[SHORT STORY]: THE SMOKE BECOMES YOU

Cisentor, Mount Argopuro (In frame: Fikri A.)

♫♪ || Waiting the World to Change – John Mayer; Intuisi – Yura; Beauty is You – Abdul and the Coffee Theory; Dealova – Once; Mimpi – Isyana Sarasvati


It begins with the very first of the hundreds pages.

To Supernova, the flaming burst, the dance of falling stars

This is how I fathom my thoughts to depict the constellations

Today is the day when everything is re-framed and the wall is made of inks and papers

And it is simply beautifully hopeful.

So, I create: are we out of the woods yet?

===

Rain approaches her visions like dull melody from distance away, chilling the lonely soul to the marrow, drifting deep into the box of memories without giving a way. The sun is completely hidden beneath rows of dark grayish clouds as she wonders whether the weather has just turned wild since the sunrays cannot be even seen from the place she resides herself, taking in such melancholy scent of the droplets on once dry earth. For a moment she can reminisce of this state being, where she is utterly absorbed in this lucid sensory details—the raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, pair of arms embracing her narrow shoulders keeping her away from any harm.

It turns out that those arms are the inner side of her sleeping bag. She catches a sight of the dome from the yellow summer tent.

She also can make out that the sun does not wish to be found.

The young man is outside. Maybe he has this certain wish not to be found either. In the middle of the vast savanna. Alluring, ravishing, endearing in the most pleasant way. There is a hint of warmth tinging her cheeks each time she recalls any memory regarding him.

They never mind if he frequently strives on daydreaming. Completely immersed in one single thought. It could be a rampant imagination, vivid hope, or perhaps, a mere prayer.

She keeps a journal made of faces and dates. Polaroid collages with small sentences inscribed underneath. It is the synopsis of Lalita Parvati: neighbors, acquaintances, old friends, new strangers conveyed in military precision.

She takes out a Polaroid camera, taking a photograph of him who has been heavily drenched in cold water. His sunkissed skin is adorned in trails of lurid gray—the blood has drained to the feet from his lips. It is almost natural to post the picture near the end of those pages. A snapshot of silhouette amidst the fuzzy fogs, murky dusk from the edge forming a vignette, greyish with a hunting tone of sepia, his back is facing the lens, not allowing anyone to take a peek of his expression. Always keeping a secret.

However, she cannot resist to imagine a certain smile. Of passion and kindness, a gentle heart, the ensnared senses, the bewitched soul. She can picture of sunshine, saccharine-coated voice along with a particular hum of lullaby, followed by unearthly scents which fill the damp air. They are just so thick, stirring on her mind like a terminal illness.

She does not realize until now, that his scent lingers on her clothes.

Black carbon. And the other substances just don’t matter.

To whom my heart has been attached to, with a single red thread connecting under our left ribs; to whom my mind wanders in certain aim to get caught among the wind.

I have never been taught how to love. Let alone of how to stop.

I remember my Mom cried when I got home late, instead of scolding me she let me go straight to bed. She did not ignore me, as a warning she only replied short and brief to everything I said. That only lasted for less than a week, though. We both knew that Mom could never do that forever, it was a clear message anyway. Her cook, her bitter smile—only for awhile—and attention stayed the same.

Besides, she was bound to love her children unconditionally. Fortunately.

Then, I remember when I was eleven—got a high fever. They thought I would not survive the night. And we were short in income, just purchased this humble abode for a lifetime. We did not have any vehicles back then. So Dad carried me all the way to the nearest highway to catch a cab.

My Mom never failed to prepare supper before Dad got home. Even when she was sickly—I thank God everyday that I still have them by my side. She handed him a cup of lemon tea to revive his sore muscles and cramp mind. Mom never refused his words, never talked back—gave him her best counsels, became a hand to hold when it was getting tough even to stand up, be a shoulder to carry the weight together with the will which were larger-than-life.

Anything, anything that was right. To secure his happiness. Their happiness. And I’m grateful to be their child.

As a whole-being, we were each other happiness. And as I have come to learn this, love is an act.

But I also don’t understand why, as love comes to overflow, there also a bit of sadness, a pang that cracks the weakest parts of your heart. Tiny needle that sucks the life of somebody’s soul if they were not strong enough. These past years, I can fathom that feeling is called pain. Is that really a thing about pain, that it demands to be felt? Just like how love decorated our life?

How would you tell that love could never weaken the heart, as it would never intoxicate the mind?

Black carbon. They came in a form of black carbon.

===

“Don’t skip classes. ”

But he did not listen. Perhaps he just refused to.

I firmly believe if we try to look deep into our heart, trying to be earnest and true, we can see with great clarity. There is kindness. Determination to make everything right, to make up of what was left behind.

“You may be not the most honest friend on my list, not even the thoughtful. Both of us may not be the best at moral department. But you and I can define the good and bad in life. What if, one unfortunate day, we were asked of how we spent the time, chance, and wealth that bestowed upon us? We can turn the responsibility just right. ”

I told him that I want to apologize to the generation of youth. To us, to them, to the children. I want to make amend of everything, I shall strive to.

This generation will turn out better if we can repair this. Restore, anything. Terrible adults are the result of ruined children who had taken other terrible adults as their role models. We used to have these dreams—we shared them every time we look upon the stars.

There was not anything that can bother him.

He came from a well-being family, lovely parents with brothers and a sister to keep him company. He never had to worry about small things. He could afford university without any scholarship, full tuition fee, and a very decent apartment in town. He drove his own car.

Especially when he had the cigarettes. He could never live without them. The carbon latched to the fabric of his clothes like an invisible claw squeezing every inch of his life—taking as much of anything that he had inclined to turn over. Consciously.

On the other time when he was bored of papers and worksheets, he went out for light walk and fresh air. A journey in the middle of the night and came home before the sun was high. There were two or three persons that he was pretty close to, they would accompany him. But I was not surprised when he asked me to come along so I half-heartedly followed behind just to make sure he was okay.

There was an abandoned field near the lake behind the faculty. You could walk across the red bridge to visit the other part of the college. However, we took a path down the pebble-paved road, slightly deeper. We did not come to see the park where the students exercise or having a little picnic with a wooden basket filled with a couple of sandwiches and orange juice. It was time past dinner, had not taken any meals since this morning. I told him he must get me something to eat unless—

Unless perhaps you could comprehend that someone’s smile which could light up the whole town also managed to fill you up. Is it really possible that you find nourishment at the very sight of someone then simultaneously creating an instant elation within you? The reason that my eyes shone in bizarre liveliness.

We talked and talked. Say, sharing our dreams. It was time when I thought that he was all himself as was I am. That time when you feel like your spirit could address someone’s spirit in the most eloquent fashion. I wanted to say that I missed the time together.

And then, there was this not-so massive field where countless of Edelweiss patterned the ground in the most unsophisticated way. The nature had planted rows of flowers for everyone to see, to enjoy the sight of them, perhaps to take small pleasure amidst the storm they would provide here and there. No man had taken any part, the nature could cultivate them more than just fine; we should not ask who tend its eternal petals, what kind of delicate hands who had such patience.

But I never liked flowers. I could be care less about them.

“You need something to relieve the terrible distress which brought by the life itself. ”

“What distress?” I joked. I thought he came here just because. That was not funny anymore.

“I think they’re beautiful. ”

There was another land near that was bleak and grim. The Dead Woods. It was strange how could things change so abruptly. We combed the woods shoulder-to-shoulder with our headlamps flashing loads of lumens to the vicinity.

“Do you think what kind of place this used to be?”

I did not know. The eruption occurred centuries ago. There was no any depiction even the Last Judgement by Michelangelo could ever decipher the fear and anguish that brought by the calamities. When the whole mountain was drown and sink into the sulphuric lake.

Drown and sink. I wish we could decipher what kind of uncertainties which taint and commingle our destiny. Why would there had to be a lesson to learn to experience first instead of a guidance to pass the exam? Sometimes, I thought, God can be a little overreacting. That was what he said.

Once we were heading down to any clearing and take some rest, he approached me. I barely noticed of how young he was—we were. Never wasted the time, the chance, the youth that blessed upon us. For minutes to die, there was only pregnant silence. He boiled the water, a cup of lukewarm coffee to bring back the rosy cheeks into its place.

He laid on his back, the damp ground underneath us was covered with a mattress. It was nearly dawn, he wondered how come there were stardust dancing and giggling. Where some infinities were bigger than other infinities. We were just six feet under the stars. Then I told him that maybe today the universe only wants to be noticed.

Another silence.

“I’ve learnt everything that I felt regarding life is just some blurry prejudice. Each time I’ve come to know them—this is not so bad. ” He handed me Edelweiss.

I was irritated because of his mindless act. Don’t take anything but photos, don’t leave anything but traces, and don’t kill anything but time. They preach and had been preach to. Although there was something on his face that night. His eyes glitter as he stared at the divine painting upward. Mercilessly mesmerizing. He had taken off his glasses, somewhere between the line, his eyes were merely a shape in this lightning. I could make out his countenance.

So I gulped them down.

His shoulder pressed up against another’s. I remember he had taken a picture of us, exactly like this very moment, a few months ago at Guntur. I never asked what was the intention when he put the photo as his profile picture. It revoked pretty much chaos within our social circles. He only offered a lopsided smile. That douchebag.

It was drizzling, back to the abandoned field near the lake. This time, he handed me roses.

“I don’t like roses. ”

“Don’t you think they’re good?”

“I hate the thorns. Deadly thorns. ”

“You mean, harmless thorns. Hurt you, yes, but never kill. ”

He felt it. The tension that could not be undone as well as the ray emitted from the heart failed its task to melt the iceberg inside of the stony heart. The girl’s face was now a chiseled mask and once again she had managed to extinguish the radiating flame from his eyes.

She had this immediate wish to hide.

”I don’t like roses. ” The girl mentioned that, once for more.

He stood right behind her, waving his large palm at the blushing petals. A chunk of moonlight reflected through his glasses, making him more impenetrable. What was he thinking? Why would he care? The ray of feelings worming its way from the heart, emerged to the eyes to be noticed. Unless he denied that.

Then he narrated a story about the fountain of youth. I was sure that he had read that somewhere. My blog.

The wind blew once again, swirling moist soil under their feet and rose scents in the air within them, mixed up into the breeze. Nobody made a check to the watch at their wrist. It was pretty late but when he told her to look up at the starry night sky, she instantly forgot everything; the mere cool breeze caressed her cheeks, promptly bringing some memories she tended to get rid of at the moment.

Maybe he just meant to say sorry.

I found that the girl was myself.

The following week he handed me jasmines. And I did not know what he meant.

===

A perfect Sunday morning pillages the cold weather right away which brought by the brief drizzle, soaking the pavement like thousands of obtuse needles. Sunlight drifts into Tarendra’s vision, snuggling beneath the bed sheet and his bronze skin, attempting its daily work as vain alarm. Because there is an efficacious alarm which always steadfastly pulls him out of the slumberland, and with specific soft whispers attached, and the most important of his Sunday morning is the embrace

But, for his disappointment, the soft skin he’s been anticipating since he encounters consciousness is not there to proffer him a proper morning greet. Tarendra still can remember last night when his lover was laying by his side, murmuring a typical fairytale of his favorite literatures while his arms were enveloping her smaller frame and she curled into his chest, synchronizing their heartbeats into one perfect steady rhythms.

His lover’s voice is nothing like any other voice, it doesn’t sound like tuneful melody of an angel singing a holiday medley, nor does it sound like the firm steels strident between stifled ferocious wind. And the vacant space beside him does explain enough why he grabs onto the empty air instead of a familiar figure. There is luscious smell coming from the kitchen—

I stopped. If this tale had ever made its way to the world, why would anyone have to say? I could be care less just like I always ignored the flowers, yet the what ifs scarred my courage.

I did not want this to go into the pile. You could never ignore feelings forever, not even to toss them into the pile.

One may have patience for the whole world to wait.

To wait for him.

Four years was not a short time for two people to understand and notice each other’s presence. The wait was long for the pure and simple affection had been timidly growing inside, and it took much longer for them to realise and acquaint the red thread which the hand of fate had intentionally yet strongly sewn under their left sternum.

”So my chest won’t experience the pain, the heart won’t feel the ache anymore then I shall be no longer a defect human being as I’ve found the lost ribs in you and make you all mine.

The was sudden ache hit me. I realised there was an obnoxious black hole, the place where I had fallen into. And I hated it, for being hollow and alone.

I always thought anything that I had shared with him had never been ordinary, down to the smallest part, the briefest point. He gave me the most precious gift that could never be taken back, that one thing anybody would habitually seem to forget to give.

Time. Invisible yet powerful. No boxes nor ribbons.

And I was amazed of how much people try to possess the world within their hands forever. Then dismiss the prospect of living life to the fullest, catching a glimpse of the world, setting a foot to the bizarre and barren land, climbing the highest mountain, making an apology to this generation.

What is the best form of immortality rather than kindness, anyway?

Only this time, I found myself looking down to my journal. To collage of photographs. To fancy an idea to immortalise these into poetry.

Writing was one of ways to depict certain moments so it would be crystallised in the middle of sentences, fossilised within the sand of time; it was the ink and papers, the hues of color staining the blank canvas, which we could hear in the rhythm and the blues.

”Once upon time, Adam was born in the realm of colorless yet unearthy place called Nirvana. It was filled with vivid and blinding vibrant colors and was drown in eternal blissfulness that it was colorless for ordinary bare eyes. He was born with full of human beings as God had blown a harmless soul into his soil vessel. Adam was the only mortal creature with flesh and blood among other morbid creatures. But Adam felt lonely, he was not happy with his life despite he could get everything instantaneously and doing anything as he pleased. Adam realised that he was all alone in that place. He wished a company. ”

There and back again, to the abandoned field near the lake. His shoulder pressed up against another’s. The glasses were still intact, always keeping a secret.

It was—is one of Tarendra’s favorite stories in their regular night though she never taken good interest in such epochal story. However, the young woman does like it the way he strives to describe, in some sort of logical way, why do people’s heart can no longer feel the unnerve pain after the disintegrating journey in seeking of some certain things.

”One day, Adam fell asleep under a big oak tree after a long trip and pleasant dialogue with the talking animals and the nymphs. Then, God for hearing his faithful creature’s prayers each night and day, as much as he was fully awake to pray so restless and relentlessly, he had taken one of Adam’s ribs for an exchange. He had created someone for Adam’s company from his own rib bone. By the time Adam was awaken, he saw a beautiful woman standing right in front him. Her name was Eve. Adam had never felt so happy and grateful and as if like a cue, the ache had simultaneously disappeared like an insipid fog. Since then and now, when men had found the person they loved, they wouldn’t experience the pain anymore because the person had completed the lost rib.”

Every time Tarendra is telling this, she does not ask for more.

I was sure that he had read that somewhere. My blog

===

Death is the sudden stop, the pull into the void, the slow disintegration of your life into dust and ashes. It is the inexplicable emptiness that leaves you suspended in a spiderweb—only there are no strands of silk. There is nothing.

Or maybe, there is death when your heart stops for a mere second. As it strives to work back but it never truly does.

There is a disorder in the system when you love what you love. Is that actually the thing about pain, that it demands to be felt? A little death when fate attempted to put a stop in that.


“At my first term, I came to college sore and soul-withered. Then I met a gentle stranger whose society revives me. I feel like I could lead a life in another higher and purer way. ”

Tarendra’s mother suffered a chronic sickness which he denied to tell anyone. God let her recovered after being hospitalized for months. There came the new term where he had to go back to college. The entirely new environment, heterogeneous folk.

It was in the middle of October when we were introduced for the first time, as candidates at the selection in one of the most prestigious club in our college: Student Association for Environmental and Adventure Activity. People single-mindedly contemplate the members as the kin with inclination to climb the cliff and rock, trek the mountain, walk the long way, dive the sea, glide the stream, merge the cave. One should know there were specific ethical code and oath.

Even in our social circles, there were few with curiousity of how could I manage to get around him, to get to know—to understand. You know what? That still did perplex me as well. If they described us as close buddy, perhaps we were not. When people were hesitate to tell him about things, they asked me to, it was as if he would listen to what I said.

A solid mist. Unyielding barrier. Those were what had been keeping him from the world, helping him to preserve secrets.

We texted or sent messages once in a while. They were just medium of custom to funnel the concerns, “You okay?” “Where are you now?” “Don’s skip classes” “It’s already time to pray” “Sleep yet?”. Replied with another, “Yes” “Hm” “Ok”. I carefully typed the text so it would not seem to exaggerate any meanings behind, it had to be as simple and straightforward as possible. His messages were profound too, anybody could count up the letters he used with their fingers. We barely communicated by phone. Only rarely when he had not responded and the team, his colleagues, his lessons, impatiently waiting for him.

The inauguration had passed, We survived the hillside and the woods. Rain and storm, limited logistics and water.

He picked another path, another inauguration. That time he survived the jungle and the mountain. All by himself for days. The others strive to endure as well. My heart leapt to throat when I saw him crawling his way to the waterfall, pulling other members who were pushed into haste.

He was smiling ear-to-ear, a brand-new red fabric draping his nape and back. Stargazing through the noon and day.

The others suspected that he continued the phase because he had a crush to this girl. We knew her, from our batch. Linda Kharisma. Such a charisma. Unanimously gentle, caring, and friendly. Who would not fall for her? And, let’s not forget, she was evidently pretty.

“I’m sure that this girl can regenerate me with a vengeance. She is a rare one; unearthly different, fresh, and healthy. Without soil or taint. ”

I knew where the lines came from.

“There shouldn’t be any impediment to obtain her, I conclude.”

“There is. ”

I avoided his eyes. “What can it be? If you cherish an affection, you can overleap any obstacles. If God has the will, you will. ”

He averted his gaze back to the ripples of the lake. “You transfix me quite. I think I can speak to you of my lovely one. If you’ve met her and know her. ”

There was a disorder in the system when you love what you love. Is that actually the thing about pain, that it demands to be felt? A little death when fate attempted to put a stop in that.

The truth was I did want to stop. I firmly believed that there was deliberate lesson behind all of this. God put you to check on me, assess whether I exercised on conscience and reason; an examination through some fragments of life.

If God put you as a test for me to pass; I felt like I did not want to come out alive. I discreetly wished that it would last for a lifetime.

===

Alcohol buzzed in his blood.

It was near 3 a.m. and fury almost consumed me one more time. Smooth black cotton swished against his skin and I could feel more than Tarendra’s voice—a entity ghost of its own. Those glasses had been taken off, head on the table. The young man was mumbling inadequate words. Snickering and cackling, something taut bubbling in his throat. He struggled to get back to his feet.

When he saw me, he barely glanced. “You’re here. ”

“She came to drive you home! ” hollered one of the horde.

I walked my way up to his side and he could not help not to slant a gaze at me, his friend. There were deep, dark circles under his eyes, ones that I rarely to see without his glasses. Like this, Tarendra was laid bare before me—no glasses, intoxicated, no means to hide. His fingers were shaking, I could see the way he was eyeing the box of opened Marlboro.

I took his hands and dragged him away.

“What’re you doing?”

“Trying to get you back to your mind. ”

I texted and messaged everybody in our basecamp, asking around whether he was still there. I was not surprised that he was. He was a social drunker, the other branded himself that way. My best guess was he had put a label to himself.


At the end of the day when the sun slowly collapses into the horizon at the far west side, when the sunlight’s bleeding into ocean of colors then perforating into the windowpanes, creating thousands of iridescent glows which penetrate through the dimly lit room. Late July has the warmest season over the year, so does her skin gives such warmth while he envelopes the young woman in his arms. Perched atop the Scarlet Room, where he is used to playing his favorite instruments, is a balcony overlooking to breathtaking views of the backyard; the field is planted with rows of rose bushes bordering the large stone fountain at the centerfold.

”Who is that?” Tarendra nods his head to the sketchbook which displayed portrait of a young man staring through the paper with his strangely bright eyes; he doesn’t smile, but his slightly parted lips tinge anyone’s heart of evident hopes.

”You mean what is that, ” Hana carelessly throws it to him, slightly jerks her head in disagreement. ”It’s Aisling*. ”

Tarendra rolls his eyes at her agility using plentiful of vocabulary words. ”He is not a girl. It’s clear that it is me you drew, isn’t it?”

”It’s called a dream. I’ve seen him in my dream. ”

He takes a place next to hear, shoulder-to-shoulder. ”What did you see in your dream?”

Hana looks up, she doesn’t scowl nor smiles. He only can fathom the carelessness, recklessness from that face; of whom for a second, flashes a glimpse of concealed emotions in her eyes.

You.


Tarendra played gitar. And piano.

Especially the piano. He learnt lots of classical sonatas and sextets during his course a few years ago. Her mother was also a pianist aside from a job as a high school teacher. The father of the family was an engineer—I despised engineering, I told him this. Although I was convinced he would make a terrific engineer one fine day. The elder brothers had married and settled outside the city. There was only him and a younger sister at home, Shinta.

How could it possible for fingers dancing in tremendous pace, from andante into allegro, at the edge of sanity where limbs could normally moving? The fingers of a pianist are thin and bony, deft yet limp at his sides. She observes the visible green-colored veins completing his lethargic complexion.

Tranquility is not the main part of the melody, the young man neither is composing a solemn nor sorrowful sonata. Henceforth, at every step, the pressure has become partially some necessities in the rhythm. He squeezes the piano to squeal and mourn in ruthless and wild wailing.

The young man does not need any musical core, the music sheet is himself, the chord, and the tenacious tone. He strikes back and forth, biting his lips as the Scarlet Room merges into his peripheral vision.

He plays it again and again while he is being drown and sunk, deep-rooted into pitch of darkness, bored into each crevice of anyone who listens to the haunting melody.

Hana imagines of a certain person with a blinding smile, his eyes are a pair of sparkling diamonds. And she remembers that to embrace is the only thing that feels so real like solid milestone.

To embrace or not to embrace**—

She chuckles at the thoughts. The pianist’s hands hung in the thin air. Perhaps gasping—eager for another tune and misty breath.

===

There was this young woman that, somewhere between the interval, had received his attention. She was not from our batch, the same age, but she was a year above.

I could not help to notice that Tarendra might cheat the time and space to chance a glimpse at her. Maybe there was something. The young lady was anything but—not the prettiest, anybody could tell. If only she put aside the means to hide, the mirth of laughter, that soulful smile. She embedded an automatic switch to lower her gaze in front of her opposite sex. One thing was sure, I was a hundred years away from being like her.

I had seen her without the hijab, every guy in the room would flock their way to her.

She survived the hillside and the woods with us. I contemplated that Tarendra had found her as creature of the other world, a profound alien. Unearthly different, fresh, and healthy. Without soil and taint. If only he knew her meanings to join the club.

Now that I saw her with you, I forgave her.

See? I hated it when I turned into the woman I did not want to be. The nagging shrew, the full of jealousy bitch. I was not that kind of person. Who was I anyway? His friend.

Tarendra had come to her thesis defence, nonchalantly bringing a bouquet of roses and jasmines. She accepted the flowers anyway, he was her junior in the department. While the crowd made a rampant chaos due to his mindless act, she refused to take a photo when it was only the two of them. The members had been accustomed to this, pointed her meanings right away. We took a photo group.

Last month, I happened to not-so incidentally eavesdropping when she inquired him for a talk. Anybody in the basecamp still could seem them, at the far corner, eye to eye. She let down her guarding, darting through his glasses as if they were nothing but pieces of tangible defense mechanism. They spoke in low voice, evidently did not want anyone to overhear them.

So, I entered the inner room.

Less than half an hour later, she came back to us. Rona had asked her to help in archiving the documentations of the club since the first time it was established. I peeked at her from the very edge of my vision, there were traces of tears down her cheeks. Luckily, there were only the four of us in that room. Rona did not invoke any further after she mentioned it was nothing when being questioned.

I concluded that anyone outside the room, although several feet away, even speaking in frequency lower than any human being could hear, they would definitely notice that. I heard that Linda confronted him that afternoon what he had done—said, to her.

No, he did nothing. A shameless lie.

And I was positively sure, since then, he did his prayer practically relatively on time. There was something dense and tense between the two yet surprisingly we were polite enough not to pry.

Weeks before our wandering season, the lady ushered me for fruit salad. I was just finished an exercise—one that I barely could say no each time Tarendra needed a company for light jog—for him, I still had to run till my lungs were gasping machine to keep on the track.

“Well, come along with us?” I secretly wished she would not.

“If God wills. ”

There was one single engulfing silence. I could not muster any words, I bet she was thinking of what to say.

“Tarendra is like a brother to me—one that I never have. ” She offered one of her prettiest smile. It would be impolite not return that, besides I needed to get rid of this ghastly cloud of jealousy winding me up. “Of course, if he was not your brother, he was not to you. To me. There shouldn’t be any justification when it comes to take an action, the substantially concrete barrier is there, clear to the eye. ”

She was always straightforward, that was one thing that I honestly liked from her. However, I just did not want to hear the truth she was about to shove into my face.

“One of my friends said, we are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love. We are never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy. You know, I can’t agree more. ” She looked up to me, examining my face, perhaps to pinpoint something on my indifferent remark. “When you love someone, you lay your heart open to them. It means the whole world and above if he loves you to the moon and back, yet—”

I did not need to ask the second time. “If he does. ”

“I admire the tenderness of women’s heart. ” She almost looked like making a confession. “The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray. I would be the happiest woman on earth when I fell in love. But then, again, it is love’s strength to sublime people’s feelings as equal as its power to abuse them. ”

The fruit salad abruptly turned sour.

The young lady advertently reached out to my knuckles, speaking so softly as if her voice was made of velvety fabric, “It does no good to a woman to be flattered by a man who does not intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead into miry wilds whence there is no extrication. ”

Women had certain bravery in love and passion, they would risk nearly anything to obtain such happiness. Men would break any rules, wipe everybody out of their way, to seek such pleasure. No wonder every woman was all but a gambler and man was all but a hunter.

There were illicit tones and tunes ringing inside my head. Like the black and white notes sliding underneath his fingertips, like the haunting cry of the piano.

I guess she waited for me attempt a respond, if I did have.

I put my full attention to my drink, hoping the talk would end sooner. “Why it had to be Sena of all people?”

That was it. Everybody in our basecamp called him with Rendra. I was the only one who used his full name. And there she was, mentioning as if indicating they had known for years. Only his high school friends used the term. Tarendra Indrasena.

My voice was quiet composed, with a hint of amusement, when I countered, ” No, you tell me if loving somebody else has to have reasons behind it. I never asked why it had to be him. ”

“There are things that we must pursue from love. ”

“And what is that?” I challenged her.

“To pursue simultaneously. What are the purposes of your life? Be it with or without him. If being together would bring the purposes even closer, then so be it. ”

I could not shift my eyes from her. Watching the ice dissolves from its surface, from the stony heart. At that time, I might not comprehend her, any possible answers to say would be a hundred years away. I simply could not think, rethink, calculate, or recalculate any reliable sappy sentences.

The truth was, I did not even know what were the purposes of the creation of myself in this planet called earth.

“What I need, for now, is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody who will eat up all of my free time, my ego, my attention. ”

I failed her. The young lady did not bother to hide the disconcerted reaction.

She said that Tarendra had learnt a great deal to listen carefully. He might change, he would. I told her that I always had faith in him.


That young lady drew back only a week before our departure to Mount Raung. She did not mention the reasons. Ray was the head of mountain and forest division at that time. He handed a piece of paper, said it was from her: a wedding invitation.

I chanced to take a glimpse at Tarendra. He seemed fine, superficially calm. Like the surface of the lake, where the abandoned field we had abandoned.

He managed to come to her graduation day, though.


“Have you ever loved someone?”

“What are you speaking of?”

“Had your mother ever told you how she met your father, maybe why they did experience the fall and decide to stay together?”

“Well, I believe that they did like each other so they married and had us. So that’s that, no further things to be explained, I suppose. ”

There is another chuckle coming from his mouth as he turns on his heel facing the girl. “If there was any such fairy tale that would ever exist it was that happily ever after story of our parents. How they both had met, fallen in love, carried a life together shoulder-to-shoulder, raised their kids and so forth. The story ended just because they were running out of time, every tale had reached its end in death, don’t you think so?”

“Do feelings ever need adequate elaboration?”

Love is a lethal disease for those who are unable to find the right person to cure them. It is incurable, and above all it could occur on everyone. People do not fall in love much in their life, I daresay. But loving a soul is entirely different. That is the critical point of that disease, it is as much like finding a miracle to heal your vessel. It is no longer a mere physical condition and it may never happen on some people.

The girl says, “It does no good to a woman to be flattered by a man who does not intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead into miry wilds whence there is no extrication.

All I can say is if a man wishes to obtain his love it is to ask for her hands. There is no other way, I believe that my father did that to Mom. ”

Tarendra seems taken aback by this. A point of silence, before—

“Then, marry me. ” His eyes disappear into half-moons with a pair of tiny wings rimming the lids through his glasses.

Hana just realises that he has long lashes.

I made a distinct footage under: dreams can be such dangerous things; they smolder on like a fire does, and sometimes consume us completely.

===

The hazy morning pays a visit along with speedy breeze flushes within. There are golden leaves land smoothly onto the ground like feather-light leaf. Just like a magical music box, she is convinced that they chime an inaudibly gleeful tune as if a reminder of the countdown timer.

Rain approaches her visions like dull melody from distance away, chilling the lonely soul to the marrow, drifting deep into the box of memories without giving a way. The sun is completely hidden beneath rows of dark grayish clouds as she wonders whether the weather has just turned wild since the sunrays cannot be even seen from the place she resides herself, taking in such melancholy scent of the droplets on once dry earth. For a moment she can reminisce of this state being, where she is utterly absorbed in this lucid sensory details—the raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, pair of arms embracing her narrow shoulders keeping her away from any harm.

It turns out that those arms are the inner side of her sleeping bag. She catches a sight of the dome from the yellow summer tent.

She also can make out that the sun does not wish to be found.

The young man is outside. Maybe he has this certain wish not to be found either. In the middle of the vast nowhere. Alluring, ravishing, endearing in the most pleasant way. There is a hint of warmth tinging  her cheeks each time she recalls any memory regarding him.

They never mind if he frequently strives on daydreaming. Completely immersed in one single thought. It could be a rampant imagination, vivid hope, or perhaps, a mere prayer.

She keeps a journal made of faces and dates. Polaroid collages with small sentences inscribed underneath. It is the synopsis of Lalita Parvati: neighbors, acquaintances, old friends, new strangers conveyed in military precision.

She takes out a Polaroid camera, taking a photograph of him who has been heavily drenched in cold water—very careless of him. His sunkissed skin is adorned in trails of lurid gray—the blood has drained to the feet from his lips. It is almost natural to post the picture near the end of those pages. A snapshot of silhouette amidst the fuzzy fogs, murky dusk from the edge forming a vignette, greyish with a hunting tone of sepia, his back is facing the lens, not allowing anyone to take a peek of his expression. Always keeping a secret.

However, she cannot resist to imagine a certain smile. Of passion and kindness, a gentle heart, the ensnared senses, the bewitched soul. She can picture of sunshine, saccharine-coated voice along with a particular hum of lullaby, followed by unearthly scents which fill the damp air. They’re just so thick, stirring on her mind like a terminal illness.

She does not realize until now, that his scent lingers on her clothes.

Black carbon. And the other substances just don’t matter.

There is particular photograph where the young man is wearing his graduation robe at the high peak of the mountain. Smiling ear-to-ear to the noon and day. His eyes disappear into half-moons with a pair of tiny wings rimming the lids through the glasses. Standing amidst the glorious sunset, misty smoke twirls behind from the crater like open pit.

He has now that kind of solemn quality on his face, rejecting a strange sense of solitude.

The bachelor upon the clouds.

A word scratched underneath, Love.

===

A journal is left abandoned at the abandoned field near the lake. The pebble-paved road is long forgotten.

It always brings overwhelming feelings each time we look back, the reason why he pays a heed to take a trip at the memory lane. He remembers the blue-ish colour, it was custom-made with a portrait of Edelweiss at the front cover.

Once, he had taken a peek inside when the owner scribbled some writings here and there. There were polaroid collages and notes. Lots of notes.

He stoops to retrieve the journal. The hue has faded. He cannot help not to let questions overflow the back of his head altogether with tremendous amount of memories. And feelings, emotions.

There is no way going back, so he flips through the pages.

They were staring at camera, barking a loud laughter, under the shade of violet umbrella. ”This is sympathy. ”

A footage: The very first operational trip we had gone through. Now I wonder if he’d laugh at the sound of my heart thumping, it was so loud and embarrassing. 

His shoulder pressed up against another’s. He took the selfie during a recess. “It is affection, stardust in his eyes. Mount Guntur. ”

Another footage: It was astonishingly weird that everytime I got near him, my heart could not stop getting all erratic, trying to escape my chest. All treacherous yet exciting.

The bachelor upon the clouds. ”Love, it is love. A goodbye from Rinjani. ”

So he followed where his heart had led him to. I guess that I had to live the life too. If God put you as a test for me to pass, I can tell that I’m out of the woods now.

”I know…”

He can feel it. Always has.

So he writes down an additional note: you transfix me quite, my lovely one. And this is simply beautifully hopeful

There are roses and jasmine in the air within. And black carbon. The other substances just never matter.


The stars up there are calling him, for his attendance. So this is the time, he even does not feel it when chilling wind sweeping his feet, to the cold dark vicinity that dissolves him in rough glee, demolishing him into dissolution without words nor bids of goodbye. It is unfair.

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.***

So this time, it is just over.


Lalita (Sanskrit): Lovely, gentle.

Tarendra (Sanskrit): the chief of stars.

*Aisling (Irish): Dream

** to embrace or not to embrace: to be or not to be, that is the question. (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I)

*** Longing by Matthew Arnold.

Thanks to thesaurus.com which helped me a lot with the verbs, nouns, adjectives, and dictions.

There were quotes originating from several books and sources such as Jane Eyre. However, this is the compilation of chunks and pieces of my long-forgotten work. There is one particular part where I took several of them from blog of a friend to indicate the events of the story.

28/12/2016

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