“Pretty” They Said


“Karena Zee cantik.”

Pretty. A funny word to describe me. Long dark hair, light-brown skin; doe eyes, pouty lips and a slightly turned-up nose in an oval face; short but sensuous. Pretty.

But I never received “pretty” back in primary and secondary school. I often, instead, received “the pretty girls’ friend”. In a family that seldom recognises and appraises one another’s quality, I also don’t receive “pretty” unless I let them know that I feel ugly. Growing up, my mother had always told me about her stories back in high school and university where men would line up for her out of how cute and lovable she was, despite her being quiet and shy. And at the end of her story, I felt wistful. Wistful for not having the same stories. Wistful for not being cute and lovable. Wistful that I wasn’t like her.

Though my world did not revolve around being called “pretty”, “pretty” influenced how much I was allowed to love myself. Because “pretty” never showed up in the years that I needed it most, I never loved myself.

Bandung in January / February 2018, Nikon FM

It took me 18 years to finally receive “pretty” in an amount that sufficed my description meter. And that only occurred once I was in a larger society to judge me. But the idea that someone might describe me as “pretty” first-sight remains funny. I don’t think I’m pretty. I’m a bit too unconventional to be “pretty”. And “pretty” belongs to the conventional (which isn’t at all wrong to be). Though there are moments where I truly feel pretty, I like to think that I’m not pretty. Rather, I’m the type that makes people feel something.

Looking back at those who were “pretty” back in high school, I learned one thing that helped me understand the concept of pretty.

Different kinds of “pretty” exist. And in certain places and time, only a few kind of “pretty” becomes the most sought-out for. You can be pretty in one place at one time, and not in another according to how others think. But one thing that stays constant is that that doesn’t matter. Because regardless of the externalities that may define your pretty, you are a certain kind of pretty, and you will attract those who deem you pretty.

The challenge is to accept your kind of pretty with your standard of pretty, so that you are finally able to love yourself, pretty-wise.

Pindah dari Bandung

It’s the start of a new semester for ITB (and a deadline for two articles I have to write for Luminaire) in three days – the first semester that I will not be joining. The idea sits uncomfortably in my heart: the fact that I’m not part of it anymore. But alas, two years have passed. That is as much as I can get.

Meanwhile, my new semester in Groningen will begin on the first Monday of September. I am both scared and excited, as I am with new things.

Being an international student and continuing our degree in a new campus feels a lot like re-entering university, except that we already have. It’s a second chance for those whose campus-life here wasn’t so satisfying, but a sad farewell for those whose were. I belong more to the latter, which I never thought I would be, considering my initial dislike towards attending university here. But I tragically am. I was the only one from my class who did cry (pretty badly) when it was time to hug each other goodbye. It was really at that moment that everything finally, completely, sank into my mind that I will never have a class with them again – full team. And though I may not be very close with each of my classmate, the harmony of us being together in a class is one that I was not ready to let go of. I only finally cooled down after a solid hour.

The day after, I went with a friend on impulse to attend this farewell party that a classmate of mine held in celebration of us parting ways with the regular students. Ironically, only 6 out of 33 international students came, and the remaining handful of dozens were the regular students. Which, in the end, became fair as soon as I learned that there were several of them who will be studying overseas for the next semester too, participating in an exchange programme that’ll last until January next year. It was an interesting experience overall as someone who never goes to such things. I liked it for the conversations it made me have.

In the afternoon of the 7th of August, I moved out of my kosan: packing everything I need after donating and recycling what I don’t. It was the greatest exercise I’ve ever done in a year. My brother and his girlfriend came to pick me up and we arrived at my house a little after 7 or 8PM.

Now, it is a week later, and my flight to The Netherlands is less than two weeks away.

I don’t know what to feel.

There are many things I have yet come to terms with. Like not being able to go to class with Haikal anymore, a dear friend of mine who often picks me up with his scooter when I don’t have enough cash for a Go-ride; no more strolling around Jalan Ganesha and Jalan Tamansari in between and after classes, be it alone or with Nahdia, thinking and conversing about silly things that bring ease to the heart; not seeing Ghany every now and then for a competition or something that he comes up with out of the blue (like our last rendezvous at Kineruku!); no longer tagging along Haekal, Bisma, and Frans from Studio Remmi for when they go to cafes to work at night; and not attending the “compulsory” himpunan events, like faculty orientation and parade wisuda, which as much as I claim to hate, I enjoy coming to and provenly never miss. These things may seem insignificant to you, childish even that I grieve so much about, but they make me truly happy and safe. I hadn’t felt that way in so long.

Living alone in Bandung had always been so fun, so pleasing. Never had I ever been “homesick” throughout the two years that I was there, because I was able to build a home by myself. I cherished every moment that passed, making sure to always soak them into my skin, imprinting everything within.

And I guess, this is it. Thank you for two years!

IMG_0365 2
“Your bag was secured before the ends of the earth were decided on. You’re chasing things that are already yours. Walk in your purpose. Align yourself with the things you know you’re called to do. Stop stressing over things that have already been written.
Just walk in it.”

Number 2

Surat kedua – terakhir untuk sementara.

A year ago now, since you came to me in August to ask about film cameras. For the most part, you “succeeded” in making me “yours”. My mind travels to the thought of being with you and no one else. My fingers quiver at the remembrance of brushing against your skin and no one else’s. Your love (or desire? Whichever is more bearable for you) was pure in the most devastating way: weak and unwilling. Enough to make me hopeful. Never enough to make it real.

Ruang Seduh / Nikon FM – Fuji Industrial 100

A week ago you confessed to me of all your stories. Finally letting me know that you were just the same. Shallow, easy and without faith. Only a lot shyer than I would like, but still carrying a broken home.

You remind me of the last person I loved more than I care to admit. Perhaps it had taken me this long to admit because I was afraid that it was true. Afraid that you would eventually hurt me too. But alas, you do. And alas, you did. One at a time. Only realising what you have done once I stop responding – cutting things in between. And once you come back, again, I stay. And once you come back, again, you disappear.

Sepertinya, kita tidak pernah benar-benar selesai dengan kita.

Mengulang adegan jatuh dan berpura-pura tidak ketika sadar betapa bodohnya jatuh kita. As if falling for one another was so sinful. As if wanting to be together was so impossible.

Masagi Koffee / Nikon FM – Fuji Industrial 100

Tapi mungkin, memang ini yang terbaik untuk sekarang. Untuk tidak jatuh terlalu dalam. Sebatas menyentuh nama dan tanggal lahir. Cerita tentang teman namun tidak pernah saling mengenalkan. Bertemu untuk berbincang dengan kata-kata yang sudah dipersiapkan dan tidak lebih dari itu. Mungkin, waktu untuk bersama bukan sekarang

– jika memang kita dituliskan untuk bersama.

Langit yang Diam

4 bulan. Aku memiliki 4 bulan saja sebelum aku harus berangkat dan tinggal di negara asing. 4 bulan sampai semua rutinitas, tempat-tempat yang aku sering kunjungi, dan orang-orang yang aku suka temui, tidak bisa kusentuh untuk satu setengah tahun —atau lebih? Aku belum tahu. Hal-hal yang telah kususun untuk hampir 2 tahun di kota Bandung ini akan segera menghilang. Dan aku tidak bisa mengembalikkannya.

Berbincang dengan Langit
—M. Aan Mansyur

“kupikir lebih indah membaca
bibirmu ketika kau tidak
mengucapkan apa-apa. aku

semata mau melihat benakmu
bergetar—merah muda
dan tidak berdaya.

seperti sebatang leher
dan kehendak. seperti sepasang
mata dan tempat sembunyi.”

Olympus Superzoom, Portra 400 by Balthazar
Olympus Superzoom, Portra 400 by Balthazar


izinkan aku untuk pamit lewat pisah. Untuk melupakanmu satu persatu lebih dahulu. Agar kesedihan menjalankan hari-hari tanpamu tidak akan datang kepadaku ketika aku sudah tidak bisa apa-apa tentangya. Agar aku bisa kembali ke sebelum aku pergi dan bukan hanya kamu yang menghuni pikiranku. Karena aku ingin memiliki tempat untuk mengingat orang lain. Dan karena aku tidak ingin dipaksa untuk merasakan kehilangan, as I have always been, tapi karena aku memilih untuk merasakannya.


Keywords: post-midterms, clumsy, morning coffee, returning to film, honey, birthdays, drowsy —rest, baby.

Within numbered days, I will soon turn 20. But I’ve never liked the number 20. I’ve always instead, since the day I fell in love with a boy in 6th grade whose birthday I thought was on the 19th of August, liked the number 19. As evident from my primary email addressAnd in my turning 19, I had begged God to make it my most endearing tragedy. Tragedy in the way that it teaches me to be kinder and more forgiving only. And I was met with very endearing tragedies, you see.

Bukan Untukmu

Medice, cura te ipsum.

Aku ingin menjadi rumahmu. Tempat kembali dan tempat yang kan kau rindu. Aku ingin ingin kau menatap mataku dan tidak berpaling –seluruh kekhawatiranmu membungkam dan runtuh.

Aku akan menunggu —sampai kapan? Aku tidak tahu— untuk memberimu kehangatan: menghapus kelelahan melewati pelukan. Juga ciumanku, sebuah kutukan yang tak henti menghantui pikiranmu.

Aku butuh kehadiranmu di sela sela waktu yang disisakan oleh jariku. Aku ingin menemukanmu menunggu untuk ditubuhi dan dikasihi.


Singgah untuk Pergi

Terkadang aku merasa berdosa karena telah menggenggam dan membolehkan seseorang yang tidak ku cinta untuk bersama denganku. Bertemu untuk mendekapnya hanya karena aku sedang ingin melupakan kehiruk-pikuknya dunia. Tidak ada alasan. Memang aku yang kurang ajar. Jika memungkinkan, aku ingin ia mengabaikanku: berhentilah menemaniku karena apapun yang aku sentuh akan berubah dan tersakiti.

Dan jika bukan kamu, aku.

—M. Aan Mansyur

“kau singgah. seluruh penjuru
adalah persimpangan. mengarah
ke tiada—yang banyak.

kau tahu kau mencari seseorang
tapi kau tidak tahu siapa. kau berharap:
ia mencari dan kelak menemukan aku.

kau ingin sendiri. tapi kau tidak sanggup.
kita lahir bersama kesedihan orang-orang
yang berbahagia sebelum kita.

kini tidak ada yang sungguh. kau tidak
utuh. kau tidak cukup dan kau


Taman Sari, Yogyakarta – August 2019 / Olympus Superzoom x Kodak Gold

Kita berdua memiliki ruang di hati untuk orang yang berbeda: orang yang lebih pantas dan cocok akan kekonyolan yang kita miliki. Walau orang bisa berubah (seperti yang kamu bilang) dan cinta seharusnya tidak mendiskriminasi, kita bisa memilih. Dan aku memilih untuk tidak mencintaimu. Atas dasar aku tidak bisa menerimamu, atas dasar kamu bukan rumahku, atas dasar aku menghargaimu sebagai teman lebih dari apapun. Sekian.