40th Day

I just finished baking a batch of brownies when I realized, I don’t have anyone particularly worthy to receive them at the moment. So i let the brownies just lie there, cooling itself. The top crystalizing beautifully as the crushed pecans and walnuts gathered moisture from the eggs.

I never really eat the stuff I cook. I somehow always become full during the process. The only times I cook is upon impulse. Whenever a colleague pisses me off, I end up trying a new recipe.

What’s worse is whenever my incompetent boss yells at me, I go home and I start doing excessive cleaning, which I seldom complete until past midnight. And causes me to be late and decide not to go to work the following day. Only giving more fuel for my boss’ to despise me.

I’m sure Aunt Maggie and Gramps were waiting for a slice of my brownies, but they weren’t going to have any. No sir. Especially, not after they shared their degrading opinions of my decision to cover up. I’m not gonna call them bigots just yet, I’ll stay calm and wait till they’ve gathered enough decency to know what they did was wrong and try to respect other people’s choices.

I decided to cover up. Like Moslem women do. Only revealing my face and my hands to the world. I work for a call centre company, which doesn’t really require looks. Heck, I can come to work without showering and answer calls from 9 to 5 without anyone complaining. Well, except that incompetent boss I mentioned earlier. Who’s sole purpose in life is to find other people’s mishaps. So, it seems.

I was inspired by a picture of a Moslem women in The Sartorialist. She looked so sharp wearing her black abaya and the contrasting orange scarf she used to cover her hair. A pair of pearl earrings dangled beautifully as if they were trying to compete with her exuberant smile. Then on, I began blog walking, and found out that the real hijab was not a form of male coercion towards female Muslims. The women choose to cover up to achieve God’s approval. So how are they different from nuns who do the same thing? Nuns cover up and they are respected as holy beings. Muslim women cover up and we assume they’re being coerced to? Talk about dual standards, America.

Of course, I’m an American. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon. My late father was a well-known carpenter and my late mother designed and sold silkscreen fabrics. My two immediate links to the world, who died climbing the Himalayas when I was twelve. Exactly then, I denied God’s existence. I knew that was the highest form of hatred one can have for a god. I hated him for not letting my parents live.

The night I saw that photo on The Sartorialist, I went to Target and bought several pashminas. They were cheap, only 12 bucks for a pack of three. Silk Pashmina made in Turkey, said the label. I could care less, if it was real silk or not. The color coordination of the 3pack was very convenient though. Silver, dusty pink and black.

I remember walking home so excited that night. And immediately logged into YouTube for hijab tutorials when I was finally in my room.

I forgot about the inners. The fabric underneath the hijab so it wouldn’t slip off your hair. Thank goodness someone posted a video on cutting up old t-shirts for inners. In an instant, I had 3 or five inners PLUS a bundle of rags for cleaning whenever my boss pisses me of again.

I repeat, I’m not a Muslim. I just wanted to know what it is like being covered. Not having to worry about people checking out my boobs. I have D cups, and boys find it hard looking for my eyes due to such distraction. But wearing a hijab distracts them even more, I found out. Especially the needle-brained boys. Some even called me a “sand-ni***r” me? Someone as white as an albino? A “ni***r” I would’ve slapped his mouth if I didn’t remember I was representing a religion that wasn’t even mine with that outfit. So I simply walked up to him and gave me a piece of my mind without raising my voice. Telling him I wasn’t even a Muslim, that I was as American as his mother and that covering up for me was just a matter of style preference.

I soon realized that I no longer have to worry about my jiggly thighs or muffin tops over my jeans. I now buy my tunics and abayas from a nearby Pakistani home business. They mainly sell saris and Hindi ceremonial stuff but their Muslim relatives drop off their products too. I told them I’m not a Muslim, but after wearing hijab for almost one month, I feel ‘naked’ when I go out not covering myself. Ms. Singh simply smiled, a knowing smile and said nothing. I blushed. As pink as the pashmina I was wearing that day.

Aunt Maggie and Gramps, did disapprove at first before finally giving in. She said, “Beats having you cut up yourself like you used to. At least this destructive behavior of yours doesn’t involve bloodshed.” “So, any Moslem suitors under 70 come to propose for you yet?” Gramps chuckled after making his remark. “Not yet, but I’m quite sure Ms. Singh’s brother-in-law is looking for a third wife.” Gramps pretended to hold his 81 year old chest as if he was having a heart attack. We laughed and they were allowed to have some of my famous chocolate chip cookies.

********

It was my 40th day of covering. I wanted to treat myself to some ice cream for having come this far. I stopped by a used book store and found a copy of A. Yusuf Ali’s Holy Qur’an. The shopkeeper kept throwing suspicious glances over his gold-rimmed eyeglasses and kept inching towards me pretending to arrange books. I decided to purchase the copy and left him with his prejudice.

The ice cream shop was just about to open, but already a long line of customers were waiting. Just before me were two Muslim women. Casual light cottony clothing yet covered and still elegant. They were Middle-Eastern and they probably thought I was Bosnian or something due to my Caucasian features. They politely said their Salam when I stood behind them, I simply nodded back, not knowing how to reply correctly yet. Was it “wassalama” or “walaikumsalam”, rather than making a fool of myself, a smile was a way better option.

The shop was opening. I could hear the buzz. A summer buzz, filled with children’s squeals, beach balls and bicycle bells. I was feeling a lot more cheerful lately. Perhaps it was because of the abaya. Perhaps it was the feeling of having more control of my body and how I ‘protected’ and ‘respected’ myself. I remembered the book I bought. In it must be an explanation about the veil. So I took it out and began to read from the front. “In The Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” my heart sank to this. I was confused but happy.

All of a sudden, I felt a sharp sting in my temple, then everything went black.

Minutes later, I could see again. I saw my body drenched in blood. Next to me, the two Muslim women’s bodies were covered in blood too. We were all shot precisely in the head by a sniper down the street from a window on the fifth floor. He was aiming for just the two, who he knew always had ice creams on bright sunny days like this. I just happened to be there and dressed like them.

“Come.” I heard a voice.
It was the lady in front of me, showing me the way.

Nothing Big by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Nothing big
Nothing grand
Nothing useful
Nothing planned
Nothing smart, or at least not very
Nothing revolutionary
Nothing urgent
Nothing hot
Maybe quiet
Maybe not
Nothing hard
Nothing wet
Nothing naked, well not yet
Nothing witty
Nothing wise
No big deal
No first prize
Nothing solemn
Nothing set
Nothing much to give or get
Nothing now but me and you
Nothing more, thanks, that’ll do

http://hitrecord.org/records/396112

Secangkir Kopi Sesachet Senyum

“Desnu?” tanpa basa-basi ia langsung menanyakan pacarnya. Cipika-cipiki kek, ngucapin selamat sore kek, sok sekali sih cewek satu ini.
“Eh, Nina. Belum. Emang dia ngga SMS kamu?” kuraih handset di meja, kubuka SMS dari Desnu dan kuserahkan padanya.
Dengan dagu tetap terangkat ia baca. Dari tempatku duduk terlihat betapa mancung hidungnya. Nongkrong angkuh, seangkuh yang punya. Wajar, keturunan penjajah. Aku pun lanjut membaca.

Nina menghempaskan diri di sofa kosong sebelahku. Ia celingak-celinguk.
“Mana sih pelayannya?” keluhnya tak sabar.
Kuangkat wajahku dari halaman yang lagi seru. Sambil merapihkan letak kacamata minusku, aku mencari waiter yang tadi melayaniku. Dapet! Kulambaikan tangan ke arahnya. Iapun menghampiri.

“Ya, mbak? Ada yang bisa saya bantu?” his smile is to die for dan badannya, omigosh ‘jadi’ banget. Aku balas senyumannya semanis mungkin. +3 sachet gula kalau perlu bahkan.
“Ini, temen saya mau pesan.” daguku merujuk pada Nina.

Nina masih terpana. Aha, kawan Zulaikha juga dia rupanya. Ngga bisa liat brondong bagus. Untung ngga ada pisau buah di tangan.

“Na..” berusaha membuatnya siuman, kutowel pahanya di bawah meja.
“Ah, eh.. Machupichu eh, maksudku Caramel Macchiato.” sahutnya gelagapan.
“Caramel Macchiato satu.” senyumnya maklum, “Baik. Cookienya yang macadamia atau almond?” tanya Noel, seperti yang tertera pada pin kecil di dada polo shirt-nya yang menonjolkan otot-otot.

“Machupichu. Sekalian aja, ‘Pikachu’” aku terkekeh sambil membuka lagi bacaan segera setelah Noel berlalu.
“Brisik.” ia salting meraih majalah ponsel yang tersedia di bawah meja. Membalik-balik halaman dengan gusar.
“Lama banget sih, si Desnu.”

“Sabar, mungkin susah cari parkiran.” aku masih asyik membaca.
“Telpon gih, tanyain.”
“Ih males banget, dia dong yang harus lapor.” bibir merahnya mencibir.

“Gue coba telpon deh.” pembatas buku kusematkan.

***

Nina cantik. Dari keluarga sangat berada. Banyak laki-laki yang antri untuk jadi raja di hatinya. Termasuk Desnu, pangeran di hatiku.

Desnu yang meski atlit rugby dan pegawai Bank Mandiri, masih menyempatkan menulis untuk blog puisi. Desnu yang sempat menjadi penulis cerbung tandem denganku di blog. Mencipta kisah cinta imajiner dengan Desnu adalah mencari mati. Bunuh diri hati.

Bodohnya aku memilih membohongi diri dan kelewat menikmati kisahnya diam-diam, melampaui batas yang tlah kita sepakati berdua. Bak pesakitan, mengkait-kaitkan kata-kata dengan realita dengan harapan semua tulisannya nyata untukku saja.

Nina bukan sahabatku. Ia kebetulan suka mengutip isi blogku. Tak lama, seperti aku, ia jatuh hati pada Desnu dan Alan — tokoh rekaan Desnu — seorang fotografer freelance untuk National Geographic Indonesia.
“Mengkhayal boleh setinggi langit kan?” gigi putihnya membuatku silau kala kutanyakan kenapa fotografer National Geographic? Apa ngga ketinggian?
“Yaa gpp dong, fiksi ini..”

***

Wajar aku iri pada Nina, secara ia yang terpilih menggelayuti lengan kekar Desnu. Merasakan lidahnya mengalun dalam cium. Dan lembut tangannya mengelus rambut.

Nina yang kurasa tak lama lagi bakal meminta Desnu berhenti menulis tandem denganku.

Noel datang membawakan pesanan. Duh, ganteng pisaaaaann.. Semoga bukan mainan tante-tante senang ya kamu, rajukku dalam hati.
“Makasih Noel.” suara Nina mendadak genit. Aku memutar mata di balik buku. ‘Tape deh..’

***

“Oh ya, nanti akan ada kejutan. Mudah-mudahan lo suka ya, Dee.”
“Mulai deh sok misteri.”
“Hahaha, makanya liat nanti malem.”
“Baiklah..”
Pembicaraanpun belok kesana-kemari, ketawa-ketiwi. Bukannya cepet-cepet mandi. Alhasil, kami berdua telat ngantor pagi tadi. Sungguh konyol.

***

Desnu muncul dengan sweater cashmere Navy Blue. Ia mengangkat sebelah tangan ke arahku sambil tersenyum. Aku membalas senyumnya +10 sachet gula, yang langsung berubah kecut melihat Desnu mengecup mesra ubun-ubun Nina yang sibuk menggencarkan aksi manyun.

Seseorang mengawasi perubahan mimikku itu.
Seseorang itu tertawa kecil di ujung ruangan.
Seseorang yang sejak tadi sudah mengawasi gerak-gerikku.

Desnu memeluk kekasihnya. Tangannya yang satu mengelus-elus rambut ikal kecoklatan Nina. Posisi Desnu jadi menghadapku.

Tanpa suara, aku tanya, “Mana?”
Ia pun tanpa suara menjawab, “Ntar.”
Aku mengangguk, “Oh.. Oke.” lalu meraih buku, membiarkannya menyelesaikan ‘urusannya’ lebih dulu.
Kubuka halaman berpembatas tadi. Namun huruf-huruf mendadak acuh, berbaris cuek tanpa makna. Aku bersikeras terlihat tekun membaca.

Tak lama, singa betina itu berhasil dijinakkan. Desnu dengan wajah jenaka mengambil posisi di hadapan aku dan Nina.
‘Yay, my turn!’ aku bersorak dalam hati.

“Eh, Dee, lo tau Immanuel Tobing kan?”
“Ya taulah, yang tulisannya selalu muncul di Kompasiana? Yang paling bisa menulis fiksi psikologis interaksi manusia itu kan?”
“Ya..ya.. Yang hobi nulis tentang kelakuan orang-orang di Coffee Shop macam begini.” menimpali antusiasmeku.
“Ya! Dan yang paling aku suka dari cerita-ceritanya tuh, gak ada yang namanya tokoh protagonis maupun antagonis. Manusia ya manusia. Ngga ada yang sempurna. Di Immanuel, manusia digambarkan abu-abu semua. Suka banget!” tanpa sadar aku menyerocos panjang kali lebar kali tinggi.

Nina baru hendak menimpali, tapi Desnu keburu bertanya, “Eh, aku tak pesen minum dulu ya..”
“Oh iya, sampai lupa..” pipiku menghangat. “Mana si Noel tadi ya?” sambil memanjangkan leher.

“Mau pesan apa, Nu?” yang dicari rupanya sudah berdiri di belakangku.
‘Nu?’ benakku. Aku tatap mata Desnu, bertanya. Yang ditatap malah cuek
“Gue minta espresso satu, bro.”
“Macadamia atau Almond nih, bro.”
“Macadamia dong, pake nanya lo.” terkekeh.

Nina dan aku menjelma totem melongo.

“Oh ya. No, kenalin nih cewek gue Nina. Dan ini, temen yang gue ceritain ke lo. Deedee Anggita, a fellow aspiring writer.”

Aku berdiri merapihkan bagian belakang rokku dan mengajukan tangan. Mata ini masih belum berani menatap wajahnya. Wajah yang mulai menyatu dengan sosok Immanuel Tobing yang tulisannya selalu mengesankanku. Entah merah macam apa kini pipiku.

“Deedee.”
“Immanuel. Panggil aja Noel.”
1,2,3,4,5 tanganku tak juga dilepaskan dari genggamannya. Aku menarik tanganku terlebih dulu, menyadarkannya.
“Eh iya,” tangannya lantas menggaruk kepala. So kiyut menurutku.
“Gue masukin pesenan lo dulu ya, Nu. Ntar gue balik lagi, shift gue udah kelar kok. Bentar ya, Dee. Ntar Noel ke sini lagi.”
Aku mengangguk sambil memberi senyum manis +1karung gula.

Desnu pun tersenyum menang. Sejurus kemudian, diremasnya lembut jemari Nina yang balas menatapnya bangga.

Di hatiku, iri telah sirna.

Grow Up.

Quit whining and face what’s ahead of you!

People can be saints; but they can be devil too.
But most of them are something in the middle.
Trying to find their true space.
Just like you.

Don’t get caught in their webs.
You might not be welcome, you might get eaten up and they might even spit on you.

You might as well be considered a piece of bubble gum stuck on the soles of their shoe.
Annoying. Clinging closely to somebody who doesn’t want you to.

Let them laugh at you when you’re down and low.
But be discreet when you’ve reached the top.

Never be the one to start confrontation, never be the one to judge.

Don’t limit yourself to water, coz you’re not a sponge.
Absorb the hatred.
Absorb the love.
Absorb the knowledge.
Absorb everything around you.

Nobody’s perfect, someone said to me today. True, but everybody walks around carrying perfect ideas in their heads and place their picture perfect ideas high upon their pedestals. Expecting the best and rejecting even the minuscule flaws.

Bad things, I’ve done. And will do again. I’m not proud. Never was. Never will be.
But still,
I take my time to carress the sunset, and kiss the stars.

Doa

Tanpa disadari langkah kaki kita saling mendekat. Di sela kesibukan hari, terdapat rumus sederhana. Pada setiap perbuatan baik, kita mendekat sedepa. Di kala ingkar, kita mental terjungkal. Maka tak pernah lupa kupintakan pada Tuhan, bimbinglah kami dalam kebaikan.

*kami: aku dan siapapun dia.