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.
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.
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.
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
dan tidak berdaya.
seperti sebatang leher
dan kehendak. seperti sepasang
mata dan tempat sembunyi.”
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.
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 address. And 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.
Writing about this semester from the beginning would only be a gravely fault, for that is where the story of you lies: the most endearing tragedy I have ever met in a person – proof that my curiosity can indeed lead me to my own deaths. I have written and thought about you more than enough to make me feel incredibly tired of remembering your chronology in mine, so please, allow me to skip your part.
DI DEKAT JENDELA PESAWAT TERBANG
—M. Aan Mansyur
Aku ingin menulis surat. Meminta maaf atas nama cermin dan kaca jendela, langit dan cahaya, juga segala yang tidak percaya kepada matamu pada pagi hari. Selamat pagi. Apa kabar? Kenyataan ialah api yang berkobar di antara dadamu dan inginku. Atau segala apa yang berkibar di antara anganmu dan tanganku. Di tempat sejauh dan sedekat ini, tidak ada yang nyata melebihi hal-hal yang kabur dan mustahil disentuh. Apakah aku tidur di mimpimu?
Mencintai ialah menenggelamkan diri ke dalam lautan hal kecil yang memiliki kekuatan besar membuatku bersedih. Setiap waktu. Atau—aku takut kedalaman, kau tahu—menyaksikan hamparan hutan dari udara dan menyadari seluruh yang tampak hijau adalah kepedihan. Aku curiga pesawat ini sengaja diciptakan sebagai cara lain memusnahkan manusia dari bumi.
Rumah terakhir bagi seorang yang kucintai ialah ingatan. Memiliki kehilangan: bukti aku tidak berhenti mencintaimu. Apakah kau akan berdiri di depan pintu saat aku tiba, seperti biasa, merentangkan sepasang lengan yang selalu berharap ditubuhi?
I used to think that the human heart could only endure so much and that there was a limit to how overwhelming an event could be. When August began, I was excited and hopeful to see how things would unravel from here on out; with the introduction of you, of visiting new places, and of meeting new people. Little did I know that nothing of the past could have prepared me for the fourth semester. I was only lucky enough to know that subjects were quiet easy this time around, though class schedules were awfully put together – as if a child had overtaken the task. Still, despite everything that has happened, I am still here.
In the early of September and December, I was taught through very heart-wrenching events that I had missed home. Home to me here is not some windowed walls or a sheltering roof that had been carefully architected for shelter and rest. That is a house. Home is a feeling from a place or a person: tempat kembali dan tempat yang kan kau rindu. Home is where I feel safe and calm, where each corner of a person’s eyes, or lips, or fingertips encompasses me with warmth and kindness; where every scent and fabric of the belongings of a room envelopes me away from the riddles of the world with comfort. Home can come from friends, families, or lovers. It can also be from restaurants or poolsides. Some may have them from childhood, which I too had had but lost along the way when I was leaving Oman; and some may find them in a person that they have fallen for, which I did however wrongly.
When the flight to Germany took me and my friends away from Indonesia, the afternoon you decided that I shouldn’t matter, maka dari itukamu menghilang, the air in my chest felt as though it had vanished. I didn’t know when you began becoming my home, but the loss of your presence made me realise then that you were. How someone as broken and as stained as you struck to me as home in a mere few weeks leaves me baffled until now. The same way I don’t get to choose how other people feel about me, however, I don’t get to choose how I feel about you too. Dan pada akhirnya,
rumah pun menghilang.
I had thought losing you —and I say this as though I ever had you, no I didn’t— was enough of a hurting that would last me quiet some time. Before I even managed to heal these open wounds, which had aggravated with you coming back only to use me once more, December came along. And that first Friday of December is a memory I’m not fond of: a heightened state of disappointment and hopelessness of which I had to undergo because someone who I thought should accept me, or at least listen to me sympathetically, didn’t do so at all.
It may sound insignificant, but to me it had meant the world. You see, I don’t care enough about what other people think about me. I made the decision not to a long time ago after learning how damaging it was to one’s self in doing so. But the people of whom I’ve dedicated my entire life to, my parents, I couldn’t not care. So imagine how it would feel to know that the sufferings that you have gone through in the pursuit of obeying their demands didn’t matter at all. Dan pada akhirnya,
rumah pun menghilang.
—M. Aan Mansyur
“kenangan dan harapan, kata satu
penyair, dua negara yang tidak ada
di peta. kubawa keduanya ke mana-mana
dan ingatan: paspor yang selalu minta
dalam diriku: membentang jarak kedua
negara itu. dari sana hidup melimpahkan
sepi. di puisi ini kusimpan separuh untukmu
sebagai langit yang tidak tahu berubah warna
atau jendela atau buku cerita yang menghapus
kata-kata sendiri atau rumah tanpa penghuni.
kelak kau menginginkan
sepi melebihi apa pun, ketika tidak mampu
kautemukan dirimu di mana-mana. dan akan
kau paham hidup adalah upaya menerima
ketidaksanggupan dan menolak keinginan
supaya langit atau jendela buku rumah itu
melumpuhkan kau dengan sepi yang lebih
berat daripada ketanpaan”
I find it rather surprising (in a good way, some may say) that despite everything, I am still here. And this, even I cannot fathom. I had every reason to leave, which I did want to do, and considering my reckless character and determination once it is born, I could do so very easily if I wished. But entah, I simply didn’t take the chance. This story isn’t fiction, and in truth I do not possess an answer as to why I chose to persevere instead. I had no one I loved and nothing I strongly desired for. Yet, I am still here.
Perhaps it isn’t the bigger of reasons that made me stay. Perhaps it had simply been the small things; a certain word a person used to describe me when they heard of this story –“you are strong, in a lot of ways. I admire that in you”, a certain place I only kinda want to visit someday –Labuan Bajo, a cute barista in a cafe I frequently go to –hello Old Ben’s, a particular dress I wish to purchase from Mango, and a certain feeling I wish to find again –home.
Now that this has become a very old story, I wanted to say thank you.
Thank you for all the hurting, and the sad, pathetic, melancholic remembrance of the times that we were together peacefully —no matter how fleeting the encounters were. I am grateful. Really. Grateful to have met a horrible person who showed me how evil and selfish a person could be, who showed me that I am indeed kinder than another person I thought to be so wonderful of, and “good” in spite of how horrible I think of myself.
Terkadang aku teringat oleh kehangatanmu yang dulunya menunggu tanganku yang selalu dan terlalu mudah dingin untuk mencari jalannya ke punggungmu.
Tubuhku yang mudah loyo dan sakit, menemukan sedikit kesembuhan di dadamu. Mungkin karena itu, agak sulit membiasakan diri dengan ketidakadaannya kehadiranmu.
Kabar bahwa aku tidak lagi dapat menggenggammu memukulku bagai bencana dari kejauhan.
Padahal, tidak pernah ada tempat untukmu.
If only we knew the things that we know now: the things we know after everything has ended. Too bad that’s never to happen. Too bad we never know better until we know better. Too bad we must first be at a fault to know the faults we now think are unavoidable but are really not. Too bad we must first be entangled in the strings of consequences before knowing them. Too bad we’re too human. Things like this come to mind when I’m upset about missing what’s no longer mine.
And I miss everything about holding you. I may never have the chance to have you in my arms again, even with the memories of you unmoving within me, and I have accepted that. You were painful, that is true. But you were also part of the things I’m most grateful of.
Thank you for allowing me to know better.
A conversation with Nahdia,
about the ending.
Zee: “I rewrote what you said to me and I’m going to memorize it so that I won’t make another mistake. Not that he was a mistake. In fact, I see it as a blessing. A memory. An encounter I will remember and which I will learn from.”
Nahdia: “I want you to find someone not because you want to be held, you want to be embraced, you need the physical presence… That’s nice. It’s really nice to have that. But I want you to find someone because you’re trying to find someone–
a person not just a being or a thing.
I want you to be comfortable with the person not because of his physical availability. But for him, for you: someone to hold you because it’s you not because you need to be held.”
Pagi itu dia datang, karena itu aku tak merasa harus bangun. Dia yang lama kukenal sudah kembali, dingin, pemalu, dan menggigit. Kapan terakhir kali dia memelukku seerat ini sampai aku bisa merasakan tiupan nafasnya? Aku tidak menyesal pernah merindukannya, rasanya menyegarkan bisa menyambutnya kembali di ranjang walau aku tidak akan pernah menyediakan tempat untuknya. Udara pagi Bandung yang dingin—
selamat datang kembali.
Four months long was I gone. Twice have I appeared and disappeared again in writing. The life out of me has been drained from my skin. Feelings are anything but ordinary now. The only things that move me are pain that I inflict upon myself and pleasure that I intentionally receive from touching you.
Things have been deeply troubling within my everyday ever since January slipped through my grasp. Even so, I managed to turn 19. I have a few things I would like to tell you now. Though they may be of no substantial meaning or purpose for you, I still want to force these writings to your knowledge. And I hope, that you will accept them.
I admit that it’s been quiet awhile since I last wrote here, which I deeply apologise for. But know that I needed time to grow, to change, in order to understand.
The beginning of this second semester, I was determined to focus on my academics, and in the process, unconsciously yet willingly forgot about the group of friends I have acquired from the last semester. This had obviously created somewhat of a calamity, one that I had never consented to, let alone was aware of, and I can now no longer approach the people I used to approach as easily. They had mistaken my being quiet and withdrawn as having a feud with them, and I was beginning to hear unpleasant things of me from people who have very little knowledge of who I am anymore.
Truthfully, it had hurt to a certain degree. Writing this again now, even after weeks of drafting this post and of living with a new truth, I still choke by my throat because I am reminded of the reality that I have no one, and that I may have indeed hurt others unknowingly. And so I seek to separate myself from everyone even more, in hopes of hurting everyone less.
However, along with my being oblivious, this also had a lot to do with how we’re all changing to adapt to our newly given routines and separate environments. And because I am not one to care, nor do I see any reason to shorten the distance or try to correct the misunderstanding anymore, I came to no lengths to try and make these people understand: they do not need to understand.
Regarding how well being determined to focus on my academics had been, I’m regretful to say that that too hadn’t really been working out as much as I had anticipated to. The first half of the semester it proved to be quiet helpful in certain subjects. But the other subjects in which I could not be saved in, left me scarred horribly. I remember receiving the lowest score I have ever received in all my life and just returning home, not caring for anything else in the world, fell to bed, and immediately cried for hours on end with a few cuts accompanying me by my arms. It was such a stupid thing to be so emotionally anguished about, but it was the most I could feel in so long. And as any numb person would go, I embraced the feeling.
Before long, the second half of the semester came by uninvited and I was starting to get bored of being alone so excessively. I needed a change. A feeling, or two. Perhaps someone I could pull into my orbit too. Whatever it was, I ached for something that could evoke me to continue on living deeply. Driven by the fear of not running as far as I can within the time that I was given, I then sought to trying new things that I have never touched before.
One of them is liberating my hair,
for the sake of both my physical and mental health.
The second was understanding that I needed time,
and that Allah does care, and that He is there, for me
regardless of how horrible of a person I am.
The third was finally drinking my medicine,
when I’m given them by the doctor.
About falling ill: I don’t know if I remember correctly, but I’m sure that I’ve written about getting sick a lot in my previous posts. Granted, I’m still getting sick a lot. Although it’s not as often as last semester, the intensity seems to becoming more aggressive and I’ve grown to become really weak and even more easily fatigued. But because they don’t necessarily appeal to me as something significant, I didn’t worry much about it. Even though I’ve already gotten checked and diagnosed by a doctor my mom forced me to see by bringing him home, and after receiving three bottles of herbal medicines to drink.
That was until I fell really ill, and I didn’t have the strength to know what to do.
By this time, I was already not drinking any of the medicines I was given to drink for the things that I’ve been getting sick for. And I was also not the best at taking care of myself. So I finally told my mom that I was sick again, and confessed to her that I’ve not been drinking any of my medicines, let alone the extra herbals she entrusted me to drink every now and then.
She then told me that I “have symptoms of cancer” and that my becoming weak and easily fatigued was not something I could disregard very easily. The next day, I went to get myself checked again and was finally drinking my medicine.
The more exciting parts of these new things, however, include cutting my hair by my shoulder, watching my friends play softball matches at a time where I supposedly should be studying, thrift-shopping as a new way of filling my wardrobe and of defining my personality through what meets the eye (this could mean that I have a horrible personality though), returning back to the ice rink after seven months (despite no more plans of returning again due to how incredibly time-and-money-consuming it is), founding Novel Thinkers i.e. a project that I’m currently working on which I will write more about soon, and playfully trying out film photography!
I would love to sit with you and have a chat instead of writing down everything and having you read it since it would be so exhausting for you.
But yes, the second semester is truly one of a kind. It was so horrible since I was getting sick all the time and I had all these confusing phases where I didn’t know what to do, but at the same time, the months were being incredibly heartwarming and very accompanying. How is that possible? How can two entire universe of emotions within me meet and leave me still alive?