Man Without Flaw

By Ni Komang Ariani

He would only give me a week to think about it. His words for this week long felt so sweet and clear. It meant those were coming from a pure hearted person. Like him, which for me, he was a man without any flaw at all. He talked about a decision he was forced to take. He talked about one troubled young woman. She is pregnant by raped, with a thug father who is in the prison.

With face full of tears, he told the story. It caused me fall deeper into his charms. I thought I’d been married to an angel. He held my hands and wiped tears on my cheeks. I was drowned deeper into mixed feelings. I wanted him more than before.

I should do that because it’s our duty as human being. We cannot leave her without any help like that. I’m really sad that I have to do this. This will be hard for you since you will no longer be the only one. My mouth was locked. I really wanted to be the hero that willingly sacrificed self like him. It was something that made him looked more gallant and dashing. Made me want brought him inside my arms. Made me wanting him only for me more. Only mine.

But he said, I cannot be selfish. I cannot consider about my feeling only. That I should help others. Like him. Are we the same person?

How to share your husband with other woman? If there is someone has found the way, I’m willingly to go there and learn.

I’d been telling my self to be patience, surrendered my self and be a gentle person. But I’d never known how to do it. I’d been keeping to my self the agony in form of peculiar dreams for a week.

It’d been a week since I started to dream about seeing a giant octopus that was waiting at our doorframe. The octopus let out its tentacle. It showed up at our windows. In some other times, the octopus wagged its tentacle until it formed knocking sound on the window. As time goes by the knocking became more frequent. At any time, the octopus was able to destroy the door and take over our house. It was such a strange dream but I never told it to anyone. Once I ever tried to tell things like this to some of my friend and they said I’m a crybaby, selfish, spoiled, and many more.

Think about it first. I will not force you. Think about it tonight. I will wait for your decision tomorrow morning. We don’t have much time. Probably it will be late if we do it the day after tomorrow.

Who am I to take such a difficult decision? If I said no, I could imagine how many pairs of eyes judge me as a woman without sympathy.

If I said yes, those giant tentacles would break the window glasses in our house, came inside and took a sit on the sofa in front of the TV, the place I used to sit on.

I couldn’t understand people who made this kind decision so easily. They looked so elegant with their sweet smile and serene. Why couldn’t I follow after them at all?

I imagined that young woman inside my head; her innocence rosy face; her pure smile which able to shoot up someone’s pity. Would I able to see that young woman entering the same room with him? My man. The same pain. It keeps repeating since I know about it. It seems like every pieces of happiness always paired with pain. They are eternally inseparable friend.

My mind kept running on circle. It seemed like there was no edge about this thing. Time ticked to twelve in the night. It made me jolted. Dawn would come any sooner that I thought and I hadn’t make any decision.

And I pictured another agony. He would leave me in order to fulfill his promise to that young woman for his bigger desire on sacrifice. He heard too much heroic stories. If things turned out like this, I could only cry over his leave. Missing his skin smell each night come.

I came into dead end.

I turned on my computer in thought to gain some inspiration like before for my writing. I typed that young woman name. I searched for her pictures in the internet. I adored her fine face with long shining hair. That woman was so beautiful. No wonder men were bewitched by her. I could only see happiness from her face. A woman who was in her blooming period and showing her beauty. She suited to be my nephew because she was so young and innocent.

I would be a sinner if I didn’t accept her as our life partner. That woman could be my sister, like in those elegant women’s story that able to share their husband. That innocent face wouldn’t cause harm. We could be a great family.

I’d been sure to accept her into family but then I saw a picture that caused me breathless. That young woman hugged him warmly. The young woman’s face was full of happiness. She smiled a smile that brighter that sun. Similar pictures showed up and filled my computer desktop in front of me. The last picture was both of them kiss. I felt my stomach turned upside down.

I closed my eyes on the passing times. Breathed on the air passing in front of me. Remembered those years I spent with him. Remembered each sentence that he ever said to me. One by one was opened up in front of me. Remember the same pain. The happiness that always comes in pair with pain. Sometimes it indeed felt strange but however I never think of it.

At our first meet, fifteen years ago, he always said you are the sun in my life. At the other time, he also said without you my life would only be some twilight.

After that I never asked or wondered about him. I believed that he was a man without flaw.

And at some night he never came home with strange reason. I was never suspicious of him. I should have asked him and looked into his eyes. Where did you go? Are you with the other woman?

Rooster’s first cockcrow in the morning drew me back to reality. I’d repeated my whole life for fifteen-year last night. I put clothes on the baggage without any words. Chose important things that I have. I took a look at him who was still in his sleep soundly. His face displayed a thin smile. I didn’t want him any more.

I should have given him a condition when he came to me with his fake story. Have you find her a young man who is also suffered from the departure of his wife? A young man with tough muscle and a sweet smile like sugar. You asked me to save and bring her to our house.

Right after the night fold turned into day, I was standing in front of house, waiting for motorcycle taxi driver that I’d ordered. Some words came into my mind, a friend’s word; to be on guard when you are living with someone that you thought have no flaw at all. Because it can be meant two things: he isn’t a human or you never know anything about him at all.

Twilight before the eyelid

by Ni Komang Ariani

The wooden house with the spacious yard was very noisy. The dry leaves, swept out by the wind, rolling on the earth, smelt so sweet after the drizzle ends. That was the moment when my youngest daughter, Wardhani, would ask permission to leave to go back to her husband. The neighbours and relatives were here to say good luck and good bye.

The noisy situation was very contrary to my heart, which was very empty. My chest felt tight without clear reasons or causes. Three daughters whom I have here in my womb for nine months each, one by one has left me. Luh Wayan, my first daughter, has been married to a white man who liked the way Luh danced. Greg, that’s my son-in-law name, brought my daughter to America. A country so far away, too far to be possible for me to reach. How my first grandson looks like, I don’t even know one bit. Luh only called to give the news of her first child. A blonde-haired, plump baby son.

Then my second daughter, Made Sari, married a year later. Her husband is a journalist from Jakarta. She was also taken right away to Jakarta. She also has borne her child, a baby daughter called Dina. And then it was Wardhani’s turn, my youngest daughter. She was the only one that would live in Bali after the wedding. She still live in the same village as I do. She married a kind-hearted history teacher.

Actually I like all my son-in-laws, who always be respectful and kind to me. But that did not improve the emptiness that suddenly comes. Tomorrow, this house is will be much more silent. We, I and my husband, will live together.

My thought flew to twenty years ago, when I left my house to marry  Bli Gede. I bid farewell to Meme and Bapak, who let me go with tears in their eyes. I feel that time has just passed in the blink of an eye. That moment, too, now has also come before me. Karma happens so fast.

My children have left with long steps and eyes straight, going away without even giving a look. The future for them is a myriad of hopes and desires. The past for them is just old things and worthlessness. And in that past I exists.

Bli Gede seemed not to care. Bright smiles always on his face each time his children wed. After that, he would go back to his old habit. Caressing and playing with that  gamecock of his. It seemed the rooster has become a very dear friend. The gamecock, which once was the star of the village, now is only scraping what is left of the past glory. It has been long since the gamecock smell the spur and the rancid blood of its adversary. Now it only stoops calmly in the corner of the kitchen, looking closely at the pigeon which dances around in the yard, fighting for  the rice  grain which are scattered about.

Months and months passes, years and years goes by. The remains of energy I have has deteriorated. My hands and legs is no longer quick for a juru canang , my profession of the last twenty years. I am often more sick than healthy to work. Bli Gede slowly is losing his astuteness as a land broker. Each passing day, the money he earns become less and less. Our savings that we had prepared as our pension, slowly but surely drained for our every day’s life expense. Each time one of us got sick, our savings decreased.

In our difficult financial situation, suddenly Bli Gede brought up his wish. I want to go to Tanah Lot, Iluh. I want to enjoy green coconut ice while looking at the setting sun at the western sky. I quickly refused his wish. Going to Tanah Lot and enjoying the luxury of coconut ice at the restaurant near the cliff—too expensive for us, who are ageing. We will still have quite long life Bli, we have to have got enough money to survive. Hold your expensive wishes, I said at the time.

But my husband’s wish was very strong, like a pregnant woman who wanted very much her  green coconut ice from Tanah Lot. He repeatedly brought up his wish. Sometimes with a weak voice. Iluh, bli want to be with you there very much. Want to embrace you like our courtship. Can’t you fulfil my wish? This might be my last wish before I die.

I cried when I heard it, but I was powerless. Caressing his hunched back, I tried to make him understand. Our life and our survival is more important than your desire. Patience, Bli. We really do not have a lot of choice. He looked at me with disappointed eyes. Ask your children, Luh. They are rich enough to help us.

Ask help from the children? Hhh… perhaps there are not a law yet that forces the children to be responsible for the parents that nurse and raise them. Is it why, the children I have raised and struggle for has forgotten that they still have parents that go on living?

People says, that raising children ought to be unselfish, without expecting payback. But is it really like that? Shouldn’t I really expect my children to love me, so they will try to make me happy, like I love them  as my life. The reality that poses itself before my eyes made me stop hoping.

Not even one of my children send us money. Not our son-in-laws that were very sweet when asking the hands of my daughters, too. Not only that, they also rarely visit me. In the beginning of her married life, Wardhani visited me nearly everyday. Then it became once a week, then once a month, then only every Galungan  holiday, which is every six months, and now she only come once in a year. Made Sari, likewise. Initially, she came back every three months, then every six month, then once in a year when it is Lebaran  holiday. Now she only come back every other year, to reduce expenses. The eldest one, is the worst. Since the marriage she never come back, not even once. Initially, she often called to give news about my grandson there, but now there haven’t been any news. It has been years since she called us.

Forget them. It is said they are in difficulties themselves to cover their own household needs, which is becoming even harder these days. It is  hard for them, who doesn’t think twice to spend money excessively for their own satisfaction and for their own loved children. But not for their ageing parents. Expenditure for old things and worthlessness should be considered thoughtfully. It should be as efficient as possible. As if their own life is efficient.

Hhh.. What I should curse them for, they who were born from my own womb. Let me accept our solitude as fate that needs no reason or causes.

***

I want to sell the rooster, Luh, let it be slaughtered. I really want to go to Tanah Lot, my husband said once. For a long time I looked at him. I searched for seriousness in his eyes. I didn’t even think that he would say that, because he was very fond of the old rooster.  The gamecock was the pride of my husband. It had gone from one cockfight to another, won every fight with wounds on its body. It must win, because losing means death. The old rooster was very loyal to you. You have the heart to sell it? Bli Gede was speechless and looking confusedly  at the wings of the rooster which could be seen from afar.

But my husband’s wish to go was irresistible. After his failed plan, one day I found Bli Gede glumly opened the rooster’s cage, wrapped it under coconut leaves webbing, then hurriedly went to take it away. But something broke his plan. Perhaps my husband lost his nerve after meeting the rooster’s eyes who looked tired with its thick eye bags, and the purple droopy eyes. My husband perhaps saw himself in the rooster. The gamecock which was at the end of its life. The gamecock  would die in a short time, without the need of slaughter. His eyes looked red as if he was crying. Perhaps he was afraid to imagine the death that could come any time. The death, who sometimes doesn’t need reason for his coming. Our old age and decrepitude has been an acceptable reason. Slowly the watery drops flowed on his black, wrinkled cheek.

“O Jago , you are very fortunate to not meet your death like other gamecock, who died when the spur penetrates the heart, ripping the stomach. Died as a hero or defeated because of powerlessness!” suddenly the old man sobbed. Sometimes I heard the cry. This time tears flowed .

“Dozens of cocks like you died in defeat and powerless. Powerless to determine their own life. Forced to make the spur the only way to live. To live by the spur or die by it. Forgive me jago, I have  also made your life to be defeated and powerless. To put your life at stake every time for reasons you don’t understand. You  have told me the feeling of defeat and powerlessness now. It is very sad. I have inflicted sadness to dozens of gamecocks like you…!

Again, he cried again, choking. Silence, and again he moaned pitifully. I didn’t have the heart to leave him like that. “Why are you are like that Bli. Be calm. Tomorrow we will go to Tanah Lot and buy green coconut ice you want. I still have my saving deposit. Don’t cry like that Bli. We will die soon, but we also don’t know when it will be. It is also unclear when we must be sad for that and how long, so why don’t we just be calm!”

“You don’t know, it is not death that I fear, or my wish to go to Tanah Lot. But I really just now know how it feels, when death make us feel defeated and powerless. When decrepitude defeats us and make us powerless. I have chosen  for dozens of gamecocks  a life full of risk, with death come every now and then,  pit the against one another. Now Jago has imparting to me how it feels.”

My husband told it with bursting tears. I didn’t understand that in the body of a cockfight player—that sometimes was so harsh to his children—there was a feeling so deep. I used  to dislike seeing him go to cockfights and then killed the brawny gamecocks, although later I always enjoyed the garang asem   that he cooked. I then forgot the groaning, bleeding gamecocks who fought like knights on the battlefield.

Ah, it seems all kind of feelings are flooding when the old age comes. All remorse, weakness, fear, anxiety. Fortunately, I am never too sensitive person. The departure of my children, that I raised with much sweat, do not disturb me much. Even though I feel forgotten and left alone. Why after we are getting old we become  worthless, uninteresting, unwanted. Perhaps with the same feelings I left both my parents after marriage. With long steps, without even a look.

Who am I

oleh Ni Komang Ariani

Begitu kurang lebih judul film Jackie Chan, ketika ia mengalami amnesia, dan tidak bisa mengingat siapa dirinya. Tanda tanya besar yang sama yang ada di kepala saya saat ini, bukan karena saya sedang mengalami amnesia, namun karena obrolan dengan seorang teman dari Bandung.

Dalam suatu pesan singkatnya, ia menanyakan apakah saya telah menjadi ‘seorang Mbak’ (panggilan khas orang Jawa) alih-alih ‘seorang Mbok’ (panggilan khas orang Bali). Sebagai orang Bali yang menghabiskan lebih dari setengah umur saya di pulau Jawa, saya ingin membedah siapa saya sesungguhnya saat ini?   

Saya setidaknya telah menjelajahi tiga bahasa (Bahasa Bali, Bahasa Indonesia dan Bahasa Inggris), dan tiga  budaya (Budaya Bali, Budaya Jawa dan Budaya Sunda). Secara fisik, saya sudah menumpahkan darah saya di Surabaya selama 4,5 tahun, Jakarta selama 2,5 tahun dan di Tangerang Selatan selama lebih dari 15 tahun.

Beberapa orang yang bertemu dengan saya, mengatakan dialek saya, tidak lagi seperti orang Bali. Namun saya tahu beberapa karakter fonologi saya, masih menunjukkan ke-Balian. Saya tidak bisa membedakan pengucapan huruf “p”, “f” dan “v”, dan saya juga kesulitan membedakan “s” dengan “z”.

Saya sendiri memanggil kakak ipar saya dengan panggilan ‘Mbok Yun’ sebuah panggilan yang lazim untuk perempuan yang lebih tua. Ketika beberapa orang luar Bali, memanggil saya dengan “Mbok”, saya agak merasa ganjil. Barangkali karena pengucapannya menjadi jatuh seperti “Mbok” yang merupakan panggilan Ibu untuk orang Jawa.

Saya merasa lebih terbiasa dengan panggilan “Mbak”, barangkali karena “Mbak” dan “Mas” adalah panggilan yang umum di kalangan jurnalis, pekerjaan yang saya tekuni selama beberapa tahun. Untuk memanggil atasan yang jauh lebih tua pun, panggilan “Mbak” dan “Mas” menjadi sesuatu yang lazim. Namun hal itu menjadi ganjil ketika saya dipertemukan dengan orang Bali yang juga merupakan jurnalis.

Salah satu kenalan saya adalah jurnalis Kompas Putu Fajar Arcana. Orang-orang di kantornya akan memanggil beliau dengan “Mas Can” termasuk suami saya yang merupakan koleganya di Kompas. Namun bagi saya panggilan itu terasa ganjil. Bagaimana mungkin sesama orang Bali memanggil koleganya dengan “Mas”.

Sebaliknya saya pun tidak cukup panggilan akrab dengan panggilan “Bli”. Saya tidak memanggil kakak kandung saya dengan “Bli”, namun hanya memanggil namanya saja. Seingat saya, saya tak memanggil sembarang orang dengan panggilan “Bli”. Saya hanya memanggil “Bli” kepada orang yang saya kenal saja, hanya sedikit lebih tua, namun bukan yang jauh lebih tua dan dihormati.  

Kompleksitas panggilan ini, mengorek lebih dalam tentang apa yang terjadi pada diri saya sendiri ketika menjelajahi berbagai macam budaya. Saya menghabiskan masa pertama hidup saya di desa Singapadu, Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali. Yang saya ingat tentang kampung halaman saya, bahwa di sana saya tak banyak merasakan konflik kasta sebagaimana yang digambarkan novel-novel Oka Rusmini.

Yang lebih banyak saya rasakan adalah keharusan berbahasa “halus” kepada golongan yang lebih tinggi yang disebut sebagai “anak agung”, walaupun status sosial ini kemudian bersitegang dengan status sosial lainnya seperti status sosial ekonomi dan pekerjaan. Tidak jarang orang memiliki status kasta lebih tinggi menjadi bawahan dari kalangan status kasta yang lebih rendah.

Pada masa itu, saya sudah banyak membaca buku-buku agama, salah satunya buku karya Ketut Wiana berjudul  Kasta dalam Hindu: Kesalahpahaman Berabad-abad.

Buku itu menyatakan kasta adalah sistem yang diciptakan oleh pemerintah Portugis, yang merupakan kesalahpahaman dari sistem warna dari India, yang lebih merupakan suatu sistem pembagian kerja, daripada sebuah identitas yang diturunkan.

Pernikahan kemudian membuat saya lebih banyak menggunakan bahasa Indonesia. Suami saya adalah orang Indonesia keturunan Tionghoa, yang besar di Cianjur dan menamatkan kuliahnya di Universitas Gadjah Mada. Suami saya fasih berbahasa Sunda dan Jawa, namun sama sekali tidak bisa berbahasa Mandarin.

Selama Setelah 18 tahun bahasa Indonesia lebih terasa menjadi bahasa pertama saya, dibandingkan bahasa Bali. Keganjilan baru yang saya rasakan kemudian adalah, jika ada orang Bali menggunakan “bahasa Bali halus” kepada saya, saya akan cenderung menjawabnya dengan bahasa Indonesia.

Barangkali karena bahasa itu, merupakan bahasa yang terasa mudah terucap di lidah. Jika saya renungkan kemudian, saya memilih menggunakan bahasa Indonesia dengan siapa saja, karena bahasa Indonesia menawarkan persamaan derajat.

Selama 23 tahun masa penjelajahan bahasa dan budaya itu, saya juga merasa bertransformasi menjadi orang yang berbeda. Saya di Bali adalah seorang anak yang pendiam. Jarang bicara. Saya lebih sering bermain dengan anjing saya di sawah daripada berinteraksi dengan orang lain.

Ketika orang lain mengajak saya bicara, Ibu atau Bapak saya, yang biasanya mewakili saya menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang diajukan.  Entah mengapa saya begitu sulit mengekpresikan diri dalam bahasa Bali. Adakah hal-hal dalam bahasa Bali yang membuat saya bungkam?

Sebuah penelitian Sosiolinguistik yang panjang  barangkali bisa menjawab pertanyaan ini. Namun yang  jelas, “kebicaraan” saya membaik pada saat saya menghabiskan waktu 4,5 tahun di Surabaya. Saya bicara dan ngobrol dengan teman-teman seangkatan dengan lebih baik.

Mungkinkah bahasa Indonesia memberi saya keleluasaan dalam mengekspresikan diri?

Artikel ini sebelumnya dimuat di https://sekolahvirtualperempuan.org/2021/08/21/who-am-i/?fbclid=IwAR24E6HME7jbe1Y9eFFgAYc7S7zTX0Pf-_2wTuqLQSV16Fr3R4-ypaBN78A

Penulis: Ni Komang Ariani merupakan penulis 7 buku fiksi dan dosen di Universitas Pamulang. Tiga kali masuk Cerpen Pilihan Kompas dan dua kali masuk 10 besar Khatulistiwa Literary Award. Novel terbarunya berjudul “Telikung” dapat dibeli di toko-toko buku online. Saat ini sedang melanjutkan S3 di program Ilmu Sastra Universitas Padjajaran.