I remember you and the first time we met. We were at a friend’s party at the club that night. You walked up to my side, wondering why I just stood in the corner and watched the band playing and other people dancing. I told you I just wanted to enjoy the music and the band’s performance. Besides, I’m no dancer.
And soon I’d be going home anyway. Why? You asked me. I told you that I wasn’t the clubbing type, but it was an old friend’s party. Besides, I could use this experience as a writing idea someday.
Oh, so you’re a writer? You asked again. I said, an author in the making. You smiled and I smiled back. You had a nice smile, but I still refused when you offered to buy me a drink. Nothing personal, but I’ve heard and read stories. Besides, I don’t drink those stuff. We were both strangers. How would I know that you would not put something else in that drink?
You’d cracked up laughing.
“Smart girl,” you complimented me. “I like that.” Then you extended your hand and introduced yourself. I shook your hand and told you my name. After a brief conversation, you wondered if you could call me so we could see each other again. I shrugged and said, sure – as long as you’d be good.
You laughed again and promised me that you would. So we exchanged numbers and I went home.
I didn’t take you seriously, to be honest with you. However, you did call me the next day. You’d even agreed to only take me out on broad daylight, understanding that I’m my parents’ only daughter.
It didn’t take long for us to get closer. You got to meet and get to know my parents; I got to know your mother – who used to work as a cook at a local restaurant. You told my parents you worked as a consultant for trading companies. That was why you had to go mobile a lot. I understood that.
I’d felt self-conscious with the permanent, visible scar on my left jaw. I know you noticed that, yet you’d never mentioned it. You didn’t seem bothered by it. When I finally told you the history of that scar, your expression darkened. Then you touched the dried stitchmark gently, telling me that it didn’t ruin my beauty.
I believed in you. Love had made me believe in everything you said, including about your profession…
— // —
After that, I didn’t hear from you in months. You didn’t answer nor return my calls. You didn’t live in that house you’d shared with your buddies anymore. Where were you? What happened?
Then one day, the newspaper gave me the answer. I saw your pgoto on the front page and the headline instantly brought tears to my eyes. My mother started to cry too as my father hugged us both.
After that, we went to the prison. It had taken an hour of argument with my father before he finally agreed to accompany me there. I had to see you. I deserved an explanation.
However, I couldn’t take it. When I first saw you again, my anger flared up. I slapped you in the face, pounding my fists on your chest.
“You bastard! You liar!” I screamed, my tears flooding like from a broken dam. They were trying to drag me away from you, but I was too enraged. “You lied to me about your job! How could you? How could you do this to me?!” I pointed at my scar furiously. “I’ve told you about this. I’ve told you about Denny!”
You were crying too. Shaking your head, you said:
“I’m sorry. I’ve wanted to tell you, believe me. I didn’t plan on falling for you—“
“Well, did you plan on making me fall for you?!” I grew more enraged. When you just shook your head again, I pointed at your face. “I hate you! I HATE YOU!!”
They finally dragged me away from you. Once outside the prison, I saw my father and instantly ran into his open arms. He was hugging me closely while I was sobbing hysterically.
“I’m so sorry, Daddy,” I wailed. “I didn’t know…”
“None of us did, hon.” I remember that he’d done that many times before, years ago…
— // —
I walked cautiously past The Locked Door. Behind it, the screaming had stopped hours ago. But when I poured myself a glass of water, I heard that voice again:
“Sissy?” I slowly walked to the door with the glass in hand. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Denny,” I timidly answered that voice. Once a loving brother, now a total stranger…and oftentimes a dangerous monster. Toxic had changed him. “What is it?”
“Can I get some water too?” he croaked. “Please? Mine’s just run out here. I’m thirsty. My body’s burning.”
“Denny… “ I hesitated. I reached for the doorknob but then I froze. “I… I can’t.”
“Please, Sissy!” he begged. “Just water. Open this door. I promise I’ll be good… “
“I’m sorry, Denny. I can’t—“
“Open this door, you little bitch!” The banging made me jump back. My glass crashed to the floor. “Remember what I did to you last time? I’ll do something worse this time!”
The banging, clawing, scratching, and screaming went on. I stepped back, gasping for air. When I bumped into someone behind me, I turned around. My father looked at me with his red, tired eyes. His tears were flowing.
“Daddy… “ He hugged me. I hugged him back and started crying too. “Please, can we let him out? It’s hurting him.”
“No, we can’t, baby.” He touched my scar. “Not after what he did to you.”
I guess my father will never forget when Denny pushed me against the glass window, because I’d refused to give him money…
— // —
It’s been almost a decade. Guess what? I got married. My father had warned my husband the architect: “She’s my baby girl. I trust you so don’t blow it. She’s been through a lot.”
I’ve been keeping tabs about you. I didn’t want to face what was coming for you, but then your mother visited me. She’d looked sad, fragile, and resigned at the same time when she gazed at me, teary-eyed.
“I’m sorry if this is too much to ask,” she said to me. She reached out for my hand and I held hers. “Can you do a mother’s last favour for her guilty son?”
— // —
At last, here we are again.
You’d lost a lot of weight. You still had that same, sweet smile on your face – but your eyes seemed hollow.
“I heard you’re married.”
I nodded slowly, not knowing what to say. It was hard to look at you this way, very very hard.
“He’s been sweet and very understanding.” I didn’t know why I had to say that. But you were still smiling.
“That’s good to hear.” Then you said, “I’m sorry about Denny.”
I nodded again. I bet you’d read that too on the newspaper: deranged man jumping off the second floor balcony and breaking his neck.
“I’m glad you’ve done well.”
“Yeah… well.” You shrugged. “Making the most of what’s left of my time.” When you saw me trembling, you added, “Hey, hey, it’s okay. I get it now. It’s better late than never. I’m glad I’ve met you and got to know you.”
“Really?” I looked at you in wonder. You nodded.
“God has brought us here for a reason,” you said calmly. “I’m… I’m sorry. I know that people like me have killed Denny… and many others. It took me a long time to have finally realised the damage that I’ve done. I’ve paid the price, hon. I’m willing to accept the consequences now.”
I sensed finality in your words. I didn’t know what else to say but “I’m sorry.”
“I’m the one who should be sorry and we both know that.” You reached for my hand. Knowing that it was my last chance to ever touch you, I held yours. “I’m glad I’ve changed, although they think it’s too late. I’m sorry I hurt you in the process.”
“I’ve forgiven you.”
“Thank you.” You kissed the back of my hand. “Walk on. Be happy. Don’t look back… “
— // —
I looked at the clock that night in the living room. One more hour to go. I turned to the mug on the table in front of me. The coffee had gone cold.
I closed my eyes, picturing you standing on the open field. I didn’t have to be there, but I could still imagine it. The squad were preparing themselves, loading their rifles. It’s one of the jobs not many can do.
You were closing your eyes, probably imagining how we could’ve been – two people together, with normal jobs. In love…
Then at last, I pictured you jerk backwards – as the bullets struck you – before you finally fell. The clock in the living room chimed eleven times.
I opened my eyes. My cheeks were already wet with tears. I turned to see my husband standing close to me. He was smiling sadly, his arms stretched out to reach for me.
I got up and went into his open arms, the safest place in the world after my father’s warm embrace. I began sobbing again.
“Stay strong,” he whispered softly, gently stroking my hair. “I’m with you.”
I held on to him for dear life, as I silently bid the most painful farewell to you.
I don’t want to remember you this way, but I guess I’ll never forget…
(Jakarta, 7/5/2015 – from The Couchsurfing Writers’ Club Gathering @Kopi Oey, Jalan Sabang, Jakarta – starting at 8:00 pm. The topic: job / profession.)