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.

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