Tuesday, April 19, 2011

White noise.

It is always very noisy.  I cannot seem to get over how uncomfortable this city is. This overlooks my guilt in even saying that; how ungrateful that sounds and the fact that I have everything ‘delivered to my doorstep’ as he would say.  It makes me sound mean and spoilt.  But let’s put that aside for the moment because I cannot place everything in one basket and expect the basket to hold strong.  Something must come out, this green poison, this vapour that steams inside me and rots rust and acid.  
I sit, I stare, out the window as the roads and buildings pass by. The same way that I sit and stare as my friends and colleagues sit around the table passing jokes and gossip and laughter.  A filmy sunproof barrier shrouds everything, or perhaps shrouds me, and makes everything seem distant and foreign and unattractive. Square one, or more like square zero, coming back here thinking with stubborn ferocity that life will be great life be great life will be great, repeat ad infinitum until you believe it and the universe conspires to bring it to your doorstep.  With that same ferocious positivity I accidentally bumped into Mr. Nine and there began our story which started casually and grew quickly and spun out of control like a deranged ballerina.  For he was the embodiment of attractiveness in my mind and everything that I thought I wanted but yet he was not what I needed and a bit more than I could stomach.
It is always very noisy in this city. I call it white noise but if I really bothered to listen as is sometimes inescapable this is what my reluctant ears hear:
"Traffic was horrible, and shame on that celebrity for getting knocked-up before marriage, where has the morality of this country’s young generation gone to, we are doomed for sure as a nation, have you had sex, omigod how “far” did you go with him, is she a good fuck, oh I feel like a virgin again, LOL, not that I ever lost my virginity, but I’m so getting drunk this weekend, astaghfirullah I was totally kidding, pornography should be banned because it is immoral and the people who do it and watch it are immoral and it poisons our children’s minds, but I’m sorry I watched porn during the House plenary session, I’m only human and I make mistakes too, I have asked God for forgiveness, I will now go umrah and wear a hijab to my court hearings and press interviews, I just want to find a nice Muslim  man and settle down and have kids and it doesn’t matter that he is completely boring, and I just want to find a nice smart wife but not too smart to not understand that her primary role is as a wife and mother and respect me even if I’m not doing a good job at providing enough for the family, but lets go to the JavaJazz concert tonight, I LOVE jazz and therefore I’m going to watch Corinne Bailey Ray and Santana, it was so amaaayyyyzing, hahahahaha, gokilllll, paraaaaaahhh, wkwkwkwkw…."

I want to be whisked away from all this ridiculousness. 

Friday, April 15, 2011


I've been taught that the praying mat or the Qur'an should be the panacea I should gravitate to in times of need.  That's all very fine, but it is 3 am and Sylvia Plath's journals are tucked beneath my bed.  I don't place the Qur'an there because it is a holy book.  The final choice was made on purely logistical grounds, I swear I swear.

I open a page at random, with one sweeping gesture of my fingers against the book's ribs (for if a book has a spine then the other side must be its ribs). The book heavily splits and reveals its quivering insides.  Page 223.  I shit you not, this is what Page 223 says:

"I read his letter and walked the wet pine-dark path tonight, with the warm rain dripping and shiny on the black leaves in the humid blurred starlight..."

I read the entire passage transfixed and haunted.  And at the end of the passage, I shit you not, this is what it says:

"Not to be bitter.  Save me from that, that final wry sour lemon acid in the veins of single clever lonely women.  Let me not be desperate and throw away my honor for want of solace; let me not hide in drinking and lacerating myself on strange men; let me not be weak and tell others how bleeding I am internally; how day by day it drips and gathers, and congeals. I am still young."

At the risk of heresy I say, "Amen. Preach it sister."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Too dear

Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou knows't thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate. 

In a lapse of weakness I wander into dangerous jungles: Mr. Six's long-abandoned site.  I find the above quote from Shakespeare posted years ago when he and I were just starting to blossom into a giddy romance. At the time he wrote it as part of a short semi-fiction, but after reading it again the premonition is uncanny.

I had a spontaneous dinner with Mr. Six last month. I asked him why he doesn't have a girlfriend.  I wasn't being nosy. I just needed answers. 

He launched into a technical explanation of how things didn't work, using a few fingers from his left hand to tick off the characteristics he was looking for in a woman, Muslim and Mature and Many-things, and how she failed because she couldn't understand  how busy his work requires him to be. 

I ask him, "where does love come in?"  He visibly starts, taken aback.  And then he grins sheepishly, caught being surprised at himself. 

"Geez I never thought about that."


"Well... I just assumed... well I'm sure that I will care for the girl who fulfills what I'm looking for."

I contemplated the cold dispassionate person in front of me with whom I used to spend many warm passionate nights.  Faintly wondering whether he ever really did love me, or whether I just ticked his checklists. 

It didn't really matter.  The present seemed confusing and distant.  I missed Mr. Nine for being a completely explosive opposite of Mr. Six, and for similar reasons I am wary of seeing Mr. Nine. 

It doesn't really matter now that he's not talking to me.

The only two close friends I have at work are resigning this month.  Both.

The near days ahead will feature empty cubicles, an empty blackberry inbox, banal twitter feeds, and my empty empty heart.   My bonds in thee are all determinate.


The title is Pepenero #1 because I have a gut premonition that there will be more stories  - e.g. #2 and #3 and so forth - to tell from my encounters at this place going forward.

I love Pepenero because (i) their generous bread basket and olive oil dips are comforting,  (ii) I can go on a budget or a splurge, and (iii) I always bump into someone I know when I'm there.  The last reason is either good or bad.  I guess everyone I know ends up working around SCBD at some point.

After finishing half a bottle of wine there last night, I was there again for lunch today. I ordered the Penne Arrabiatta and asked them to substitute the penne with tagliatelle.  The waitress said that would be no problem, and asked whether I'd rather have the narrow tagliatelle or the wide ones.  I love when the waitress gives me options.  It gives me the privilege to pretend I'm a picky eater who knows exactly what's good for me.  Without hesitation, I go for wide.  Images of rough cut laces of wide pasta conjure up in my mind, and that's exactly what I find on my plate when it arrives.  Reliability is comforting. 

When the bill comes, it is Rp.20,000 more expensive than the penne was supposed to be.  I figured that made sense, but for some reason Mr. Nine's once-made accusation that I "have no fuse" came up in my head.  I would have let it go, but wait.  In the interest of standing up for the sake of world betterment and quality service and defending my rights as a customer, shouldn't I make a constructive criticism? 

I call the waitress.  She explains, as predicted, that because the tagliatelle is homemade pasta... etc etc. It really wasn't necessary for me to ask.  I sternly tell her that that is fine, but at the time I made the order I should have been informed that my order would be categorized as something else on the menu so that I wouldn't mistakenly believe that they had given me the wrong bill.  I think in retrospect that I sounded unnecessarily stern.  Maybe even bitchy.  I unintentionally forgot to thank her as she came back with our change. 

Again, the memory of Mr. Nine once reprimanding me for not saying thank you to the waitress comes to mind. I feel I behaved like the snotty elitist he thinks I am, because I bitched and didn't even say thank you. I'm annoyed that he made me feel guilty, twice within 10 minutes, out of thin air.

He hasn't called me in two weeks but he haunts me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


"Sometimes I wish my parents had taught me differently," said my friend.  "Don't get me wrong, I do not regret marrying my husband.  He is very nice. But you see, my father always said, 'study, be smart, marry a nice man'.  Sometimes I wish he had said, 'look after yourself, be pretty, marry a rich man'."

"Why?" I ask her.   We went down the escalator while the Louis Vuitton model tipped her nose arrogantly at us from where she was frozen on the billboard.

"Well it would be nice to just sit down and enjoy life."

I nod in agreement.  And then I check myself.  "But that won't guarantee you happiness," I say. 

"I suppose so."  She shrugged vaguely. 

I take a sideways glance at her.  I never hung out with her much back in college. She is short and pimpled, a sweet smile framed by split hair-ends freshly rolled into curls.  She told me she had just been to the hairdresser before picking me up for lunch.  I couldn't imagine her being more happy or more sad than she was.  For as long as I knew her, she always seemed perpetually suspended in one mood: practical. 

Not a bad thing. The practical fact of the matter is that, this city encourages you to find happiness in practicality.  Service is cheap.  Rolled curls are cheap. Apathy is cheap.  The lack of it is costly. The pretty girls who understand this get the rich guys.

The nannies take care of your children at home and feed them with your refrigerated breast-milk while you spend three hours in traffic to go to work.  In the back seat while your driver negotiates the traffic. The pavements are foreboding, pitted like the surface of the moon, narrow like the edge of a cliff, littered like the depths of a marketplace. The buses are crowded and steamy and late.  They tell you: there is no place for moral consideration, just get a car.

My friend quit her steady office job to start her own venture and have more time for the child they had recently decided to have. 

Without being prompted, she felt she needed to explain her decision to me. 

"I felt that it was time, because I figured I need someone to take care of me when I'm old. Unlike people in the west, a child would never put me into a nursing home."

Maybe that is one form of guaranteed happiness.


How good it feels to be back on familiar territory.  A flashing cursor on a brilliant white blank sheet of LCD. Raw.