Clara Eclesia Fides/180410150002
The ticking sound of the clock is taunting Antig, a small space of her office becomes even more suffocating. She takes a deep breath and sighs, it’s past the office time but she hasn’t made any move, she doesn’t want to go home because she knows something that awaits her at home; her mom and her chatter of how Antig is a 30 years old single woman and her little brother has already married with a baby number 2 on the way.
The knock sound wakes her up from her thoughts, and Andi’s head –the office security– pops his head from the door and says,
“Ms. Antig, are you planning on staying the night here? Because I’m about to lock up the building.”
“No I’m about to head out, thanks Andi.” Antig says warily, she is exhausted with her work and the situation at home makes it even worse.
Antig collects her belongings and makes her way out of the office. Her steps are hesitant, it’s been like this for the past 2 years for Antig, her mom has been breathing on her neck about marriage. She is the third child of 4 children. 2 of them are happily married with kids, and that leaves her and her older brother. Born and raised in a family with strict Javanese culture makes this even more difficult for her, because according to her mom, a Javanese woman is better marrying a Javanese man as well. Last year Antig has a boyfriend who comes from Bataknese family, and her mom went crazy over it, like literally crazy, each time dropping hints about how Batak person is not suitable for her.
“Antig, do you know that Batak people always speak really loud”
“Antig, do you know that when you become a wife of a batak man you will most likely be demanded to do some housework.” (that comes in a package of being a wife, mother! And so what, maybe I like to do some housework) she thought to herself.
That’s basically what her mom said during her relationship with Erwin last year, until Erwin decided to call it off, it was embarrassing and painful for herself when Erwin said “I can’t be with someone whose family can’t respect myself as a person let alone your boyfriend.” It just ended that way, and she was pretty sure her mother was glad about it.
“Ugh” she groans remembering what happened last year. She was in love for God’s sake but her mom just couldn’t accept that she was happy and in love.
She keeps on making her way toward Transjakarta shelter, and she waits for the bus as her mind once again wanders somewhere. At the end of this year she will turn 31, and even worse tomorrow is the infamous family gathering, the whole family will come and gather, her aunts, uncles, cousins, even second cousins. She doesn’t know how to face them, or more like she doesn’t know how to answer their dreadful questions.
Her bus comes and she steps into it, it’s 10 o’clock so the bus is quite empty, she makes a beeline and sits at the back of the bus, looking straight ahead, reading a sign on the window “women’s section”, she never understands the purpose of that sign, it’s like people are trying to categorizing women, it’s like we are being separated, just like marriage, she has an older brother who hasn’t married yet but it doesn’t seem to bother her mother. It is so unfair, just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she has to get married as soon as possible, and if she doesn’t marry until she’s over 30, people will start put a label on her, she thought to herself.
Her phone is ringing in her purse, and when she reads the caller ID she sighs,
“Hhh here we go” she says.
“Hello Mother, yes I’m on my way. Probably around 11. Yes I know, I will, you don’t have to wait on me it will be too late for you, just take a rest mom. Bye, love you too.”
She ends the call and then closes her eyes, Antig knows that her mother is not getting any younger, but sometimes her antics annoy her as much as make Antig sad. She wants to get married and have kids but with the standard that her mother has set it is hard for her, especially when her mother have never approved her boyfriends. Other than Erwin, there was Abdul who is a sundanese and again her mother didn’t approve –more strictly this time, she bluntly said “I don’t want you to marry a sundanese, you are only allowed to marry someone who has the same background as you, a Javanese.”
The bus arrives at her stop, she takes all of her belongings and walks out, the clock on her phone shows that it’s 11:07 PM. She just wants to curl up in bed and not thinking about the family event tomorrow. She walks to her house from the bus shelter, and she carefully opens the house gate, and fishing for her keys inside her purse.
She doesn’t knock, not wanting her mother to wake up but it seems like the jingling sound of the keys seems to wake up her mother, because not long after, with sleepy eyes her mom greets her at the door
“You have arrived, Nduk. Have you had dinner?”
“Yes mom, I think I’m just gonna go to bed.”
“Okay then, you have to wake up bright and early. A single woman ought to wake up early. Besides tomorrow our family will come.”
What a night, she thinks to herself. She opens her bedroom door, does her night rituals, then plops onto the bed immediately and drifts to sleep.
Her alarm is ringing, waking her up from her slumber. She drags her steps to the kitchen and sees her mom and her sister prepare for today’s family event. Noticing Antig’s presence her mom greets her
“You’ve woken up, Nduk.” Says her mom and Antig just smiles.
“Come help me cook, a woman should be able to cook, so then when she has a husband she can cook for her husband.” Antig stays silent as her mom keeps going on and on about a woman and marriage, and her sister is giving her a sympathetic smile, very aware of what their mother’s intention.
She helps her mother prepare everything, it is a tradition in her family to do a family gathering once a month, and this month happens to be at her home. At times like this her mother usually gets even more unbearable about certain things, so Antig would rather stay off from her mom’s radar.
Antig takes a glance at the clock on the wall it says 09:00 AM, she then goes to her room and starts to get ready. As she gets ready she hears the faint sound coming from the living room, it seems like the unfortunate event has started, she thinks to herself.
She makes her way to the living room, all dressed up and dolled up, when she enters the room she sees a lot of her family members in her house. A touch on her left shoulder startles her,
“Antig, how are you doing?” her cousin, Dara, says to her and hugs her.
“I’m alright, how are you? I didn’t know that you’d come. I thought you were in Solo.” Antig smiles and hugs her back. She is excited to have her favorite cousin in her house. She is very close with Dara since she’s only a few younger than her and Dara used to be her shadow when they were little.
“Me and Tio want to meet the whole family, so we decided to take a couple of days off.” Tio is Dara’s long time boyfriend, he has come to a few of family events. There’s a pang of jealousy but she shrugs it off and keeps on talking with Dara. Catching up some stuff since it’s been a while since they see each other.
As time goes by, Antig is glad that no one has approached her to ask a frequently asked question toward her. Until she hears the ruckus sound from the family crowd, she sees Dara and Tio stand up ready to say something.
“Today I and Tio decided to come here because there’s something we need to tell you. Last week Tio asked me to marry him! So we are getting married!!” Dara announces, the whole family are coming to her, congratulate her for the good news, everyone seems ecstatic, Antig searches for her mother’s gaze, after a few minutes her gaze lands on her mom’s, it’s awkward and she can see a hint of sadness in there. She makes her way to Dara and congratulates her, and the next thing that is happening is, her Aunt hugs her and says, “Antig, Dara is getting married, how about you? When will you get married?” there finally someone said it, she has been waiting for this particular question, she just smiles and says. “I haven’t met the one aunty.”
Everyone is starting to say goodbye, only a few people left in the living room, ever since the announcement her mother barely says a word to her. Antig walks to the kitchen with a trash bag in hand, there she sees her mom leaning against the counter,
“You know Antig, I won’t live forever. I’m not getting any younger. You are the only girl left in this family that hasn’t gotten married, you are 30 years old you have to start thinking for your future, Nduk. I can set you up with a son of my friend. If your father was still alive he would agree with me.”
Hearing her mother bringing her father Antig perks up and squints her eyes while saying,
“It is not fair that you keep insisting me to get married, while Doni is out there without any intention of getting married and he is my older brother! But you don’t seem to mind about it. We also don’t live in SIti Nurbaya era anymore mom! And stop bringing dad into this.”
“Doni is a man, he can take care of himself just fine! I want you to get married so there will be someone who will take care of you, even if I have to find that someone for you, I will.”
“See mom? That’s the root of this problem. You always think highly of Doni, and I know you mean well about me getting married as soon as possible and I want that too, but it is still not fair when you ask so much from me yet whenever I bring a guy home, he has never been enough for you!” Antig says in anger, she has had enough that she lashes out at her mother.
“Because Antig I want you to have a husband with financial security and good background of family. And can you please turn your voice down, some of the family are still out there!” her mom seems frustrated that she keeps on stroking her arms up and down, a habit Antig picks on her.
“Oh good family background huh? You mean the one that comes from Javanese family? My ex-boyfriends are coming from a good family and they have a good job. But mom do you ever think that maybe I can take care of myself just fine? That maybe I don’t need a husband in my life? That I want to chase more of my dreams?” Antig says breathlessly with slight tears in her eyes, all the emotions that pent up inside her finally come to the surface.
“I just want the best for you, Nduk. You should’ve known that.” Her mother starts crying too because she knows that there are truths in Antig’s words.
“I am an adult, I know what’s best for me without you interfering. I just need you to understand me and be supportive to me. Please mom, for once can you please trust me? If the time is right the right man will also come for me.” All the energy has been drained out of her from the fight she’s having with her mother. She is exhausted, mad, and sad at the same time.
Her mom takes a deep breath, wipes her tears, and says carefully “I love you, Nduk. I do trust you, you are my daughter. I’m sorry if at times I’m too hard on you. Let’s just stop fighting, it’s late and I’m tired.”
Antig nods her head in defeat and leaves her mother in the kitchen. She gets to her room and sits on the chair beside her bedroom window, shifts her eyes to the night sky outside her window. It hurts hearing the words from mother confirming that what she thought all along is true. She knows the fight isn’t close to being over, but at least she has said a piece of her mind.
She wants to be free, she wants to be able to do all the things the world offers to her. She knows her mom is stubborn, she knows sooner or later this whole thing will blow up again but for now she wants to give herself a chance, she wants to be the best version of herself, not her mother, not her sister, not even her aunts.
In the cold long lonely night, with the stars so bright covering the sky as her company, she makes a promise to herself that if one day her daughter tells her she’s found the one she’ll marry, instead of asking where does he come from, what’s his job, or how much does he make in a month, she will ask if she loves him. Or her.
Because the other answers will unravel themselves, but she’s the only one who could possibly know what her heart feels when he’s around, and whether her feelings would be sticky enough to reassemble her heart whenever it breaks into pieces. You see, some people believe in religions and not getting hurt, but Antig believes in falling in love and falling from a bike a hundred times as long as it allows her to travel places and learn about life.
Make no mistakes, though darling –she would tell her– falling from a bike is not the same with jumping off a cliff with no one waiting on the ground with their hands open. Love to live, not to kill yourself. Love is all about accepting and Antig will accept whatever her daughter’s heart desires. Because origins, job titles, and materials don’t really matter. If she doesn’t get to be herself.
Word Count: 2463