I dream of NYC. My teen years and way into my college days were filled with romantic comedies set in this city. I have loved listening to the big band version of Sinatra’s ‘New York’ ever since my dad introduced me to his music which included Barbara Streissand, Andy Williams and Nana Mouskouri. I have always been fascinated with lights. Be it natural lights in the sky or man made lights in buildings and skyscrapers. My idea of a perfect date is just driving through city traffic listening to whatever’s playing on the radio, or simply walking home hand in hand underneath the city lights.
The Big Apple they say: is not as pretty as it looks on your smartphone screen. People get bullied in subways just for being Asian (insert any race here). You shouldn’t touch the subway handles or train bars because they’re full of germs. Alleys hide criminals. You will never survive wearing that hijab on your head. Sirenes go off 24/7. Finding work is brutal. Street corners reek of urine. Where are you going to stay? You know it’s hard to even get a visa to the US. But hopefully not, considering you’ve pledged allegiance for 5 years of your childhood.
I know plenty of fellow Indonesians have chosen a life abroad. Where almost everything makes more sense than here. Especially now, with religion becoming more of a lifestyle than a way of living. Where you are admitted into family group chats full of hoaxes and hatred towards a certain community or religion or people who have an opinion different than them. The group chats you end up muting year after year. Where the education system is fucked up, because it changes with every presidential cabinet. Where the majority of the parliament is out to get haram happiness.
I know how tempting it is to live a life in a kingdom far far away. What an adventure it may be. But the thought of not being able to see my family not even once a year maybe kills me. Before, I thought it would be rad just to escape it all. Find the love of my life doing what I love as a living until I become an old wrinkled raisin (coz I’m sweet like that). But then, they would simply know me as Binda Dian who lives in NY. I can’t watch Gita, Nizam, Prisha, Gaza and Nadine grow up. I can’t be there to hug them when they miss me, or when I miss them. I can’t explain why life is sometimes unfair. I can’t listen to their stories. I can’t be a part of “the village” that nourishes their souls. I can’t be their friend. I definitely don’t want to feel helpless when I know one or both of my parents have fallen ill. I definitely don’t want to be 24 hours away when Allah decides it is their final day.
I guess. NY might only live in my dreams. In my art. In my books. In my heart. Like a fairy tale land.
Because right now. My life. My loves. Are right here.