A melancholic version of the song illegally downloaded to my iPod was locked on endless repeat. It’s something I do. I like what I like for as long as I like it. I turned out the lights. Curtains were pulled back by a piece of twine as the moonlight cast scary shadows I no longer feared of. The soft light reflected from the sun by the moon onto my wall and slightly across my bed, touched the tips of my toes.
I lay there. Listening to crickets chirping all alone or with its friend maybe, somewhere in the yard outside. Loud enough to be heard through my earphones. I imagined the sound they were making was digitally edited into the song I was hearing. I was the Vitruvian Woman but with my clothes on. No sexy lingerie. No pair of hot pants with ‘KISS ME’ written on my bum or a matching pink tank top. Just a plain hand-me-down night gown my grand-mama once owned which she bought during her first Pilgrimage to Mecca.
You looked smart tonight. You can afford cashmere now, I noticed. You wore it over a light pink shirt, that black cashmere sweater.
“Pink?” I asked quizzically.
“No, its ‘Salmon’.” you said.
“Oh, okay.” I took a sip from my cup of chamomile tea.
Your Levi’s weren’t as faded as the torn ones I was used to seeing you wear before. How many pairs do you now own, I wondered. Some sort of smart-phone rested next to your empty bottle of Perrier
“So, you drink that stuff now? Do you know how many gallons of plain drinking water you can buy for a group of street kids with that tiny green glass bottle? Who are you anyway? Do I know you even?” not looking into your eyes like I used to. But rather below your chin. Because the eyes you have now weren’t the ones I found myself drowning in before. I was getting sick just being close to you. A snobby yuppie cut-out from some sinetron.
“Oh, don’t be such a wet blanket. So what if I have extra cash to spend. So what if I can now enjoy the stuff those people over at the next table have enjoyed all their lives.”
“You’ve changed.” I mentioned with a sigh.
“Of course I have. I had to. For you.”
I ignored your last sentence deliberately.
“Remember those nights we used to spend with fellow activists, smoking pot, playing the guitar singing all the songs we knew by heart all night long?” mumbling, I rested my chin on my palm reminiscing the carefree days of college.
“Yeah, and afterwards we’d walk in the chilly August air at 3 am to tuck Indomie Goreng into our tummies at the nearest burjo stall.”
I smiled a bit. Somewhat relieved you still remembered. But I was still unable to adapt to your new exteriors.
You reached for my hand. I picked up my cup to avoid your touch. Averting my gaze into the yellow sweet-smelling liquid. Searching for the sweet you I knew within.
“Seven years, Fi. Seven years I’ve waited for this night. Why won’t you let me hold your hand?”
I assumed you already knew. Five minutes later, I left you there with your empty bottle of Perrier.
I hailed the first taxi that I saw coming. I gave the driver my destination and re-wrapped my pashmina around my chilly shoulders. The air conditioning is what you would expect from this type of taxi, a brand new Vios Limousine. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to have a chit-chat with the driver, my mind was rewinding the last 5 minutes we were together. Tears on the verge of falling.
“For me?!” absent-mindedly raising my voice, causing some heads to turn.
Embarrassed, I lowered my voice into a stern whisper. I hate public scenes.
“For me? Listen up, Tuan Rifqi. For all I remember, I carefully told you not to change because of me. But for yourself. For those who love you for who you were before. For the satisfaction of the achievement. For the sanctity of grasping your dreams. You weren’t supposed to change for me, because I refused to guarantee you anything. Remember?” I took a deep breath and continued calmly and with a coaxing tone.
“At the time, I thought it would be tough to bring you inside my world. I had experienced losing communication with my family for choosing a guy that didn’t and refused to fit their standards. The screaming and shouting, fighting and yelling, tears of frustration, was something I wanted to avoid in my future. And you, like him, were troublesome for me to love in return. Coz, we both realized that if a relationship causes casualties then we’ll never see just what we’re meant to be.”
“Every time I see you falling. I’ll get down on my knees and pray. I’m waiting for that final moment you’ll say the words that I can’t say.” you sang it in a whisper. Off tone as usual. I sat back into my side of the booth and listened. Hands folded in front of my chest in a cross because I was cross.
“The man sitting in front of you now. Look. Don’t you think he’s enough? Now?”
“More than enough. You’ve changed too much. I was hoping to be able to still see the real you beneath your new found glory, your objects, your status. But he’s gone now.”
“Look closer. It’s still me, Sofi.” you groaned helplessly. “GOD, SOFI! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” suddenly you yelled with frustration.
I knew my face was beet red because my cheeks were suddenly hot. Burned by all the eyes within that fancy cafe looking at us. I clumsily gathered my purse and ran out of there.
“It’s not that!” I yelled at you late one night, due to hormone disobedience. It was that time of the month and everything you said just seemed wrong.“Louder please.” you said calmly.
I apologized immediately. I have vowed once, to never ever raise my voice again to a loved one. Once we start yelling at each other, we’ll become deaf. Gradually losing our ability to hear. To listen. Hearing is one thing, listening is another.
“I’m sorry.” I repeat myself trying hard to imitate your calm.
“All is fine dear. Now get some sleep. I think we’ve had enough of your PMS for one night, don’t you?” you laughed on the other line.
“Yes, dear. Good night.” defeated yet relieved.
I told the driver to stop. The front door is open and as I walked through the driveway, I could see Papa standing inside the living room, giving someone a handshake and pat-on-the-back-embrace. Someone with a black cashmere sweater. What the hell? I wasn’t having any of this! I tiptoed quietly through the side entrance and up to my room. At a glance, I saw Mama in the kitchen preparing drinks and cookies on a tray. Moments later, still lying in bed. I heard a knock on my door. Then another. Then the door knob was turned and a silhouette of a man is shaped by the light shining through the hallway. I closed my eyes, pretending to sleep. I heard several footsteps and then nothing but the crickets, ‘Everything But The Girl’ and that silhouette of a man’s silence. Something was propped against my pillow. The silhouette then left, leaving me with crickets and ‘Everything But The Girl’.
And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain.
I was mad. I shouldn’t have lost seven years of him if I knew my folks would change the instant they found out he’s become all THEY ever wanted for me to have. They weren’t worthy of my sacrifice. I was content with the him before this. HE WAS FINE TO ME!!! I screamed into my pillow. GIVE ME BACK MY SEVEN YEARS! DAMN YOU STATUS! DAMN YOU PRESTIGE! I MISSED HIM!!! I missed him so much…
I wailed into the poor, poor pillow.
Something fell from my bed onto the floor with a thud. I rose my head. A package. I picked it up. Reached inside and took out from it what seemed to be a photo frame. Sticking in the front with cellophane tape was a purple envelope. I removed the envelope. The photo in the frame was in fact a family photograph. My family. But how come? With questions filling my mind, I opened the envelope. Inside was a letter, dated this day seven years ago. I started reading it,
“Dear Mr. Syahrial, please excuse my impoliteness, but I, Rifqi bin Sardjono, have a proposal to make. I am in love with your daughter, Sofi. And I am willing to do anything to fulfill your standards so you can feel at ease trusting her with me….”