Contemporary Sad Stories

By: Dea Anugrah

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A fraction of a second after roused from sleep, Rik tried to move his left arm, bend the elbow and put his left palm before his face. Needless to say, he understood upon waking up the coordination between the gland regulating consciousness in his brain and other posts in his body isn’t as what his biology teacher explained back in the high school. His muscles flexed at a much slower pace than they are supposed to. Commands from the brain crawled slowly along his neural networks, like a rat swallowed whole inside a snake, like yellowish deposits of fat in blood vessels.

Years ago Rik watched the procession of a python having meal shown in a TV program called Jelajah Alam, the rights to which were purchased wholesale by a local TV station from an unknown media company located somewhere in Western Australia. The imagery wasn’t so crisp, the voice over was sloppy and the host’s figure reminded him of Tuco aka The Ugly in Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Although known as The Ugly, actually Tuco doesn’t look terribly unappealing as does the host of the adventure show, at least he could lay a stronger claim than a deep-sea fish to who has a better look. It’s only that both the presenter and the fish share the sort of face that would stir up a nauseating sensation in the stomach.

Fearing his stomach acted out accordingly, Rik got himself distracted by another notion: a corpulent rat getting squeezed inside a python’s digestive track. Rik recalled how the snake’s skin glittered in the sun. It wasn’t a graceful image, but quite memorable. He also remembered how the camera repeatedly highlighted the python’s yellow eyes and the host’s brown pupils with interchangeable, extreme close-up techniques, as if both were measuring the combat power in each other and waiting to catch their opponent off guard.

The snake gulped the rat down; and, against its will, the rat advanced slowly within the dark, hot and humid digestive track. Doesn’t human destiny tread a similar line too? That question burst into Rik’s mind, together with the representation of the sneering Jelajah Alam host. He had yellow and overlapped teeth. With such appearance, Rik thought it’s only natural that women under forty would barely want to get laid with him on a consensual basis while not under influence.

Rick chugged and scratched the left side of his neck. Aware that now his body could move naturally, he brought the palm of his left hand closer to his face. The small one stretching sideways is the line of romance, Rik recollected what Lani said to him. The number of lines there indicates how many girls you can truly love in your life. May I see it? Rik looked closely at the romance line in his palm. There’s a pair. And before Lani explained to him the meaning of those lines, Rik had been in mad love with two girls indeed. Two of the five ex-girlfriends he had had. Two black holes with an 8-mm diameter each in his life. Whenever looking inside, Rik is able to see those two holes in plain view. They are like a gunshot wound that had dried, but the skin and flesh are reluctant to regenerate.

Rik thought this through. He didn’t frown, but God knew he was racking his brain as if there was nothing else worth thinking about. Rik couldn’t help but accept the idea that he could only be really hurt twice throughout his life; not to mention he had to convince Lani who knew the hard fact already: Rik just has two lines of romance and if he had twice loved somebody seriously, was he truly in love with her? A love capable of standing fast against the likes of Husrev’s love for Shirin, Tristan’s for Isolde, or love a male giraffe has for its female partner.

As if an idea could be pickpocketed from the air, an hour later Rik already came up with an idea as to what he had to do to win Lani’s heart. How could Lani reject a man who carved out a new line in each palm of his hands using a cutter sterilized with a candle flame just to assure that there is still hope, the future is not a blind alley or a clogged drain? At least that’s what Rik envisioned, and he was right. What he failed to envisage was one day after eight weeks of seeing each other, Lani would leave another 8-mm hole as she disappeared for three days, and came back with the news that she was about to marry a white Australian whose face reminds our hero of the Jelajah Alam presenter hosting the python episode.

The zoo

One day, Loko came to my place and pronounced that a zoo is the best place in the world. A zoo on a rainy day and when it’s empty. It’s impossible to have a more wonderful place, below and above the sky, than a zoo.

I nodded my head over and again as a response. Likewise, I kept on nodding three months later, which is today, when Loko sent me a Facebook message saying zoo is the greatest manifestation of mankind’s psychological disorder. “Those animals must be returned to the ecosystems or might as well be killed,” he said later. “And people, especially women, who have the temerity to entertain an idea of going out on a date at a zoo should be made political prisoners shipped to the anthropological garden on Planet Tralfamadore.”

We’ve been friends for nine years and I know Loko is no water on taro leaves. Extreme changes in his attitude could only be triggered by predicaments, and I knew such things are almost non-existent. The liquid in the glass tube with “Loko’s life” label on it is immune to reaction. Add any element to it, and it’s a cast-iron guarantee that he’d remain unruffled like the beard of the globe-supporting turtle. In junior high school, Loko was slapped back and forth by the school principal as he was caught squatting and mimicking the expression of a defecating person on the teacher’s desk. During his high school years, his father went to prison while her mother ran away from home without paying the rent and he was forced to stay in one of his father’s acquaintances. Upon graduating from high school, he went to college with money from his maternal grandmother, but dropped out in the third year because the financial support suddenly stopped for which Loko didn’t bother to ask why while his grandmother didn’t bother to explain. And as a child, the last thing I knew, his father called him by “Beruk (a pig-tailed macaque)” instead of ”Kakak” or “Mas” as with most of the firstborn child and he was treated like a shriveled cucumber put into the sack but left uncounted. All that happened and it was all fine. Or, in his own words: “Without any marks left and side effects.” Like a black hole, Loko’s indifference could swallow anything. Except for, sorry, women.

Loko loved and hated boxing because of women, he loved and hated cats because of women, Japanese movies because of women, Russian novels because of women, the Beat Generation lifestyle, Jackson Pollock paintings, space rock music, orchids, boots, magic; all because of women.

Yet, if you think Loko’s love life severely lacks the depth like that of Soe Hok Gie’s or Dave Siahaan’s so it must be constantly inundated with tears, you’re off the mark. He’s no Don Juan of our time, but comparing him with the two adherents of the principle “Cry out wherever you set foot” is like pitting a dam against a muddy ground.

Loko had gone out with thirteen girls, and slept with almost all of them.

“A list that long, dude,” he ruminated as he opened a bottle of cold beer (it was Lani’s wedding day and Loko accompanied me watching Jet Li’s movies from the morning until the next), “could only mean one thing: I suck at maintaining relationships.”

“I’m no better and my record is even poorer than yours.”

“At least you aren’t afraid of committing to a relationship,” he replied, “It’s a real man’s trait.” He passed me a bottle that had been opened and opened another one for himself.

I downed a few big gulps, made the sound ‘ah’, then swore: “In your face, dude!” as he broke into laughter. You can put “commitment” and “sex” next to each other, and even the green grass will point out the latter as the indicator of a real man. “Someone is left in a state of virgin like a clock hanging on the wall and a sarcasm devil is rubbing salt into the wound,” I added, putting the bottle down. That’s a slightly improvised quote from the Tao Te Ching book by Lao Tzu. Loko doesn’t read the Chinese classical literature, so he thought I was just drunk.

However, Loko may be right about the audacity I have to be committed. Two weeks after Ratih dumped me, I fell in love with another girl and have since made her the only estuary for my fast- and endlessly- flowing affection.

Our relationship has gone on for three months, once in a while we meet and talk to each other, and I give her a present or a letter. The girl’s photo, the second most important thing I treasure, is now sitting in a frame on my desk. She looks beautiful in a chartreuse dress with flowers accent in the chest, her hands on her hips.

But, from now on it may change. Loko‘s Facebook message is the reason. Besides snapping angrily as I said in the beginning, Loko inserted two links into the message. The first took me to a video of eight girls getting dressed in various animal costumes and dancing and singing cheerfully to the tune of The Zoo on a Rainy Day. Halfway the video, I pressed the pause button and replied to Loko’s message. I told him I’ve watched the video as many as 7302 times in just three months.

“This might be the last,” said Loko. “Now, open the other one.” (*)


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