo are deemed to be brain-washed minds who see violence as “mere excess” of New Order,
then aren’t those educated beings who vote for Jokowi weaklings for being oblivious and prone to media’s doctrine?
I am very much familiar of how deceitful media could be.
Pretending to be partial towards ‘greater good’ whilst in fact no more than mere extensions of malicious interests. Blowing up only what’s sensational, cut out the context if necessary, because bad news is good news.
And how not-so-noble people in it work.
Our journalists. They aren’t really working their asses off to provide contextually accurate facts. In the field, they’re no more than savages swarming for scraps of information that’s potential to blow hype for their medias. Sure, this doesn’t applies equally the same to all heads. But those who are sane and possess correct sense of morality in heart are not that many in number. And here we’re speaking about a society that values quantity over quality, whose people enslaved under the utopicly propagandic word, ‘democracy’.
It is thence natural for me to frown on whoever came to be bloated out of proportion by the media.
And there’s this guy.
Right after voting he gave few lines of commentary speech.
And I thought, Wow this guy really suck at public speaking.
But enthusiasms kept people from reading into his words–which contain nothing. Some voices echo “Jokowi is The President!” right after he finished giving speech.
People were desperately trying to reach over him. Tried to get their hands tainted by a glimpse of his, get through the bodyguards, willingly risked themselves get stomped over by bunch of barbaric journalists. In order to shake his hand.
And you know, what was embroidering his face all the time he’s escorted throughout all the commotion? Smile. A big wide one.
I was strucked.
I formerly was more into the other candidate. Presentation-wise and decision-making-wise, he has this reassuring firm and decisive manner. Just like the popular belief would say. I almost can justify his authoritarian tendency, born as a consequence of his superior intelligence. Not all people deserves to be heard. Not all voices matters. Not all brains can think.
But Prabowo got no suavity in delivering what he think is right. He got no eloquence in giving the impression of ‘listening to his people’. Noted, he tend to resort mostly to his own mind, but at least he can act like as if his decision was compounded from people’s voices.
There’s just a big absence of diplomatic ability in him.
Most chronically, he got no suavity in front of the media. At all.
On the election day, after voting session is over, he made a fuss by throwing hatreds towards medias politically opposing him.
I pitied him incredibly. He just does not know how not to jeopardize him further into negative sentiments. And it’s such a great loss if a leader knows not to bring himself diplomatic-wise.
His contender, Jokowi. At least seemed to have automated response to smile.
At most times, a single smile is more than enough to shut people off.
* * *
I still believe neither of the two came out as a really good choice.
Yet I got reassured once more of what I’ve chosen.
If the two paths eventually lead us ashtray, let the people be fooled by the illusion of having made the right choice.
Of really having changes.
Because people don’t really need proof of changes. They just need to feel the impression that there are changes. People does not need a sense of objective reality. They fabricate their preferred own. They will sort out only pieces of information that serve justification on what they believe. They like to produce the evidences to convince themselves. That’s why there are medias and advertisers.
All the society need is to be dipped deeply into big sauce of illusion.
But I’m here to be proven wrong.
July 6th, 2014
We were biking through the alley and are running out of time. There were two of us.
In the middle of the alley, there are bunch of bandits who seem disturbed that we passed through them.
They stood up in our way. We were halted.
Before they bombarded us with further questions, I excused ourselves,
“We were going to a friend’s birthday party. Our friend has been waiting for us.”
I was grabbing a crumpled white paper.
“You’re lying. You think we didn’t know?”
“We’re not!” And we quickly got on our bike and pedaled with all our might.
We’re getting at the end of the alley. The end of the alley was sealed with high iron gate, though there was small opening through which one person can pass.
None of the houses on both side of the alley were familiar to me. Which is weird. The house should be around here.
I opened up the crumpled white paper. A rough sketch written with black ink, we were staring at. It was meant to be guiding route. On the middle there was a circle, and an arrow pointing at it.
My heart sunk.
“We took the wrong way,” I said to my friend.
The thought of having to pass the bandits again horrified me.
“We could use this way.” We passed through the small opening of the iron gate.
We pedaled with all our might.
On our way, I caught a glimpse of familiar person from the corner of my eyes.
It was one of the bandits. He’s the one who accused us of lying. He knew. How could he caught up with us so quickly.
He knew I spotted him. He smirked. I looked back to the front. I have to get there in time. Judging from the sky, it must be around 3. Or 4. Until when it opens? I don’t know. I have to get there as fast as possible.
I cheated on the route. He lost us.
We encountered him again. How could he managed to caught up with us so quickly.
Our bike ran side by side. I did almost an acrobatic move and cuddled him.
He was surprised but then again not resisting.
We were arrived at a building. We were at its fourth floor. We got up through the stairs. After the separating door glass, there are rows of desks and chairs, like they had in offices. Desks, without cubicles. People were typing, making calls, hidden behind piles of papers.
“Excuse me, may I meet Mr.–?”
“Oh, he hadn’t arrived yet.”
“Yes, he should’ve come. He should collect the—“
“Oh, are we still able to submit the—?”
“Yes, but you should wait until he comes.” So we waited. Outside the office room.
Behind the glass door. One of the staff called my name. He seemed to know me. I can’t remember who he was.
“How do you know me,” I said.
“Mr.— mentioned two writings to me. One is the— about the—. One is writing about India and its landscapes. Animals, topography, and trees, and detailed others. He applauded these two writings. He mentioned your name when telling me about the second writing. You’re the one who write it, right. I read it. It was laudable.”
“No, I don’t,” I recalled this familiar remark. “There’s someone who think of me as the writer, too, few days ago. But I said I don’t write it. I’m not the writer.”
The secretary-like female staff, that sat behind the male staff I was talking with, glanced at me. Her look was not pleasant.