His family was the same as my family, was the same as any common Javanese family I guess. The thing that bothered me were the questions, and as far as Indonesian contemporary idioms go the question is phrased in the most delightfully hilarious way: "have you filled it up yet?"
I could think of various ways to respond, various ways I would love to respond:
- Absolutely stuffed. Today it's chicken. Yesterday it was chasiuw pork.
- My brain? I'm still working on it. Please pray for my intellect, auntie.
- Why, did you try to call me? Dammit I am always running out of phone credit. Sorry.
- Omigod have YOU?
Some of my aunts preserved a happy delusion and just decided it on my behalf.
"So, how many months are you in?"
"Am I what, auntie?"
"Somebody said you're pregnant."
"Well somebody said you were."
"Wow. I feel like a celebrity."
"So you're not?"
"Well then just amen it, God willing."
Some of his aunts would simply place their hands surreptitiously on my stomach and look into my eyes with their hopeful glassy questioning eyes, which I look right back into because bitch I have worked my abs. I might, under any other situation, feel extremely harassed and invaded upon. However these gentle harmless women are just looking forward to the next milestone in life, in other people's life. For them to pounce upon joyfully and give their unsolicited blessings to. I did not have the heart to tell them I was stalling their joy on purpose.
When the food had almost run out, which it never actually does, we took pictures. Oh no, aunt blinked, let's take another one. Here comes uncle who was in the bathroom this whole time! We must take the picture again. Can cousin please shift a little to the left because he is obscuring obscure half-cousin thrice removed? One very last picture. Done! We warmed up our stiff smiling muscles and turned to file out of the cramped photo plot chosen for having steps and decorative plants hedging each side. As we did this an elderly uncle grabbed Mr. Right's arm and said, "Hey you, I need to talk to you. Come meet me outside."
Mr. Right nodded respectfully. When the uncle turned to lead the way, I watched Mr. Right ducking down to ask his mother, in silent mouth-forming words, "who is he?" The mother silently mouthed back the name of uncle something or other. This was probably no help in terms of identifying the relevant position of this uncle in our family tree, but at least it was something. They left to speak in a private room.
I asked his mother, "who was that?" He is apparently the second husband of a second cousin of the father. His name was something, but they called him something else. They call him habib.
"Not sure. I think he practices mystic rituals."
"Well they call him habib."
"What kind of rituals?"
She shrugged, had no clue. They were in there for a while and when they came out, Mr. Right just smiled at us. In the car we demanded to know what uncle habib-something wanted to talk about.
"It's a secret. He told me not to tell anyone."
"What. Don't. You can't do this."
"I am serious. He told me an ancient secret that is contained in three Old Scripts. He told me to practice it at particular times of the month, from 5 to 9 pm, and from 5 to 9 am. That is all I can say."
We stared at him. His mother twisted around in her front seat to stare at him.
"I can't tell you. It's supposed to be a secret that I can't tell anyone."
"Well what is it for?"
"It's for me to be able to unlock something. It gives me a certain advantage."
"Well why you? Why did he choose to tell you?"
"He said that it seemed like I might need it."
"Well maybe he can just... see these things."
The exasperating man would not give us any more details. He just smiled serenely every time we asked more. In the car we talked about how these things would happen. His mother recounted a time when Mr. Right was a toddler, and a chinese shopkeeper where they were buying their furniture just suddenly turned, in the middle of showing them the different varnish color options that the wooden credenza can be polished with, turned to the little boy and said, "Has he brought you luck? He is going to bring you a lot of luck." We recounted still another time when a man that Mr. Right had just been introduced to by a friend of a friend of a business friend, suddenly stared past him for a long while and said, "You are a descendant of one of the sultanates of Jogjakarta, am I correct? I can see that. You have many protecting you."
Later that evening we met with his family from the other side, from the father's side. The mother told the story to Uncle Smarty, who actually does these things for a living, who actually makes money out of giving people spiritual counseling. She demanded he "look" into it. Uncle Smarty took out his pendant, a small black crystal hanging from a short black cord. He swung it like a pendulum and looked at Mr. Right.
"What do you think?" asked Mr. Right, calm and smiling.
"It's alright. But be careful."
"Well, the power will be a good thing to have. But they cannot be controlled."
"Ah. I see."
"What? What is it? What power?" asked his mother.
"That's all I can say." said the uncle.
And with that, the swinging pendulum vanished. End of conversation. Mr. Right and Uncle Smarty seemed to almost nod at each other knowingly before diving into other topics. Between chinese shopkeepers and sultanate descendant protectors and habibs and some Uncontrollable Power of some sort, it was all too much to bear. But the rest of us had no choice but to bear it.
Later that night as we had snuggled into bed I entreated him one last time. I asked him whether he still wouldn't tell me what the habib had said. To my surprise, he squealed with laughter.
I narrowed my eyes in suspicion.
"What is it," I said.
"Fine. I'll tell you what he said."
"Are you ready for the truth?"
"OK. He gave me tips on how to get you pregnant."
"What. The. Fuck?"
"Please note that I did not lie. Everything I said was true."
"True how true?"
"He actually did say this was an ancient secret from Old Scripts. Apparently, ancient secrets say we need to do it 10 days before and 10 days after your period."
"Between 5 to 9 am and pm"
"Yes. And it is supposed to be a secret because he didn't want to offend you."
"Damn right this is offending me."
"See? I told you he 'sees' things."
"Very funny. And he chose you because..."
"Because he thought I might need the advice, given that we've been married for almost a year."
"...and Uncle Smarty said you can't control the power!"
"Specifically he said 'they' can't be controlled. Haha. I think that is very succinct."
I've just had enough of all this. In terms of invading privacy, having barely-related habibs reciting ancient script secrets on how to productively get laid just breaks down my borders of tolerance with,... uncontrollable power.